The 1970 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday 18 June 1970. It resulted in a surprise victory for the Conservative Party under leader Edward Heath, which defeated the governing Labour Party under Harold Wilson. The Liberal Party, under its new leader Jeremy Thorpe, lost half their seats. The Conservatives, including the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), secured a majority of 31 seats. This general election was the first in which people could vote from the age of 18, after passage of the Representation of the People Act the previous year.

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  • The 1970 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday 18 June 1970. It resulted in a surprise victory for the Conservative Party under leader Edward Heath, which defeated the governing Labour Party under Harold Wilson. The Liberal Party, under its new leader Jeremy Thorpe, lost half their seats. The Conservatives, including the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), secured a majority of 31 seats. This general election was the first in which people could vote from the age of 18, after passage of the Representation of the People Act the previous year. As of 2019, it is the earliest general election from which there remain members of the House of Commons who have a record of continuous service; Kenneth Clarke of the Conservatives and Dennis Skinner of Labour entered Parliament for the first time at this election. Clarke is the current Father of the House since the death of 86-year-old Gerald Kaufman in February 2017. Most opinion polls prior to the election indicated a comfortable Labour victory, and put Labour up to 12.4% ahead of the Conservatives. On election day, however, a late swing gave the Conservatives a 3.4% lead and ended almost six years of Labour government, although Wilson remained leader of the Labour Party in opposition. Writing in the aftermath of the election, the political scientist Richard Rose described the Conservative victory as "surprising" and noted a significant shift in votes between the two main parties. The Times journalist George Clark wrote that the election would be "remembered as the occasion when the people of the United Kingdom hurled the findings of the opinion polls back into the faces of the pollsters". The result would provide the mandate for Edward Heath as Prime Minister to begin formal negotiations for the United Kingdom to become a member of the European Communities (EC)—or the "Common Market" as it was more widely known at the time, before it later became the European Union; the UK officially joined the EC on 1 January 1973, along with the Republic of Ireland and Denmark. Prominent Labour figures George Brown and Jennie Lee were both defeated in their constituencies at this general election. The 1970 general election was the last election prior to that of 1997 where the Labour Party received more than 40% of the popular vote, and also the last until the 2017 election where the third-largest party by number of votes (in this case the Liberals) achieved less than 10% of the vote. The election was the last in which a nationwide UK party gained seats in Northern Ireland. The UUP sat with the Conservative Party at Westminster, traditionally taking the Conservative parliamentary whip. To all intents and purposes the UUP functioned as the Northern Ireland branch of the Conservative Party. In 1972, in protest over the permanent prorogation of the Parliament of Northern Ireland, the Westminster UUP MPs withdrew from the alliance. (en)
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  • 1970 United Kingdom general election (en)
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  • The 1970 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday 18 June 1970. It resulted in a surprise victory for the Conservative Party under leader Edward Heath, which defeated the governing Labour Party under Harold Wilson. The Liberal Party, under its new leader Jeremy Thorpe, lost half their seats. The Conservatives, including the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), secured a majority of 31 seats. This general election was the first in which people could vote from the age of 18, after passage of the Representation of the People Act the previous year. (en)
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  • 1970 United Kingdom general election (en)
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