United Kingdom general election, 1945

United Kingdom general election, 1945

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1931 election
United Kingdom general election, 1931
The United Kingdom general election on Tuesday 27 October 1931 was the last in the United Kingdom not held on a Thursday. It was also the last election, and the only one under universal suffrage, where one party received an absolute majority of the votes cast.The 1931 general election was the...

  MPs
MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 1931
This is a complete list of Members of Parliament elected to the 36th Parliament of the United Kingdom at the 1931 general election, held on 27 October 1931....

1935 election
United Kingdom general election, 1935
The United Kingdom general election held on 14 November 1935 resulted in a large, though reduced, majority for the National Government now led by Conservative Stanley Baldwin. The greatest number of MPs, as before, were Conservative, while the National Liberal vote held steady...

  MPs
MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 1935
This is a complete list of Members of Parliament elected to the 37th Parliament of the United Kingdom at the 1935 general election, held on 14 November 1935...

1945 election MPs
MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 1945
This is a complete list of Members of Parliament elected to the 38th Parliament of the United Kingdom at the 1945 general election, held on 5 July 1945....

1950 election
United Kingdom general election, 1950
The 1950 United Kingdom general election was the first general election ever after a full term of a Labour government. Despite polling over one and a half million votes more than the Conservatives, the election, held on 23 February 1950 resulted in Labour receiving a slim majority of just five...

  MPs
MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 1950
This is a complete list of Members of Parliament elected to the 39th Parliament of the United Kingdom at the 1950 general election, held on 23 February 1950....

1951 election
United Kingdom general election, 1951
The 1951 United Kingdom general election was held eighteen months after the 1950 general election, which the Labour Party had won with a slim majority of just five seats...

  MPs
MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 1951
This is a complete list of Members of Parliament elected to the 40th Parliament of the United Kingdom at the 1951 general election on 25 October 1951.Notable newcomers to the House of Commons included Anthony Barber, Lord Lambton and Ted Short....



The United Kingdom general election of 1945 was a general election held on 5 July 1945, with polls in some constituencies delayed until 12 July and in Nelson and Colne
Nelson and Colne (UK Parliament constituency)
Nelson and Colne was a constituency in Lancashire which returned one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1918 until it was abolished for the 1983 general election....

 until 19 July, due to local wakes week
Wakes week
The wakes week is a holiday period in parts of England and Scotland.- History :Wakes were originally religious festivals that commemorated church dedications...

s. The results were counted and declared on 26 July, due in part to the time it took to transport the votes of those serving overseas. The result was a surprise landslide victory for Clement Attlee
Clement Attlee
Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH, PC, FRS was a British Labour politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951, and as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955...

's Labour Party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

, over Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

's Conservatives
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

, giving Labour its first majority government, and a mandate to implement its postwar reforms.

A khaki election
Khaki Election
In British political history, a khaki election is any national election which is heavily influenced by wartime or postwar sentiment. In the British general election of 1900, the Conservative Party government of Lord Salisbury was returned to office with an increased majority over the Liberal Party...

 held just months after VE Day, it was the first general election to be held since 1935
United Kingdom general election, 1935
The United Kingdom general election held on 14 November 1935 resulted in a large, though reduced, majority for the National Government now led by Conservative Stanley Baldwin. The greatest number of MPs, as before, were Conservative, while the National Liberal vote held steady...

, as general elections had been suspended until the Allied victory in the Second World War had been assured. It resulted in the election defeat of the National Government led by Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 and the landslide victory of the Labour Party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 led by Clement Attlee
Clement Attlee
Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH, PC, FRS was a British Labour politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951, and as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955...

, who won a majority of 145 seats. Though Churchill's Government used the term 'National Government' and campaigned as such, it bore very little resemblance to the original National Government of 1931-40 - the three major political parties had recovered and reunified substantially since the inter-war period and as such Churchill was effectively leading a rump Conservative Party
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 after 1945.

The result of the election came as a major shock to the Conservatives, given the heroic status of Winston Churchill, but reflected the voters' belief that the Labour Party were better able to rebuild the country following the war than the Conservatives. Churchill and the Conservatives are also generally considered to have run a poor campaign in comparison to Labour; Churchill's statement that Attlee's programme would require a Gestapo
Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

-esque body to implement is considered to have been particularly poorly judged. Equally, though voters respected and liked Churchill's wartime record, they were more distrustful of the Conservative Party's domestic and foreign policy record in the late thirties. Labour had also been given, during the war, the opportunity to display to the electorate their domestic competence in government under men such as Attlee, Herbert Morrison
Herbert Morrison
Herbert Stanley Morrison, Baron Morrison of Lambeth, CH, PC was a British Labour politician; he held a various number of senior positions in the Cabinet, including Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister.-Early life:Morrison was the son of a police constable and was born in...

 and Ernest Bevin
Ernest Bevin
Ernest Bevin was a British trade union leader and Labour politician. He served as general secretary of the powerful Transport and General Workers' Union from 1922 to 1945, as Minister of Labour in the war-time coalition government, and as Foreign Secretary in the post-war Labour Government.-Early...

 at the Ministry of Labour.

The Labour Party ran on promises to create full employment
Full employment
In macroeconomics, full employment is a condition of the national economy, where all or nearly all persons willing and able to work at the prevailing wages and working conditions are able to do so....

, a tax funded universal National Health Service
National Health Service
The National Health Service is the shared name of three of the four publicly funded healthcare systems in the United Kingdom. They provide a comprehensive range of health services, the vast majority of which are free at the point of use to residents of the United Kingdom...

, and a cradle-to-grave welfare state
Welfare state
A welfare state is a "concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those...

, with the campaign message 'Let us face the future.'

This was the first election in which Labour gained a majority of seats, and also the first time it won a plurality of votes. If it had won another 68,767 or 0.3% of votes it would have had over 50% of all those cast.

Results



|}

Total votes cast: 24,073,025. All parties shown. Conservative total includes Ulster Unionists
Ulster Unionist Party
The Ulster Unionist Party – sometimes referred to as the Official Unionist Party or, in a historic sense, simply the Unionist Party – is the more moderate of the two main unionist political parties in Northern Ireland...

.

Reasons for Labour victory


With World War II coming to an end in Europe, the Labour Party decided to pull out of the wartime national government, precipitating an election which took place in July 1945. King George VI
George VI of the United Kingdom
George VI was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death...

 dissolved Parliament, which had been sitting for ten years without an election. What followed was perhaps one of the greatest swings of public confidence of the 20th century. In May 1945, the month in which the war in Europe was ended, Churchill's approval ratings stood at 83%, although the Labour Party held an 18% lead as of February 1945. Labour won overwhelming support while 'Churchill... was both surprised and stunned' by the crushing defeat suffered by the Conservatives.

The greatest factor in Labour's dramatic win appeared to be the policy of social reform. In one opinion poll, 41% of respondents considered housing to be the most important issue that faced the country, 15% stated the Labour policy of full employment, 7% mentioned social security, 6% nationalisation and just 5% international security, which was emphasised by the Conservatives. The Beveridge Report
Beveridge Report
The Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Social Insurance and Allied Services, known commonly as the Beveridge Report was an influential document in the founding of the Welfare State in the United Kingdom...

, published in 1942, proposed the creation of a Welfare State
Welfare State
The Welfare State is a commitment to health, education, employment and social security in the United Kingdom.-Background:The United Kingdom, as a welfare state, was prefigured in the William Beveridge Report in 1942, which identified five "Giant Evils" in society: squalor, ignorance, want, idleness...

. It called for a dramatic turn in British social policy, with provision for nationalised health care, expanded state funded education, national insurance and a new housing policy. The report was extremely popular, and copies of its findings were widely purchased, turning it into a best-seller. The Labour Party adopted the report eagerly. The Conservatives accepted many of the principles of the report (Churchill did not regard the reforms as socialist), but claimed that they could not be afforded. Labour offered a new comprehensive welfare policy, reflecting a consensus that social changes were needed. The Conservatives were not willing to make the same concessions that Labour proposed, and hence appeared out of step with public opinion.

With the war drawing to an end by 1945, the National Government
UK National Government
In the United Kingdom the term National Government is an abstract concept referring to a coalition of some or all major political parties. In a historical sense it usually refers primarily to the governments of Ramsay MacDonald, Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain which held office from 1931...

 sought to call an election in a bid to return to a two party system. As Churchill's personal popularity remained high, Conservatives were confident of victory and based much of their election campaign on this, rather than propose new programmes. However, people distinguished between Churchill and his party -- a contrast which Labour repeatedly emphasised throughout the campaign. Voters also harboured doubts over Churchill's ability to lead the country on the domestic front.

In addition to the poor Conservative election strategy, Churchill went so far as to accuse Attlee of seeking to behave as a dictator, in spite of Attlee's service in Churchill's war cabinet. In the most famous incident of the campaign, Churchill's first election broadcast on 4 June backfired dramatically and memorably. Denouncing his former coalition partners, he declared that Labour "would have to fall back on some form of a Gestapo
Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

" to impose socialism
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 on Britain. Attlee responded the next night by ironically thanking the prime minister for demonstrating to people the difference between Churchill the great wartime leader and Churchill the peacetime politician, and argued the case for public control of industry.

Another blow to the Conservative campaign was the memory of the 1930s policy of appeasement
Appeasement
The term appeasement is commonly understood to refer to a diplomatic policy aimed at avoiding war by making concessions to another power. Historian Paul Kennedy defines it as "the policy of settling international quarrels by admitting and satisfying grievances through rational negotiation and...

, which had been conducted by Churchill's Conservative predecessors, Neville Chamberlain
Neville Chamberlain
Arthur Neville Chamberlain FRS was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. Chamberlain is best known for his appeasement foreign policy, and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the...

 and Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, KG, PC was a British Conservative politician, who dominated the government in his country between the two world wars...

, and was at this stage widely discredited for allowing Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 to become too strong. The inter-war period had been dominated by Conservatives. Excepting two brief minority Labour governments in 1924 and 1929-1931, the Conservatives had been in power for its entirety. As a result, the Conservatives were generally blamed for the era's mistakes, not merely for appeasement but for the inflation
Inflation
In economics, inflation is a rise in the general level of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time.When the general price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services. Consequently, inflation also reflects an erosion in the purchasing power of money – a...

 and unemployment
Unemployment
Unemployment , as defined by the International Labour Organization, occurs when people are without jobs and they have actively sought work within the past four weeks...

 of the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

. Many voters felt that while the war of 1914-1918 had been won, the peace that followed had been lost. Labour played to the concept of "winning the peace" that would follow the second war.

Possibly for this reason, there was especially strong support for Labour in the armed services
British Armed Forces
The British Armed Forces are the armed forces of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.Also known as Her Majesty's Armed Forces and sometimes legally the Armed Forces of the Crown, the British Armed Forces encompasses three professional uniformed services, the Royal Navy, the...

, who feared returning to the unemployment
Unemployment
Unemployment , as defined by the International Labour Organization, occurs when people are without jobs and they have actively sought work within the past four weeks...

 and homelessness
Homelessness
Homelessness describes the condition of people without a regular dwelling. People who are homeless are unable or unwilling to acquire and maintain regular, safe, and adequate housing, or lack "fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence." The legal definition of "homeless" varies from country...

 to which the soldiers of the First World War had returned. It has been claimed that the pro-Labour bias of teachers in the armed services was a contributing factor, but this argument has generally not carried much weight, and the failure of the Conservative governments of the 1920s to deliver a "land fit for heroes" was likely more important. Writer and soldier Anthony Burgess
Anthony Burgess
John Burgess Wilson  – who published under the pen name Anthony Burgess – was an English author, poet, playwright, composer, linguist, translator and critic. The dystopian satire A Clockwork Orange is Burgess's most famous novel, though he dismissed it as one of his lesser works...

 remarked that Churchill - who often wore a colonel's uniform at this time - himself was not nearly as popular with soldiers at the front as with officers and civilians: he noted that Churchill often smoked cigars in front of soldiers who hadn't had a decent cigarette in days.

The differing strategies of the two parties during wartime also gave Labour an advantage. Labour continued to attack pre-war Conservative governments for their inactivity in tackling Hitler, reviving the economy, and re-arming Britain, while Churchill was less interested in furthering his party, much to the chagrin of many of its members and MPs.

See also


Manifestos