Thatcher first prime minister in 160 years to win three consecutive terms


LONDON -- Margaret Thatcher Thursday became the first prime minister since the early 1800s to win a third straight term, capturing a decisive general election victory hailed as 'a tremendous vindication for her policies and her personality.'

With practically all the votes counted, Thatcher's Conservative Party had won 347 seats, the left-wing Labor Party 226 and the centrist Alliance 14.


Of the popular vote, the Conservatives had 43 percent, Labor 32.3 percent and the Alliance 22.7 percent.

When the Conservative Party early Friday passed the mark of 326 seats, it formally guaranteed its majority in the new Parliament and sealed Thatcher's victory.

'It is wonderful to be entrusted with the government of this great country once again,' the woman dubbed 'The Iron Lady' told her Conservative Party supporters. 'But we have a great deal of work to do. No one must slack.'


A beaming Thatcher, who has led Britain since 1979, thanked her supporters and said they had helped 'in making it a day of history.'

'It's a tremendous vindication for her policies and her personality,' Thatcher confidant and Employment Secretary Lord Young said. 'Its the first time since the 1832 reform bill that a prime minister wins a third time running.'

Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock won his own parliamentary seat in Wales but gave no credit to Thatcher in his national defeat.

During the campaign Kinnock accused the prime minister of dividing the nation and Friday morning he said, 'I think what we are witnessing is an even greater abyss of division than that which we witnessed previously.'

For the 650-seat Parliament, Independent Television News projected a final majority of 110 seats for Thatcher's Conservatives. BBC television projected a final Conservative edge of 104 seats.

The Conservative majority was smaller than the 144-seat margin won in 1983 in the wake of the British victory in the Falklands War but it was bigger than expected and still of landslide proportions.

'The Conservatives have been able to win,' co-leader of the Alliance Party David Owen said. 'All credit to them. That's democracy.'


Labor Party campaign manager Bryan Gould said, 'I think we have lost it, because we started from a very low base,' but said Labor made no mistakes in the hard-fought campaign.

Thatcher, 61, recaptured her own parliamentary seat for the Finchley constituency, but when she tried to thank officials at the local vote-counting station, she was fiercely heckled by a small group who called her 'fascist scum.'

Battling to speak over the hecklers, Thatcher said, 'The only power we have in this country, in a democratic free country, is the power we draw from the ballot box. I am, of course, particularly glad to have obtained (for this seat) more than 50 percent of the vote, which is very satisfactory.'

When she said it was 'an honor' to serve the Finchley constituency, a heckler shouted on nationwide television, 'Not for us, it isn't.' Journalists said the hecklers were Labor supporters.

Thatcher, who has been under threat of Irish nationalist assassins, also thanked the police for providing for her security.

'I hope and believe we shall win,' she said of the nationwide race.

British television commentators pointed out that by giving Thatcher a third consectutive term as prime minister, British voters were bestowing an honor they did not give even to Winston Churchill or other great leaders such as Disraeli and Gladstone.


'Maggie the Third,' headlined the Sun newspaper in an early edition.

Many experts said they expected Thatcher's big 134-seat majority in Parliament to be trimmed. The Conservatives lost 10 seats in special elections since their 1983 landslide.

Election officials said a 'steady' stream of people voted despite rain in much of the country. Some 43 million people were eligble to vote.

Thatcher called the election a year early on a gamble that Britain's strong economy would keep her in power.

Thatcher, nicknamed 'The Iron Lady' by the Soviets for her toughness, was first elected in 1979 during a wave of union strikes and re-elected by a landslide in 1983, a year after Britain defeated Argentina in the Falklands War.

The last British prime minister to serve three consecutive terms was the second Earl of Liverpool, from 1812 to 1827. Thatcher is the first woman prime minister in British history.

The Labor Party pledged to expel U.S. nuclear bases and such weapons as cruise missiles from Britain and to scrap the nation's current U.S.-built Polaris and future Trident independent strategic systems.

Thatcher had charged the Labor policy could result in a breakup of NATO. She said it also could lead to the withdrawal of the 330,000 American troops in Europe.


Her opponents also attacked her as 'uncaring' because unemployment has risen from 1.2 million to over 3 million since 1979. They also charged she has let Britain's free health service and education system run down and divided the country between rich and poor.

There were 2,327 candidates vying for the 650 seats in the House of Commons. Scots and Welsh nationalists, Northern Ireland groups and assorted independent candidates were not expected to affect the overall balance of power.

The voting climaxed a 24-day campaign that analysts said saw some of the dirtiest tactics since World War II.

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