February 1974 United Kingdom general election

Although Heath's incumbent Conservative government polled the most votes by a small margin, the Conservatives were overtaken in terms of seats by Wilson's Labour Party, due to a more efficiently-distributed Labour vote and the decision by Ulster Unionist MPs not to take the Conservative whip.

Heath addressed the country on television on the evening of 7 February, and asked:

The Conservative campaign was, thus, encapsulated by the now-famous phrase "Who governs Britain?"

As the Queen was in New Zealand on 7 February, the Prime Minister notified her of his intentions via telegram rather than by the usual protocol of visiting Buckingham Palace. The key dates were as follows:

For the first time since 1929, the two largest political parties had received less than a combined share of 80% of the vote, and the Liberals had also won more than 10% of the vote.