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Opposition leaders who like Corbyn lose their first General Election hardly ever make it to Prime Minister

June 28th, 2018

The task for Corbyn is to emulate Ted Heath

One of the relatively unusual features of last year’s general election was that the losing main party leader did not quit or was forced out of his job in the aftermath of defeat.

This was in the sharp contrast to:

Ed Miliband (GE2015)
Gordon Brown (GE2010)
Michael Howard (GE2005)
William Hague (GE2001)
John Major (GE1997)
Neil kinnock (GE1992)
Michael Foot (GE1983)
James Callaghan (GE1979)
Edward Heath (GE1974 – Oct).

In fact it has become almost the norm that if you lead your party into a general election defeat then you have to go. Kinnock was the last exception to the rule following the Tory victory at GE1987 and he, of course, went on to lose GE1992

Corbyn was helped last year by the fact he appeared to have done so much better than the opinion polls but LAB still lost the election and was further behind the Tories in terms of seats than Gordon Brown seven years earlier.

The only first time election loser main party leader in modern times who went on to become a prime minister is Edward Heath. He replaced Alec Douglas-Hume in the aftermath of Labour 1964 election victory but had only been in the job about 9 months at the time of the 1966 general election.

Four years later he became the only opposition leader in modern times to secure a working majority from a party that had a working majority.

On Betfair Corbyn is currently rated as having a 13% chance of becoming next PM but is favourite.

Mike Smithson