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Britain’s been here before: 1974 election voted in hung house

Steve Dinneen
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THE only hung parliament the UK has had during the modern electoral system was in 1974.

Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath had tried to gain the political impetus by calling a snap election but was caught out when the public did not return an outright majority.

The result of the February election was extremely close, with the Tories gaining more votes with 37.9 per cent to Labour’s 37.2 per cent, but Labour taking more seats with 301 to the Tories’ 297. The Liberals had 14 seats and 19.3 per cent of the vote.

Heath desperately tried to strike an eleventh-hour deal with the Liberals but failed and was forced to resign on the Monday after the vote.

This then led to Labour’s Harold Wilson being returned to Downing Street. The election was fought against the backdrop of pay freezes, mass strikes and the enforced three-day working week. The hung parliament lasted until October of that year when Wilson called an election and won a majority of three.