Britain's electors went to the polls today (Thursday) and despite positive forecasts by opinion polls that the ruling Labour Party would win, the voting showed a marked swing to the opposition Conservatives.
Britain's electors went to the polls today (Thursday) and despite positive forecasts by opinion polls that the ruling Labour Party would win, the voting showed a marked swing to the opposition Conservatives. When half of the 630 results were in, computers were forecasting a Conservative majority of between 25 and 50 seats.
The earliest results included a number of shock defeats for Labour, and the computers even at that stage were confidently predicting a decisive Conservative victory.
With 343 of the results declared, Labour had lost 38 seats - more than enough to knock out the overall majority of 65 held by the party in the last House of Commons. Few observers believed that Labour could come back strongly enough in later returns to retain power.
If that trend continued it would be inevitable that Prime Minister Harold Wilson would be obliged to tender his resignation and Mr Edward Heath, Leader of the Conservative Party, would be invited to form the country's next Government. In those circumstances, Mr Wilson would become the first British Government leader to lose office after leading in the public opinion polls from the start of the election campaign.
Among the important results - a loss for Labour at Belper, where former Foreign Secretary George Brown, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, lost his seat to a Conservative. Mr. Enoch Powell, the right-wing Conservative candidate whose calls for restrictions on coloured immigration have caused considerable controversy, doubled his majority at Wolver-hampton South West. Winston S. Churchill, grandson of the former Conservative Prime Minister, won the seat at Stretford from Labour.
The three party leaders all held their seats, both Mr. Heath and Mr. Wilson with increased majorities, but Liberal leader Mr. Jeremy Thorpe had only a narrow victory in his North Devon constituency.