Only 3 LAB leaders have ever won overall majorities and the creed of the most successful is now being dismissed as a “virus”

July 31st, 2015


Electability has to be paramount or else what is the point?

One of the things that is often said, particularly by Tories, is that excluding Tony Blair the last time Labour secured an overall working majority was in 1966. That was a very long time ago.

For in Labour’s entire history just three leaders, the ones pictured above, have led led the party to working majorities at general elections. And only one of these, the “virus” as we are being told, secured more than one sustainable working majority.

Clement Atlee did it almost exactly 70 years ago this week. That followed the great changes in British society that had been caused by the war. He won again in 1950 but only just and had to go to the country the following year when LAB lost.

Harold Wilson chalked up a 4 seat majority in 1964 after a dismal period for the Tories when it had become battered by Vassal and then Profumo affairs. Wilson’s went to the country again in 1966 and won an overall majority of just under 80. Although he lost in 1970 Wilson returned to power in a minority in March 1974 and secured a minuscule majority six months later.

The party then had to wait until the Blair landslide in 1997 before returning to power.

The point I’m making is that winning a working majority for any party or leader is very difficult particularly since we moved away from two party politics.

In terms of working majorities, ones that were able to sustain the party through the parliament, you can argue that the last one for the Tories was Mrs. Thatcher in 1987. Defections and by-elections losses meant that John Major’s 1992-97 government did not have a working majority by the end.

It is too early to say whether Cameron’s victory on May 7th produced a working majority that will sustain the party for the whole parliament.

What is clear is that LAB needs to be led by someone with exceptional appeal to those parts of the electorate that are normally beyond reach.

Mike Smithson