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28 March  
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1979: Early election as Callaghan defeated
Prime Minister James Callaghan has lost a parliamentary vote of confidence by a minority of one - forcing him to call an early general election.

The vote of "no confidence" was brought by opposition leader Margaret Thatcher and the government's downfall was announced at 2219 BST.

The House of Commons carried the Conservative motion by 311 votes to 310 making Mr Callaghan the first Prime Minister since Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 to be forced into an election by the chamber.

A vital vote was lost through the absence of Sir Alfred Broughton, Labour MP for Batley, who was too ill to attend.

We shall take our case to the country
Prime Minister James Callaghan
An election could be called as early as 10 May although the Tories are pushing for 26 April.

Mr Callaghan, who will remain in office until he wins a new mandate or is defeated in the election, remained defiant as he spoke to Parliament following the result.

"Mr Speaker, now that the House of Commons has declared itself, we shall take our case to the country," he said.

He will meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace to ask for Parliament to be dissolved "as soon as essential business can be cleared up".

"And I will announce as soon as maybe - and that will be as soon as possible - the date of dissolution, the date of the election, and the date of the new meeting of the new Parliament," he added.

Mrs Thatcher, who had waited tensely for the result, said: "We shall facilitate any business which requires the co-operation of the opposition."

Tory MPs cheered jubilantly after the result waving papers, while Labour left-wingers sombrely rose and began singing the Red Flag.

At least 17 working days must elapse between the royal proclamation of an election and polling day.

Tories expect the dying government to dissolve Parliament by the weekend.

The prime minister, who has the right to choose the election date, is expected to call it on 10 May.

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Jim Callaghan
Mr Callaghan lost a vote of confidence



In Context
James Callaghan, now Lord Callaghan, became prime minister after the surprise resignation of Harold Wilson in 1976.

The issues which had plagued the Labour Government since it came to power in 1974 were exacerbated under his tenure and despite his personal popularity, the Winter of Discontent's power-cuts and strikes lost him support.

The strikes had spread to the extent gravediggers had joined the picket lines leaving dead bodies waiting to be buried.

Inflation was rising and on 1 March Labour lost another two seats to the Tories in by-elections, prompting Mrs Thatcher to call a motion of No Confidence.

The General Election was called on 3 May - the same day as the local elections - and the Tories came to power.

Lord Callaghan, who had also served as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary, stepped down as Labour leader in 1980.

He died on 26 March 2005.

Stories From 28 Mar


 
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