The flame of British Liberalism burns steady and brighter: A timeline from 1945

The Stirling and Falkirk by-election, caused by the death of Malcolm Macpherson (Labour) took place on 16 September 1971. It was a three way contest between Labour, Conservative and SNP. The Labour candidate was Gregor Mackenzie who had lost his Rutherglen seat in the 1968 general election. The SNP candidate was Winifred Ewing. Labour held the seat, but their majority was reduced from 14.7% over Conservative to 8,3% over SNP. A week later the Widnes by-election, caused by the death of James MacColl (Labour) was easily held for Labour by James Dunn, who was MP for Liverpool Kirkdale from 1961 to 1968.

The elevation to the peerage of Arthur Vere Harvey (Conservative) meant there was a by-election in Macclesfield. This was held on 30 September 1971. It was won by the Conservatives, but their majority over Labour fell from 20.0% to 1.6%. Here are the percentage votes for each party (1968 general election):
Nicholas Winterton (Conservative): 33.9 (48.0)
Labour: 32.3 (28.0)
Liberal: 31.9 (24.0)
Others (2): 1.9 (n/a).
The swing from Conservative to Labour was 9.2%.
 
The Jackson Report on the future of the Railways was published in September 1970. It proposed that about one-third of the total mileage be cut, with the closure of three thousand miles of track and two thousand stations. It was backed by the Conservative government and party, but stromgly opposed by the Labour and Liberal parties.
 
The Jackson Report on the future of the Railways was published in September 1970. It proposed that about one-third of the total mileage be cut, with the closure of three thousand miles of track and two thousand stations. It was backed by the Conservative government and party, but stromgly opposed by the Labour and Liberal parties.
See those marginals fall in by elections to come
 
In October 1971, 53 Labour MPs defied a three-line whip to vote in favour of a motion approving in principle the government's decision to enter the Common Market (European Economic Community - EEC). In February 1972, 12 Labour MPs voted in favour of the second reading of the European Communities Bill, in defiance of a three-line whip.

The Prime Minister, Reginald Maudling, was in favour of Britain joining the EEC, but was not as fanatical and single minded about the issue as Edward Heath was in OTL.
The Foreign Secretary was the Earl of Home, and Barbara Castle was the shadow Foreign Secretary. James Callaghan wanted to keep the Labour party united on the issue. In 1972 he pledged that a Labour governmemt would hold a referendum on Britain's membership of the EEC.

In the Southwark by-election on 4 May 1972, caused by the resignation of Ray Gunter )Labour), Jo Richardson held the seat for Labour. She had lost her Hornchurch seat in the 1968 general election.
 
Enoch Powell resigned from the cabinet as Minister of Education in February 1972, before the second reading of the European Communities Bill. He voted against the bill in all its stages. Maudling promoted Sir Keith Joseph from Chief Secretary to the Treasury to Minister of Education, and Richard Wood from Financial Secretary to the Treasury to Chief Secretary. Peter Walker was appointed Financial Secretary.

In the shadow cabinet elections in early November 1972, the successful candidates in order of votes received were as follows:
1. Peter Shore
2. Fred Peart
3. Michael Foot
4. Anthony Greenwood
5. Harold Wilson
6. Shirley Williams
7. Anthony Greenwood
8. Barbara Castle
9. Cledwyn Hughes
10. Reginald Prentice
11. Tom Fraser
12. Eric Heffer.

The Uxbridge by-election caused by the death of Charles Curran (Conservative) was held on 7 December 1972. It was won by Manuela Sykes for Labour by a majority 2.1% over Conservative. In the 1968 general election, the Conservative majority over Labour was 8.8%. Sykes had been a member of the Liberal Party, and a Liberal camdidate in several elections. She resigmed from the party in March 1967 in opposition to its advocacy of Britain joiniing the EEC.
 
In 1970 Enoch Powell, the Minister of Education, ended the provision of school milk for children over seven years old.

Terence O'Neill, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, called a general election for 2 October 1970 with the intention of improving his position in the Northern Ireland House of Commons. The number of seats won by each party in the election were as follows [1969 general election]:
Ulster Unionist [Pro O'Neill]: 23 [25]
Ulster Unionist [Anti O'Neill]: 12 [11]
Social Democratic and Labour: 8 [n/a]
Nationalist: 4 [5]
Northern Ireland Labour: 2 [4]
Protestant Unionist: 2 [n/a]
People's Democracy: 1 [1]
[ Independent Nationalist: 3 ]
[ Republican Labour: 2]
[ Liberal: 1 ]
-----------------------------------
Total: 52 [52}
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O'Neill lost his Bannside seat to the Reverend Ian Paisley (Protestant Unionist]. He resigned as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party and Prime Minister on 3 October. On 8 October, UIster Unionist MPs elected Brian Faulkner as their leader, and he became Prime Minister.

In March 1972, after Bloody Sunday on 30 January 1972. the British government suspended the Northern Ireland government and parliament [Stormont] and imposed direct rule on the province. Maudling promoted Ian Gilmour from Minister of State Home Office to the new post of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Callaghan appointed Merlyn Rees as shadow Northern Ireland Secretary.
 
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A general election had to take place in the United Kingdom in 1973, before 14 May which was five years after Parliament assembled after the 1968 general election. There was much press speculation as to the date of the election. According to well informed sources, Tory Party workers did not want an election on 3 May, the date of borough and county council elections, because a general election would take activists and resources from local elections. Easter Sunday was 22 April. The most likely dates for the election were thought to be 5 or 12 April.

On Monday 12 March a statement from 10 Downing Street was issued to the media, stating that a general election would take place on 12 April. Parliament would be dissolve on 23 March, and nominations close on 2 April and the new Parliament assemble on 24 April.
 
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There had been a substantial redistribution of seats with the number of MPs increasing from 630 to 635. There were major boundary changes in 325 constituencies and minor boundary alterations in 90 constituencies. The voting age had been teduced from 21 to 18.

In a major speech in Birmingham on 7 April, five days before polling day. Enoch Powell advocated voting Labour, because a Labour government would give people an opportunity to vote on Britain's membership of the EEC. He said that this was the most important issue in the election. Some historians and commentators have argued that this speech was the most significant event in the election campaign. In another speech two days later, he urged people to vote Labour.
 
The result of the general election on 12 April 1973 was a Labour majority of ten over all parties. The number of seats won by each party in the House of Commons were as follows (May 1968 general election):
Labour: 322 (268)
Conservative: 275 (342)
Liberal: 16 (16)
Ulster Unionist: 7 (n/a - included with Conservative)
Scottish National: 6 (1)
Vanguard Progressive Unionist: 3 (n/a)
Plaid Cymru: 2 (- )
Democratic Unionist: 1 (n/a)
Social Democratic and Labour: 1 (n/a)
Independent Labour: 1 (n/a)
Speaker: 1 (1)
(Republican Labour: 1)
(Unity: 1)
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Total: 635 (630)
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The percentage votes for each party in the general election were as follows (1968 general election):
Labour: 38.1 (37.8)
Conservative: 35.6 (42.3)
Liberal: 20.7 (16.9)
Others: 5.5 (3.0)
The Liberals were disappointed with the result. Although their vote had increased by 3.8%, their number of MPs was still sixteen. They gained Aberdeenshire West, Chippenham. Isle of Wight, and Truro, and won the new seat of Hazel Grove. But lost Cheadle, and Ross and Cromarty to Conservative, and Birmingham Ladywood, Caithness and Sutherland, and Greenock to Labour. They had several close second places. The Liberals did not gain Berwick-on-Tweed, and Isle of Ely from Conservative, because unlike in OTL they did not have by-election boosts in these seats. So Alan Beith and Clement Freud were not elected. But David Penhaligon won Truro.

The SNP gained Aberdeenshire East, Argyll, Banff, and Moray and Nairn from Conservative, and Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire from Labour. However they did not take Dundee East from Labour, because they did not have a by-election boost in that constituency.

Dick Taverne was not deselected by his Putney Constituency Party, as was in Lincoln in OTL, so he had not left the Labour Party. Lincoln stayed Labour.
 
The Liberal Party won the following sixteen seats in the general election: Aberdeenshire West, Bodmin, Cardiganshire, Chippenham, Colne Valley, Cornwall North, Devon North, Hazel Grove, Inverness-shire, Isle of Wight, Montgomery, Orkney and Shetland, Orpington, Rochdale, Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles, Truro.

Archie Macdonald, who was Liberal MP for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles since 1945, retired at the general election. David Steel was elected Liberal MP for the constituency. Ronnie Fraser was elected for Aberdeenshire West. [1] Nancy Seear held Rochdale for the Liberals.

[1] For Fraser see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronnie_Fraser
 
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