Westminster election, 9 April 1992

Map by Conal Kelly

The 1992 Westminster election returned John Major's Conservative government to power, to general astonishment at the time. On holiday in Germany, I remember gaining slight cheer from only two of the results - the defeat of Major's campaign manager, Chris Patten, in Bath by the Liberal Democrats' Don Foster, and the defeat of Gerry Adams in West Belfast by Joe Hendron of the SDLP. In retrospect, now that I have got to know Patten in his role as a European Commissioner, I am slightly ashamed of my glee on the former count. But only slightly.

Apart from West Belfast - the SDLP's fourth gain in four elections - the main interest in Northern Ireland was in the performance of the Conservative Party, fighting eleven Northern Ireland seats for the first time in a general election since their split with the Unionists in 1972. They claimed to be challenging the Alliance Party for the middle ground, and their strongest chances were reckoned to be in the North Down seat held by maverick Unionist James Kilfedder. But they failed to win there, and finished behind Alliance - in some cases, very far behind Alliance - in every other seat they contested. Their failure to break through in this election was decisive and the bubble was burst by their setback in the 1993 local elections. I discuss the phenomenon of the Conservatives at greater length in my page on the 1995 North Down by-election.

Shortly before the election, the Workers Party had suffered a split when a reform faction who wished to distance themselves further from the paramilitarism and revolutionary socialism of the past walked out of their party conference, having just failed to gain the two-thirds majority they required. The reformists named their new party Democratic Left, but too late for their candidates for the election who instead carried the label "New Agenda". Dorothy Dunlop, a former UUP member of the 1982-86 Assembly and a sitting Belfast councillor, ran as an independent Unionist in East Belfast; she subsequently joined the Conservatives.

Farther on the fringes, the campaign was enlivened by the appearance for the first time of the Natural Law Party, which was the political wing of the Transcendental Meditation movement. Two veteran leftish independent councillors stood in the Fermanagh and Tyrone constituencies, and two "Labour and Trade Union" (ie Militant) candidates stood in South Belfast and Mid Ulster. An "Independent Raving Loony Ozone Friendly Party" candidate slightly brightened the scene in South Antrim. But apart from the Conservatives, and about 3000 Loyalists who voted SDLP in West Belfast, the results were remarkably similar to 1987.

Election results, 1992

See spreadsheet archive.
UUP 271,049 votes 34.5% 9 MPs (North Belfast, South Belfast, East Antrim, South Antrim, Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Lagan Valley, East Londonderry, Strangford, and Upper Bann)
SDLP 184,445 votes 23.5% 4 MPs (West Belfast, South Down, Foyle, and Newry and Armagh)
DUP 103,039 votes 13.1% 3 MPs (East Belfast, North Antrim, and Mid Ulster)
SF 78,291 votes 10.0%

Alliance 68,665 votes 8.7%

Conservatives 44,608 votes 5.7%

UPUP 19,305 votes 2.5% 1 MP (North Down)
Workers Party 4,359 votes 0.5%

Dorothy Dunlop (Ind U) 2,256 votes 0.3%

Natural Law Party 2,147 votes 0.2%

New Agenda 2,133 votes 0.3%

Johnny McLaughlin 1,996 votes 0.3%

Labour & Trade Union 1,264 votes (0.2%)

Davy Kettyles (Progresive Socialist) 1094 votes (0.1%)

Denis Dino Martin (Independent Raving Loony Ozone Friendly Party) 442 votes (0.1%)

See also:

Results from 1983 to 1995 for each seat: East Belfast | North Belfast | South Belfast | West Belfast | East Antrim | North Antrim | South Antrim | North Down | South Down | Fermanagh and South Tyrone | Foyle | Lagan Valley | East Londonderry | Mid Ulster | Newry and Armagh | Strangford | Upper Bann

Other sites based at ARK: ORB (Online Research Bank) | CAIN (Conflict Archive on the INternet) | Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey

Your comments, please! Send an email to me at nicholas.whyte@gmail.com.

Nicholas Whyte, 4 November 2001; modified 16 February 2002

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