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31 March  
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1966: Harold Wilson wins sweeping victory
The Labour party is on course to win the general election with a majority of about 100 seats in the House of Commons.

Prime Minister Harold Wilson has hailed the result "a great victory". It is only the second time a Labour government has been voted back into power.

Across the country, the swing from Conservative to Labour was between 3% and 4%.

Labour needed 316 seats to be assured of victory and although they have not actually yet reached that figure, the trend shows the party to be well on the way to it.

Majority in government

Shortly after midnight, Conservative leader Edward Heath admitted his party had lost.

Speaking in his Bexley constituency in Kent, he insisted the Tories had fought the election on the right policies.

He said: "The Labour Party has been fighting on the past. We have fought on the present and the future."

Mr Wilson went into the election battle with a manifesto entitled, Time for a Decision, making his sole purpose clear - he wanted a mandate to govern.

Labour had won the 1964 election with a majority of five seats, later reduced through by-election losses to just one seat.

The Liberals have had a night of mixed successes.

No sooner had party leader Jo Grimond hailed Michael Winstanley's victory over the Tories to gain Cheadle than he heard that Roderic Bowen had lost Cardigan - and Richard Wainwright had at long last won Colne Valley from Labour.

Now Mr Wilson has a majority in the Commons some of the pressure of government will be eased.

He is expected to bring some new faces into the Cabinet. There is already a vacancy for a Lord Privy Seal after the retirement from the Commons of Sir Frank Soskice.

The country is also facing a debt of £900m, much of which has been inherited from the Tory government and which must be paid off within four years.

Inflation is continuing to rise but Mr Wilson insists Labour's prices and incomes policy is beginning to bring it into check.

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Harold Wilson surrounded by children waving leaflets
Harold Wilson at St Agnes Labour Club in Huyton, Lancashire, on polling day



In Context
The final result confirmed Harold Wilson had a majority of 96 seats.

But Labour lost popularity when it devalued the pound in November 1967, plans for trade union reform had to be shelved and France vetoed Britain's second application for membership of the European Economic Community.

Although Labour enjoyed something of a revival in 1969, Mr Wilson went on to lose the 1970 election to Edward Heath's Conservatives.

He was elected for a third term in government in March 1974 when the party scraped a working majority.

In March 1976 he surprised everyone by announcing he was resigning, just after turning 60.

He was made a peer in 1983 and died in May 1995.

Stories From 31 Mar


 
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