When a LAB majority government was replaced by a CON one

One of the remarkable things about British politics that is not always fully appreciated is how rare it is for a party with a working majority to be replaced by another party with a working majority. This has only happened once since WW2 – at GE1970 (the first I was able to vote in and cover professionally) when the Heath-led Tories secured a majority of 30 replacing Wilson’s Labour party which had secured a majority of 98 four years earlier at GE1970.

On all other occasions when there has been a change of government either the outgoing party has lost its working majority or the incoming party has not secured enough seats to have a working majority,

Just go back over past elections which have led to changes of government and it will be seen how unique Heath’s GE1970 achievement was. In1951 when the Tories came in LAB had effectively lost its huge seat lead from 1945 when its massive majority going into GE1950 had been reduced to just single figures.

In February 1974 Heath lost power and Wilson was back at Number 10 heading a minority government. Seven months later in the second general election of that year a small majority was secured. This was not, however, large enough to cope with splits and by-elections and by the time of the GE1979 there was no LAB majority.

When the Major’s Tories lost power to Tony Blair in May 1997 it had seen its small majority been wiped out.

As we all recall at the next change of government at GE2010 Cameron came in but without a majority and had to rely on the LDs with a coalition government.

All this points to the huge challenge facing Starmer. whenever the next election takes place. The GE1970 outcome remains the biggest UK general elections shock in modern times.

In the betting a LAB majority is currently rated at a 17% chance which in my view is far too high.

Mike Smithson



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