The Political Scene

  • David Butler
  • Dennis Kavanagh


In the way that it came about and in its outcome, the first general election of 1974 had broken away from the pattern of its predecessors. The February dissolution came unexpectedly; the Conservative government had, ironically, been looking forward to October 1974 as a date for going to the country. On February 28 the voters returned the first minority government since 1929 and gave support to third parties on a scale that raised questions about the continuance of the two-party system. Speculation focused on whether the second election would confirm the breakaway from the tradition established over the previous forty years or produce a return to normality. In the event, the October election did not answer the question decisively. On the one hand, it can be portrayed as a continuation of the February contest with the same contestants pursuing much the same arguments to a fairly similar result; on the other hand, it can be portrayed as a restoration of the status quo, as an orderly routine campaign leading to a secure one-party government in contrast to the rushed, divisive, unexpected scramble of six months before.


Social Contract Industrial Relation Full Employment Coalition Government Labour Government 
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  1. 1.
    For an informed discussion of the possibilities of changes in the party system, see Richard Rose, The Problem of Party Government (London, 1974), chap. 5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Anthony King, ‘Minority Government Does Work’, Observer, September 22, 1974,Google Scholar
  3. and S. E. Finer, ‘In Defence of Deadlock’, New Society, September 5, 1974, reprinted in the Guardian, September 7, 1974.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    L. S. Amery, Thoughts on the Constitution (Oxford, 1947), p. 22.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    M. Abrams and R. Rose, Must Labour Lose? (London, 1960);Google Scholar
  6. C. A. R. Crosland, Can Labour Win? (London, 1960).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    For a full account of the history of the European issue see U. W. Kitzinger, Diplomacy and Persuasion (London, 1973).Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    See Hilde Behrend, ‘The Impact of Inflation on Pay Increase Expectations and Ideas of Fair Pay’, Industrial Relations Journal, Spring 1974, pp. 5–10.Google Scholar
  9. 14.
    For such analyses see Peter Jay. ‘How Inflation Threatens British Democracy with its Last Chance before Extinction’, The Times, July 1, 1974,Google Scholar
  10. and Peter Jenkins, ‘The Social Democratic Dilemma’, New Statesman, September 20, 1974.Google Scholar
  11. 18.
    See D. Butler and D. Stokes, Political Change in Britain, 2nd ed. (London, 1975) chap. 9.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Butler and Dennis Kavanagh 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Butler
    • 1
  • Dennis Kavanagh
    • 2
  1. 1.Nuffield CollegeOxfordUK
  2. 2.University of ManchesterUK

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