Post­war vic­tors forced to go to the coun­try

BBC History Magazine - - Snap Elections -

WHY WAS IT CALLED?

Cle­ment At­tlee’s Labour party were the sur­prise winners of the elec­tion at the end of the Sec­ond World War. The new ad­min­is­tra­tion was both rad­i­cal and ac­tive, with more than 200 pieces of leg­is­la­tion passed in its first three years, in­clud­ing the cre­ation of the Na­tional Health Ser­vice in 1948. How­ever, the elec­tion of 1950 left Labour with a hugely re­duced ma­jor­ity of only five seats. And, by Septem­ber 1951 – with his gov­ern­ment re­ly­ing on se­ri­ously ill MPs com­ing to the House from their sickbeds to keep it in power – At­tlee had de­cided to call an­other gen­eral elec­tion.

DID THE GAM­BLE PAY OFF?

No – it ended in a frus­trat­ing de­feat for At­tlee. His party polled nearly 14 mil­lion votes – 200,000 more than the Con­ser­va­tives and the most in Labour’s elec­toral his­tory. But it wasn’t enough. Labour won 26 fewer seats than the Con­ser­va­tives, and would be out of power for the next 13 years.

Cle­ment At­tlee (sec­ond right) emerges from a polling sta­tion dur­ing the snap elec­tion of 1951. His party polled a record number of votes but would be out of power for 13 years

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