Wednesday, 28 March 2012
There was confusion on the night. Jimmy Hamilton, a Labour whip had given a thumbs up sign to the Labour benches, mistakenly believing that the Government had just succeeded. However it was 311-310 for the motion of no confidence. Alfred Broughton, the MP for Batley and Morley was gravely ill - the Prime Minister, Jim Callaghan, thought it would have been inhuman to have him brought to Westminster (from Leeds - a 400 mile roundtrip) in an ambulance for his vote to be counted. He was to die a few days later.
This was one of the few examples in the 20th Century of a government defeat leading to the fall of a government. (There have been many government defeats in the House of Commons – but only three were defeats which were regarded as confidence votes - Jan 21st 1924, Oct 8th 1924 & Mar 28th 1979.
There are various accounts of that day in political memoirs; biographies and histories. An article by Roy Hattersley can be found here.