Wednesday, 28 March 2012

One Vote!

Today is the 33rd anniversary of the confidence vote which brought down the 1974-79 Labour Government, and brought forward the 1979 General Election. For my study of whips during the 1979-2010 period it was a key event - so I have amassed much material on the events of the day.

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.

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