The 1979 General Election was contested on 3rd May. The outgoing government was Labour led by Jim Callaghan. Initially they had a small majority but this was eroded over time and since 1977 it had operated as a minority government with support from Welsh & Scottish nationalists and Ulster Unionists. Following the referendum on a Scottish Assembly in 1978 which a majority of those voting supported, but had failed the threshold of 40% of the total electorate, the SNP refused to support Labour in a no-confidence vote.

The Conservatives under their new leader, Margaret Thatcher, went on to win a clear majority in the election.

This was the first General Election that the new Ecology Party had faced since its formation from PEOPLE and Movement for Survival in 1976. There was a threshold of 50 candidates to be entitled to a Party Political Broadcast (PPB) - in 1979 there were only three TV channels in the UK and the election PPBs were broadcast simultaneously on all channels. At lot of effort went into securing the necessary 50 candidates in time, in the event 53 Ecology Party candidates stood across the UK.

Two versions were produced - one for radio and one for TV. We have not yet managed to recover the video of the TV version but we have audio of both below.

1979 PEB radio version:

Sally Willington remembering making the 1979 broadcast in 1983 (10 year look back)…

We were Green in every sense and had no idea how to make our election film. I remembered a correspondence with an lTV writer in Portsmouth and asked him to recommend a source of help and information. He said go and see Jenny and Co in Soho. Jonathon Porritt and I went. After about half an hour, the two Jenny men came to the conclusion that ours was a revolutionary philosophy and, since we had no money they must help us. This they did and that is why we had such a good broadcast that it brought in 5000 members and is remembered to this day.

1979 PEB TV version:

The South West provided 18 candidates, followed by London with 10 and Yorkshire & Humberside with 9 candidates. Eight out of the 53 were women - 15%. In the SW the average age of candidates was 36 ranging from 22 to 55 (we don't yet have age figures for the remaining candidates).

A full manifesto was published with the title "The Real Alternative". It was a 20 page booklet with 17 pages of substantial text. It started with an overview and then talked about the Crisis in our Economy and the Crisis in our Society before moving on to outline policy proposals - in each area defining the problem and then outlining Eco policies to address the problem.

Also available at this time was the full Manifesto for a Sustainable Society, revised and updated the previous year. This in smaller booklet form runs to 127 pages with full detailed policy proposals.

Individual candidates produced their own election addresses usually using a fairly standard template. The gallery below shows a sample (all from the SW so far - please contact us if you can fill in the gaps)

An interesting situation existed in Oxford where the Oxford Ecology Movement had been set up independently of the Ecology Party, and it was OEM that was organised to put up a candidate.

They had produced their own manifesto "A Sane Future" and fought a good campaign using purely local resources. At the time they had around 50 members in the constituency - probably more than most Ecology Party branches elsewhere. In the event the candidate, Anthony Cheke, polled 887 votes, 1.46% - the average for EP candidates elsewhere.

The seat was a Labour-Tory marginal, Labour having taken it in 1974, and the Tories winning it back in 79 by 1,497 votes on a 4.4% swing largely at the expense of the Liberal.

Sample ECO election leaflets

Candidate List and results

A full list of candidates (including other parties) in constituencies where ECO stood can be found in the May-June 1979 EcoNews

South-West Region  
Cornwall  
St.Ives:  Howard Hoptrough (55) 
427 votes, 1.0%, last behind MK
Cornwall North: Jeremy Faull (49) 
442 votes, 0.9%. 
Bodmin: Chris Retallack (32) 
465 votes, 0.9%. Beaten by MK
Teddy Goldsmith was due to stand in
Falmouth/Camborne but pulled out late
Devon  
Exeter:  Peter Frings (22) 
1053 votes, 1.88%.
Devon North: Tony Whittaker (46) 
729 votes, 1.2%
Honiton:  Hilary Bacon (43) 
1423 votes, 2.35%
Torbay:  David Abrahams (31) 
1161 votes, 1.8%
Somerset  
Taunton:  Geoffrey Garbett (26) 
1403 votes 2.6%
Somerset North:  Richard Carder (36) 
1254 votes, 1.6%
Bath: Don Grimes  (35) 
1082 votes, 2.2%
 
Wiltshire  
Chippenham:  Bert Pettit  (52) 
521 votes, 0.9%
Devizes:  Ray Burcham (28) 
713 votes, 1.1%
Westbury : Sally Rodwell (30) 
554 votes, 0.9% behind Wessex Regionalist
 
Dorset  

Bournemouth East:  Jacky Dempsey (25)
523 votes, 1.3%

Lymington & Christchurch:  Jim Keeling (46) 
975 votes, 2.2%
Bristol  
Bristol West: John Ingham (26) 
1154 votes, 2.7%
Bristol North East : Gundula Dorey (36) 
469 votes, 1.3%
Gloucestershire  
Gloucestershire South:  David Kerridge (35) 
695 votes, 1.0%
 
Yorkshire & Humberside (Leeds)  
Barkston Ash: David Corry
1829 votes, 2.5%
Batley & Morley: Clive Lord
460 votes, 1.0%
Keithley: Joyce Wade
208 votes, 0.48%
Leeds East: Anne Hill
206 votes, 0.4%
Leeds North-East: Sara Parkin
813 votes, 2.0%
Leeds North-West: Keith Rushworth
847 votes, 1.7%
Pudsey: Peter Lewenz
340 votes, 0.6%
Ripon: Alistair Laurence
781 votes, 1.85%
Shipley: David Pedley
486 votes, 1.0%
 
North West Region  
Altringham & Sale: Cicely Marsh
796 votes, 1.4%
Crosby: PeterHussey
1489 votes, 2.4%
London  
Beckenham: Biff Vernon
762 votes, 1.75%
Brentford & Iselworth: Irene Coates
454 votes, 1.75%
Chingford: Steve Lambert
649 votes, 1.5% 
Dulwich: David Smart
468 votes, 1.1%
Hendon South: Geoffrey Syer
563 votes, 1.5%
Islington Central: Adrian Williams
310 votes, 1.2%
Kensington: Nicholas Albery
698 votes, 2.06%
St.Marylebone: Jonathon Porritt
691 votes, 2.8%
Hitchin: Brian Goodale
911 votes, 1.45%
Reading South: Peter Dunn
700 votes, 1.2%
West and East Midlands Regions  
Birmingham Edgbaston: Jonathan Tyler
852 votes, 1.8%
Loughborough: David Whitebread
595 votes, 0.98%
Warwick & Leamington: Peter Sizer
905 votes, 1.36%
Worcester: John Davenport
707 votes, 1.2%
Worcestershire South: Guy Woodford
1722 votes, 2.8%
 
South East Region  
Brighton Pavilion: John Beale
638 votes, 1.5%
Chichester: Nick Bagnall
656 votes, 1.2%
Gillingham: Colin Fry
501 votes, 1.0%
Rye: Anne Rix
1267 votes, 2.2%
East Anglia Region  
Lowestoft: Tim Pye
435 votes, 0.65%
Norwich North: George Hannah
334 votes, 0.94%
Wales  
Bedwelty: Peter Rout
556 votes, 1.4%
Pembroke: Brian Kingzett
694 votes, 1.1%
Scotland  
Edinburgh South: Stewart Biggar
552 votes, 1.3%
 

Overall ECO gained 39,981 votes and an average of 1.5% of the vote in the constituencies where they stood. The best result in votes was 1829 for David Corry in Barkston Ash, followed by Guy Woodford with 1722 in Worcestershire South and 1423 for Hilary Bacon in Honiton.

In terms of vote share Guy Woodford with 2.8% and Jonathon Porritt also with 2.8% (but only 691 votes) in St.Marylebone where top followed by John Ingham in Bristol West with 2.7%.

Of course at these levels one should not read too much into the relative results in different places. EcoNews proudly proclaimed that Ecology Party was now Britains fourth party having roundly beaten the National Front in 17 of the 24 constituencies where both stood. Over a million leaflets were distributed and the TV and radio party political broadcasts generated much interest with over 4000 enquires and a surge in membership resulting.

Press and news coverage was good with well attended press conferences and the London candidates demonstration against the use of lead in petrol attracting much coverage.

A month later the country went to the polls again in the first direct election to the European Assembly (Parliament)