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1987 · members United Kingdom members · 1997
United Kingdom general election, 1992
All 651 seats to the House of Commons
9 April 1992
First party Second party Third party
John Major 1996.jpg Kinnock, Neil.jpg Paddy Ashdown 1.jpg
Leader John Major Neil Kinnock Paddy Ashdown
Party Conservative Labour Liberal Democrat
Leader since 28 November 1990 2 October 1983 16 July 1988
Leader's seat Huntingdon Islwyn Yeovil
Last election 376 seats, 42.2% 229 seats, 30.8% 22 seats, 22.6%
Seats won 336 271 20
Seat change -40 +42 -2
Popular vote 14,093,007 11,560,484 5,999,384
Percentage 41.9% 34.4% 17.8%
Swing -0.3% 3.6% -4.8%

Previous PM
John Major
Conservative

Subsequent PM
John Major
Conservative

1983 election MPs
1987 election MPs
1992 election MPs
1997 election MPs
2001 election MPs
Ring charts of the election results showing popular vote against seats won, coloured in party colours
Seats won in the election (outer ring) against number of votes (inner ring).

The United Kingdom general election of 1992 was held on 9 April 1992, and was the fourth consecutive victory for the Conservative Party. This election result was one of the biggest surprises in the 20th Century, as polling leading up to the day of the election showed Labour under leader Neil Kinnock to be consistently, if narrowly, ahead.

John Major had won the leadership election in November 1990 succeeding the outgoing PM Margaret Thatcher.

During his term leading up to the 1992 elections he oversaw the British involvement in the Gulf War, introduced legislation to replace the unpopular Community Charge with Council Tax, and signed the Maastricht treaty. The UK had gone into recession around the time of Major's appointment, along with most of the other industrialised nations. John Major announced the date of the election on 11 March shortly after Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont had delivered the Budget. It was one of the most dramatic elections in the UK since the end of the Second World War, after the Conservative Party defeated the initial favourites, the Labour Party.

Labour had been ahead of the Tories in the opinion polls since as long ago as 1989, and Thatcher's main reason for her resignation was that she felt that the Tories would stand a better chance of winning the next election if they had a new leader.[1] As 1992 dawned, the recession deepened and the election loomed, most opinion polls suggested that Labour were still favourites to win the election. However, on Election Day, The Sun newspaper ran a front page headline which urged "the last person to leave Britain" to "turn out the lights" if Labour won the election.[2] This headline was widely regarded as the saviour of the Conservative government, and The Sun famously ran a front page headline the next day - It's The Sun Wot Won It - to claim that it had won the election for the Conservatives.[3]

Contents

Results

UK General Election 1992
Candidates Votes
Party Standing Elected Gained Unseated Net  % of total  % No. Net %
  Conservative 645 336 3 44 - 41 51.69 41.9 14,093,007 - 0.3
  Labour 634 271 43 1 + 42 41.62 34.4 11,560,484 + 3.6
  Liberal Democrat 632 20 4 6 - 2 3.07 17.8 5,999,384 - 4.8
  SNP 72 3 0 0 0 0.46 1.9 629,564 + 0.6
  Ulster Unionist 13 9 0 0 0 1.38 0.8 271,049 0.0
  SDLP 13 4 1 0 + 1 0.61 0.5 184,445 0.0
  Green 253 0 0 0 0 0.5 170,037 + 0.2
  Plaid Cymru 38 4 1 0 + 1 0.61 0.5 156,796 + 0.1
  Democratic Unionist 7 3 0 0 0 0.46 0.3 103,096 0.0
  Sinn Féin 14 0 0 1 - 1 0.2 78,291 - 0.1
  Alliance 16 0 0 0 0 0.2 68,665 0.0
  Liberal 73 0 0 0 0 0.2 64,744 N/A
  Natural Law 309 0 0 0 0 0.2 62,888 N/A
  Social Democrat 10 0 0 0 0 0.1 35,248 N/A
  Independent Labour 6 0 0 0 0 0.1 22,844 N/A
  Ulster Popular Unionist 1 1 0 0 0 0.15 0.1 19,305 0.0
  Independent Conservative 12 0 0 0 0 0.1 11,356 N/A
  Monster Raving Loony 25 0 0 0 0 0.1 7,929 + 0.1
  Independent 23 0 0 0 0 0.1 7,631 N/A
  BNP 13 0 0 0 0 0.1 7,631 N/A
  Scottish Militant Labour 1 0 0 0 0 0.1 6,287 N/A
  National Front 14 0 0 0 0 0.1 4,816 N/A
  True Labour 1 0 0 0 0 0.1 4,665 N/A
  Anti-Federalist 17 0 0 0 0 0.1 4,383 N/A
  Workers' Party 8 0 0 0 0 0.1 4,359 0.0
  Official Conservative Hove Party 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 2,658 N/A
  Loony Green 5 0 0 0 0 0.0 2,538 N/A
  Independent Unionist 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 2,256 N/A
  New Agenda 0 0 0 0 0.0 2,133 N/A
  Independent Progressive Socialist 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 1,094 N/A
  Islamic Party 4 0 0 0 0 0.0 1,085 N/A
  Revolutionary Communist 8 0 0 0 0 0.0 745 N/A
  Independent Nationalist 0 0 0 0 0.0 659 N/A
  Communist (PCC) 4 0 0 0 0 0.0 603 N/A

Electionmap1992.jpeg

The turnout was 33,514,074 from an electorate of 43,275,316 (a turnout of 77.4%), voting in a total of 651 seats. All parties with more than 500 votes shown. Plaid Cymru result includes votes for Green/Plaid Cymru Alliance.

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Votes summary

Popular vote
Conservative
  
42.05%
Labour
  
34.49%
Liberal Democrat
  
17.9%
Scottish National
  
1.88%
Ulster Unionist
  
0.81%
Others
  
2.87%

Seats summary

Parliamentary seats
Conservative
  
51.61%
Labour
  
41.63%
Liberal Democrat
  
3.07%
Ulster Unionist
  
1.38%
Others
  
2.31%

Election campaign

Under the leadership of Neil Kinnock the Labour party had undergone further changes following its 1987 election defeat. Labour entered the campaign confident with most opinion polls showing a slight Labour lead that if maintained suggested a hung parliament, with no single party having an overall majority.

The parties campaigned on the familiar grounds of taxation and health care. Major became known for delivering his speeches while standing on an upturned soapbox during public meetings.

An early setback to Labour came in the form of the "War of Jennifer's Ear" controversy, which questioned the truthfulness of a Labour party election broadcast concerning National Health Service (NHS) waiting lists.

Labour seemingly recovered from the NHS controversy, and opinion polls on 1 April (dubbed "Red Wednesday") showed a clear Labour lead. But the lead fell considerably in the following day's polls. Observers blamed the decline on the Labour Party's triumphalist "Sheffield Rally", an enthusiastic American-style political convention at the Sheffield Arena. However most analysts and major participants in the campaign believe it actually had little effect, with the event only receiving wide-spread attention after the election.[4]

Labour defeat

With opinion polls at the end of the campaign showing Labour and the Conservatives neck and neck, the actual election result was a surprise to many in the media and in polling organisations. The apparent failure of the opinion polls to come close to predicting the actual result led to an inquiry by the Market Research Society. Following the election, most opinion polling companies changed their methodology in the belief that a 'Shy Tory Factor' affected the polling.

The 77.67% election turnout was the highest in eighteen years. There was an overall Labour swing of 2.2%, which widened the gap between Labour and the Liberal Democrats. For the Conservatives, despite the reasonable percentage of votes received (only 0.3% down on 1987), the actual Conservative overall majority in the House of Commons was reduced to twenty-one seats. This number was reduced progressively during the course of Major's term in office due to defections of MPs to other parties, by-election defeats and for a time in 1994-95 suspension of the Conservative whip for some MPs who voted against the government on its European policy - by 1996, the Conservatives held a single-seat majority and were in minority going into 1997 up until the 1997 General Election. The Conservatives in 1992 received the most total votes ever for any political party in any UK general election, beating the previous largest total vote of 13.98 million achieved by Labour in 1951 (although this was from a smaller electorate and represented a higher vote share). Nine government ministers lost their seats in 1992, including party chairman Chris Patten.

On the morning of polling day, The Sun newspaper (which had consistently supported the Conservatives throughout the campaign, except in Scotland) published a front page with the headline "If Kinnock wins today, will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights."; and featured an overweight woman on Page 3 under the headline, "Here's How Page 3 Will Look Under Kinnock!" Some, The Sun especially, believed this caused a late swing to the Conservatives sufficient to overcome Labour's poll lead. The Sun′s analysis of the election results was headlined "It's the Sun wot won it." Tony Blair also accepted this theory of Labour's defeat and put considerable effort into securing The Sun's support for New Labour, both as Leader of the Opposition before the 1997 general election and as Prime Minister afterwards.

The results continued the Conservatives' decline in Northern England with Labour regaining many seats they had not held since 1979. The Conservatives also began to lose support in the Midlands, but had a slight increase in their vote in Scotland, and had a net gain of one seat in Scotland. Labour and Plaid Cymru strengthened in Wales with Conservative support declining there. However, in the South East, South West, London and Eastern England the Conservative vote held up leading to few losses there with many considering Basildon to be indicative of a nouveau riche working class element referred to as Essex Man voting strongly Conservative.

It was the second General Election defeat under Leader Neil Kinnock and Deputy Leader Roy Hattersley and both resigned soon after the election, and were succeeded by John Smith and Margaret Beckett respectively.

In retrospect, the election defeat can arguably be viewed paradoxically as a success for Labour in that the party avoided being in government during the financial crisis of Black Wednesday, which fatally damaged the reputation for economic management of the winning Conservative government and contributed to Labour's landslide win in the United Kingdom general election, 1997.

Other parties

In Scotland the Scottish National Party (SNP) hoped to make a major electoral breakthrough in 1992 and had run a hard independence campaign with Free by '93 as their slogan. Although the party managed to increase its total vote by 50% since 1987, the SNP only held onto the three seats they had won at the previous election. They also lost Glasgow Govan, which their deputy leader Jim Sillars had taken in a by-election in 1988. Sillars quit active politics after the General Election with a parting shot at the Scottish electorate as being "ninety minute patriots".[5]

The election also saw a small change in Northern Ireland as the Conservatives organised and stood candidates there for the first time since the Ulster Unionist Party had broken with them in 1972 over the Sunningdale Agreement, although no Conservatives were elected in Northern Ireland.

Margaret Thatcher, Norman Tebbit, Denis Healey, Nigel Lawson, Geoffrey Howe, Michael Foot, David Owen and Merlyn Rees were among the prominent retirees.

See also

Manifestos

Notes

External links


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