RepositoryUniversity of Exeter Penryn Campus (GB 3242)
Ref NoICS10
Extent0.8 linear metres / 2 boxes
DescriptionThis Collection includes newscuttings and election propaganda relating to the 1979 and 1983 General Elections in Cornwall and intervening years collected by The Institute of Cornish Studies. Materials are largely organised by election year and then mostly by constituency with some non-constituency specific files where appropriate. Specific topics covered by press cuttings include: boundary changes, English immigration and second homes, high unemployment, closure of Falmouth ship yard, and the rise and criticism of the Social Democratic Party in Cornwall. Examples of campaign flyers - listed below - are included by constituency.

Please note that some files seem to be absent on deposit. St Ives constituency is not represented in the 1979 sequence, and only Truro and North Cornwall are present for 1983. It is unclear if these materials were collected at and subsequenlty lost. Some evidence for these absent constituencies are available through other files.

Box 1 (1979):

- Cornwall Liberal and Labour materials c.1976-1982
Includes: candidate flyers, internal letters re new candidates, resurrecting branches, newsletter, agenda for Cornwall County Labour Party manifesto conference Nov 1982, Minutes of Truro Labour party General Management committee.

- Press cuttings from 1979 General Election, not constituency specific
Includes: materials relating to 1979 winners, election build up, Tony Benn visits Cornwall, election same day as district council elections, National Front candidates

- General Election 1979 - Falmouth and Camborne
Includes: An Werryn election special, candidate flyers for Tebbut, Nigel Knowles (Labour), Liberal flyer, Len Truan (Mebyon Kernow), press clippings re: election build up and results, proposed closure of Falmouth ship yard, proposed SDP party

- General Election 1979 - North Cornwall
Includes: candidate flyers for Rod Tremlett (Labour), John Pardoe (Liberal), Labour newsletter, press clippings re: Newquay taxi legislation, 'Overspill' English migration to Cornwall, Pardoe on Northern Island troops, Edward Heath visits Launceston, controversy over 'immigrant workers' in Cornwall, Pardoe defeat by Neale

- General Election 1979 - Bodmin
Includes: campaign flyers for Paul Tyler (Liberal), Ecology party, press cuttings on Hicks victory, High Court and Crown Court move from Bodmin to Truro.

- General Election 1979 - Truro
Includes: a letter re: collecting election ephemera, campaign flyers for David Penhalion (Liberal), Mike Curtis (Labour), Bruce Tidy (Labour), press cuttings re; election build up and results, Wheal Jane, Margaret Thatcher visit, small businesses

- General Elections Project letters
Includes: letters re: collection of election ephemera between Charles Woolf, Professor Thomas and others

- Press clippings re: General Election from 1979

- Election 1979 outside of Cornwall
Includes: campaign flyers for Bobbie Vincent (Liberal) from Kensington, Peter Frings (Ecology) from Exeter, Liberals, The Green Alliance, Cornwall related press cuttings from Western Morning News and national newspapers

- Envelope addressed to Prof Charles Thomas
Includes: The Conservative Manifesto, Ecology Party manifesto, polling station sign. Non-General election materials comprise of campaign flyers for Betty Barnard (Conservative) for County Council, Christopher Beazley (Conservative) for European Elections, George Cocks for District Council election.

Box 2 (1983)

- Press cuttings from 1983 General Election and 1982 Boundary changes c.1980-1983
Includes: press cuttings re: electoral roll mistakes, candidates tyres slashed in Cornwall, first night-time electoral count in Cornwall

- General Election 1983 - Truro - 3 files spanning 1979-1983
Includes: campaign flyers for Jan Beecroft (Labour), David Penhaligon (Liberal), Philip Buddell (Conservative), press cuttings re unemployment, mundic housing, 'Cornwall has been unfairly treated', mining revival promises, energy debates, urges to end SDP alliance, Cornish schools, fishing

- General Election 1983 - North Cornwall - 3 files spanning 1979-1983
Includes: press cuttings re: tenants to buy council houses, Plymouth/Cornwall boundary changes, calls to reduce prison-made manufacturing, unemployment, Neale backs bringing back hanging for certain offenses, 'milk for schools fight on', limits on road signs in Cornwall, misuse of licencing laws in rural communities, Court moving from Bodmin to Truro

- Loose campaign flyer for Roger Holmes (Mebyon Kernow).
Admin HistoryThe Institute of Cornish Studies (ICS) was launched in 1971 as a collaborative venture between the then Cornwall County Council and the University of Exeter. At that time its Director, Charles Thomas, defined its remit as 'The study of all aspects of man and his handiwork in the regional setting (Cornwall and Scilly), past, present and future. The development of society, industry and the landscape in our fast changing world is as much of concern … as the history of those vast topics in the recent and remote past.'

This Collection was compiled as a result of the ICS project to record a local view of two national General Elections.

The UK General Election of 1979 was held on 3rd of May 1979. The Conservative Party, led by Margaret Thatcher, ousted the incumbent Labour government of James Callaghan with a parliamentary majority of 43 seats. Nationally the Election saw a 5.2% voter swing from Labour to the Conservatives following widespread public sector trade union strikes under Calaghan's Labour Government in 1978-9's 'Winter of Discontent'.

During Thatcher's first three years as Prime Minister, unemployment increased and the Country went through an economic recession. However, by the time she called an election on 9th June 1983, the economy had returned to growth which, coupled with British victory in the Falklands, led to the Conservatives increasing their majority to 144 seats.

In 1983 Labour adopted a platform that was considered more left-wing than usual, leading to several moderate Labour MPs leaving the party to form the Social Democrats (SDP). The Social Democrats then formed the SDP-Liberal Alliance with the existing Liberal Party who eventually gained 25% of the public vote, polling third but only 700,000 votes behind a much diminished Labour.

Prior to the 1979 Election Cornwall had 3 Conservative MPs and 2 Liberals across its five constituencies of Bodmin, North Cornwall, Falmouth and Camborne, St Ives, and Truro. Whilst a dramatic period nationally, 1979-1983 saw comparatively little change in Cornwall. John Pardoe (Liberal) was ousted in 1979 by Gerry Neale (Conservative) from his North Cornwall seat whilst 4 incumbents remained in other constituencies: Robert Hicks (Conservative) in Bodmin, David Mudd (Conservative) in Falmouth and Camborne, John Nott (Conservative) in St Ives, David Penhaligon (Liberal) in Truro. In 1983 only David Harris (Conservative) replacing John Nott (Conservative) as MP for St Ives saw any change to elected MPs.

However, subtle changes were taking place in Cornish politics. 1979 saw Mebyon Kernow candidates increasing their shares to 3% and 4% of their electorates, as well as the first National Front candidates in Cornwall, sparking anti-Nazi marches through town centres. Boundary changes in 1982 threatened some upheaval, but were negotiated by local MPs to a satisfying conclusion for all the major parties. 1982 saw the foundation of the St Austell Young Conservatives club who quickly swelled to 44 members within their first year. In 1983 the SDP-Liberal Alliance made its presence felt in the County, with debate sparked about the loyalty of prominent local Labour and Liberal politicians.

Despite the national climate the successful campaigns were largely run on traditional Cornish policies of widespread unemployment, NHS funding, 'the Cornish way of life', the overspill of English migration into Cornwall, and the destructive nature of second homes. Despite the Country having undergone its largest political swing since the 1920s, one journalist declared that the 1983 election had "Scarcely ruffled the feathers of Cornish politics. Four Tories and one Liberal continue to represent the county in Parliament." (The West Briton, 1983)

References (accessed 8th August 2017):,_1979,_1983,_1987

Access StatusOpen
Access ConditionsOpen except for those records subject to data protection legislation.
ArrangementAs per original order.
Finding_AidsUNCAT - full box lists available as above.
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