Historical General Election Series - 1945 Watch
I hope to cover: 1945, 1964, 1979, 1997, 2010, 2015, and 2017.
The first one in the series will be 1945.
This was a key election, as it was the first one to be held following the end of the Second World War, during which there had been a wartime national coalition featuring all the main political parties - (no election had been held 1945). There had been a great deal of hardship in the background to this election, with goods still being rationed, and much of the country having been devastated and fatigued by war. This played a large role in the eventual Labour victory.
Leadership and manifestos
The Leader of the Conservative Party was Winston Churchill -
For Labour it was Clement Attlee -
Churchill was no doubt a popular figure - having led the country through war, but Attlee, although seen as politically weak (nicknamed ‘a sheep in sheep’s clothing by Churchill) and his Labour Party was seen as a unifying figure to improve the war ravaged country, and had proved their credentials already during the war coalition. However, both parties proposed solutions to how to take the country forward following the war.
The Conservative manifesto promised the building of 220,000 new homes, and rebuilding of the workforce. They promised to help ‘the small man in business’. However much of the Conservative Party appeal lay in foreign policy and their hope to be in the centre of the creation of the new post-war order through institutions such as the newly formed UN. Churchill attacked Labour on their socialist policies which he claimed would need a Gestapo like secret police to enforce.
The Labour manifesto argued for a ‘prosperous peace’ following victory in the war. Their manifesto included, most notably the promise for the creation of the NHS, planning post war Britain’s economy, including taking many industries such as fuel, transport, rail, and steel, into public ownership. They argued for shared prosperity over the unequal society in pre-war Britain.
The result of this election was a landslide victory for the Labour Party of 72 seats, with the Conservatives and Liberals both making losses. The swing from the Conservatives to Labour was the largest ever in British electoral history to date. This was a historical moment for Labour as it marked their first ever majority government. Although many polls had shown Labour to be ahead before the election, these results still came as a surprise, even personally to Winston Churchill, who had expected to win based off his popularity as a war leader. However, the popular polices of domestic and social reform proposed by Labour ended up being prioritised by the war-weary electorate.
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- Political Ambassador