1959 United Kingdom general election

The 1959 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday, 8 October 1959. It marked a third consecutive victory for the ruling Conservative Party, now led by Harold Macmillan. For the second time in a row, the Conservatives increased their overall majority in Parliament, this time to a landslide majority of 100 seats, having gained 20 seats for a return of 365. The Labour Party, led by Hugh Gaitskell, lost 19 seats and returned 258. The Liberal Party, led by Jo Grimond, again returned only six MPs to the House of Commons, but managed to increase its overall share of the vote to 5.9%, compared to just 2.7% four years earlier.

1959 United Kingdom general election

 1955 8 October 1959 1964 

All 630 seats in the House of Commons
316 seats needed for a majority
Opinion polls
Turnout78.7%, 1.9%
  First party Second party Third party
 
Leader Harold Macmillan Hugh Gaitskell Jo Grimond
Party Conservative Labour Liberal
Leader since 10 January 1957 14 December 1955 5 November 1956
Leader's seat Bromley Leeds South Orkney and Shetland
Last election 345 seats, 49.7% 277 seats, 46.4% 6 seats, 2.7%
Seats won 365 258 6
Seat change 20 19
Popular vote 13,750,875 12,216,172 1,640,760
Percentage 49.4% 43.8% 5.9%
Swing 0.3% 2.6% 3.2%

Colours denote the winning party—as shown in § Results

Composition of the House of Commons after the election

Prime Minister before election

Harold Macmillan
Conservative

Prime Minister after election

Harold Macmillan
Conservative

The Conservatives won the largest number of votes in Scotland, but narrowly failed to win the most seats in that country. They have not made either achievement ever since. Both Jeremy Thorpe, a future Liberal leader, and Margaret Thatcher, a future Conservative leader and eventually Prime Minister, first entered the House of Commons after this election.