• David Butler
  • Dennis Kavanagh


The Labour party was in a dire position after the 1983 election. It had been reduced to 209 MPs, its lowest post-war figure, and to a mere 28% of the vote, its lowest share since 1918 and lowest percentage vote per candidate since 1900. In parts of South Britain it had been virtually wiped out, and in most Conservative seats it ran a poor third behind the Alliance. The only groups amongst which it had secured over 50% of the votes were council tenants and blacks, and the only areas, the old coalfields and the inner cities. To gain a working parliamentary majority at the next election Labour needed a swing of over 10%, twice as high as had been seen in any postwar general election. Optimists could point to the exceptional circumstances surrounding the 1983 election — the government’s Falklands success, Labour’s divisions over the changes to its constitution, and the deputy-leadership fight between Denis Healey and Tony Benn, the split which resulted in the formation of the Social Democrats, and the weak leadership of Mr Foot; they could argue that this remarkable conjunction of unfavourable events was unlikely to be repeated.


Trade Union Party Leader Labour Government Labour Party Electoral College 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    A. Heath et al., How Britain Votes, 1985.Google Scholar
  2. R. Rose and I. McAllister, Voters Begin to Choose, 1986.Google Scholar
  3. P. Dunleavy and C. Husbands, British Democracy at the Crossroads, 1984.Google Scholar
  4. I. Crewe, ‘Can Labour Rise Again?’, Social Studies Review, 1985.Google Scholar
  5. 2.
    On Neil Kinnock, see M. Leapman, Kinnock (London, 1987).Google Scholar
  6. R. Harris, The Making of Neil Kinnock (London, 1984).Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    see I. McAllister and R. Rose, The Nationwide Competition for Votes, 1984.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    See P. Kellner, ‘Will the real Labour Party Please Stand Up?’, New Statesman, 8 May 1987.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Butler and Dennis Kavanagh 1988

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations