• Hi Guest!

    The costs of running this forum are covered by Sea Lion Press. If you'd like to help support the company and the forum, visit patreon.com/sealionpress

Government Survives No Confidence Vote 1979

RyanF

Pub Reconquista Ongoing
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Location
Falkirk
Pronouns
he/him
Inspired by my viewing of This House today, what if the Labour government had survived the no confidence vote of 28th March 1979?

The final tally was 311 Ayes (that the house had no confidence) to 310 Noes, a knife edge. Had the vote been a tie, it is probably Speaker George Thomas would have followed precedent and cast his deciding vote in favour of the status quo.

There are a number of possibilities for Labour to get one or two votes. Tory whip Jack Weatherill offered himself as a pair for the dying Labour MP Alfred Broughton, but was refused by his Labour opposite number Walter Harrison. Gerry Fitt of the SDLP and independent republican Frank McGuire both abstained, but any concessions given to them by Labour might have lost them the support of the two UUP votes they did receive. Clement Freud was offered a watered down FoI Act if he would miss his train to London, but refused.

What happens if the Callaghan government survives that night? An election was due by October 1979 anyway, and while Labour might be still likely to lose how would limping along for another six months have effected the results?
 

Will Lucky

Well-known member
Another option is Broughton, a Labour backbencher.

He wasn't summoned because he was extremely ill, and the implications of him dying on route would not have been good. Either way, that's another route. The only problem is yes he will die and yes that will inevitably be blamed on Callaghan calling him to do his duty which he was very happy to do to save the government.

However, its not the likeliest of routes due to the issues. I'd say getting Maguire is the best chance for seeing it through.
 

RyanF

Pub Reconquista Ongoing
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Location
Falkirk
Pronouns
he/him
I think Maguire is the most likely possibility - IIRC he had decided to back the government but his wife talked him out of it at the last minute.
However, its not the likeliest of routes due to the issues. I'd say getting Maguire is the best chance for seeing it through.
Indeed, and it is very easy to have it so that she misses the trip and he instead walks through the No lobby.
 

RyanF

Pub Reconquista Ongoing
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Location
Falkirk
Pronouns
he/him
Mulling this over during my trip to Lidl, I thought of various knock-on effects of Maguire propping up the Callaghan government.

For Maguire himself, being seen as an independent republican saving a British government might not bode too well for him with his constituents. OTL the SDLP did not stand an official candidate against him, though future Irish minister Austin Currie did stand as an independent SDLP. The SDLP might be tempted to stand a candidate against him if he votes for the government and did not abstain like Gerry Fitt, especially after he said he had only flown to London to "abstain in person". Most likely this would just give the seat to the UUP, but the SDLP might have been willing to throw something at the seat anyway. SDLP or UUP, no Maguire in 1979 means no 1981 by-election in the seat, which means no Bobby Sands being elected to Parliament while on hunger strike. This would be a huge butterfly for Northern Ireland.

The SNP might do better, though they voted against the government they couldn't be seen as having pulled the trigger and putting the Tories back into power, so might hold on to a few more seats. Them being in a better position for the onset of Thatcherism might have huge ramifications, but soon after the election they were offset by a series of internal conflicts and never began their recovery until the late 80s. Plaid Cymru I'm less sure about, since their reduced voteshare seems more to do with question of the party's direction following the overwhelming rejections of the Welsh Assembly than as punishment for voting with the Tories.

As for the Labour Party, they might do slightly better in October 1979 than they did in OTL May 1979, possibly holding on for a few marginals. The question then is does Callaghan still eek out his time as leader or does he go right away, with a few more moderate MPs holding their seats he might be more convinced that Healey will be elected and go sooner. The 18 months between the OTL election and the leadership election allowed for internal conflicts to fester and Foot to be drafted in as a unity left candidate. If Healey is elected does the split of the party's right still happen? Jenkins was probably going to defect to the Liberals anyway, and a lot of the defecting MPs had personal problems with Healey (a number of them voted for Foot when Healey told them they "had no where else to turn"), but if Healey can become leader does the split still happen, and can it get off to the same momentum? Or will the *Gang of Four look more like a Gang of Dick... Tavernes?
 
Last edited:
Top