Do the voters always get it right?

Do the voters always get it right?


    What do we think of “The Fink’s” thesis?

There’s an interesting piece on Times Online today by Daniel Finkelstein who argues that in every general election over the past 80 years the voters have chosen the party that was most right to run the country at the time.

He writes: “The proposition is that in every contest in these last 80 years the party that was more fit to govern has been victorious. Sometimes both of the main offerings were weak and unappealing, often the winner wasn’t much good, but always the winner was better able to conduct the business of government than was the loser.”

Clearly 1992 was controversial. Kinnock looked all set to lead, at the very minimum, a minority government but in the end Labour was more nearly 8% behind in the popular vote and John Major’s Tories were returned with a small majority.

The Fink says that when he has tested this on people the most disagreement comes over 1970 – when Heath’s Tories ousted Wilson’s Labour – and in the two elections of 1974 when Labour returned firstly in a hung parliament and then with a small majority.

I think that there’s something in this. In my life-time it was right that the tired Tory government should be beaten in 1964 and that probably the country was right about Labour at the 1970 general election. Since then it’s hard to argue.

One remarkable factor is that since the war a party with a fully working majority has been replaced by another, also with an adequate majority, only once – in 1970.

It’s hard to argue now that the mood is for change and that Labour looks to have run out of steam. But will this, in the end, be how the voters see it.

What do others think Finkelstein’s piece?

Mike Smithson

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