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European Parliament election, 1979 (United Kingdom)


European Parliament election, 1979 (United Kingdom)

United Kingdom European Parliament election, 1979

7 June 1979

81 seats to the European Parliament
Turnout 32.7%
  First party Second party
Leader Margaret Thatcher James Callaghan
Party Conservative Labour
Alliance EPP PES
Leader since 11 February 1975 5 April 1976
Seats won 60 17
Popular vote 6,508,492 4,253,247
Percentage 48.4% 31.6%

Leader of Largest Party

Margaret Thatcher

The European Assembly Election, 1979, was the first European election to be held in the United Kingdom after the European Community (EC) decided to directly elect representatives to the European Parliament. It was held on 7 June. Elections were also held in eight other EC states. European elections were incorporated into UK law by the European Assembly Elections Act 1978. Out of the 410 members of the European Parliament, 81 were elected from the UK. The electoral system was First Past the Post in England, Scotland and Wales (electing 78 MEPs in total) and Single Transferable Vote in Northern Ireland (electing 3 MEPs).

The result was a landslide victory for the Conservative Party, which won 60 of the 78 seats available in England, Wales and Scotland. Their decisive victory in the general election of the previous month and divisions within the Labour party on whether to stay in the EC probably helped the Conservatives to such a comprehensive victory. There was a very low turnout in the election compared with other states, the lowest in Europe. Voter apathy was an explanation, but it is likely the large number of elections in 1979 had a significant negative effect on turnout. There were referendums in Scotland and Wales on devolution in March and the general election in May, as well as local elections in England (not including London) and Wales.

  • Overall (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) turnout: 32.7% (EC average: 63%)
  • Overall votes cast: 13,460,091

England, Scotland and Wales

Source: UK Office of the European Parliament

Note: percentages are approximate

Party Votes Seats Share of Vote (%)
Conservative 6,508,492 60 48.4
Labour 4,253,247 17 31.6
Liberal 1,690,638 0 12.6
SNP 247,836 1 1.9
Plaid Cymru 83,399 0 1
United Against the Common Market 27,506 0 0
Independent 23,539 0 0
Ecology 17,953 0 0
Mebyon Kernow 10,205 0 0
Independent Conservative 4,804 0 0
Independent Democratic 2,473 0 0
International Marxist 1,635 0 0
EFP 497 0 0

Total votes cast - 12,873,852.

Northern Ireland

Source Northern Ireland Social and Political Archive

Party Candidate(s) Seats First Preference Votes
Number % of vote
DUP Ian Paisley 1 170,688 29.8
SDLP John Hume 1 140,622 25.5
UUP John Taylor,
Harry West
1 125,169 21.9
Alliance Oliver Napier 0 39,026 6.8
Independent Unionist James Kilfedder 0 38,198 6.7
Independent Republican Bernadette McAliskey 0 33,969 5.9
United Community David Bleakley 0 9,383 1.6
United Labour Paddy Devlin 0 6,122 1.1
Workers' Party Brian Brennan,
Francis Donnelly
0 4,418 0.8
Unionist Party NI Eddie Cummings 0 3,712 0.6
Liberal James Murray 0 932 0.2

Total votes cast - 572,239.

Party Leaders in June 1979

See also

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