|Year||Post-war elections with a change of government|
|1951||Outgoing LAB government had lost an effective majority. The Tories won outright|
|1964||Incoming Labour government with minuscule majority. Second election eighteen months later|
|1970||Outgoing Labour government with working majority replaced by Tory government also with a working majority|
|1974F||Incoming Labour minority government – second election held seven months later|
|1979||Outgoing LAB government had lost a working majority. The Tories won outright|
|1997||Outgoing CON government had lost a working majority. Labour won outright|
|2010||The Conservatives 21 seats short of a majority. The CON/LD coalition is formed.|
Was expecting a majority too big an ask?
One of the things that Tory critics are saying about Cameron was that the 2010 general election has to be judged a failure because in what appeared to be in the most favourable of circumstances the party failed to win an overall majority.
James Forsyth of the Spectator wrote recently that Cameron and Osborne are said to feel this as well – but are we judging them and their team too harshly? Was the challenge in a historical context much greater than was appreciated?
For of all the changes of government that we’ve seen in the UK since 1945 just one has involved a party with a working commons majority being replaced by another, also with a working majority.
The only time it happened was in 1970 which was one of the biggest upsets there has been – for all the indications were that Harold Wilson’s Labour government would win a third term.
As can be seen from the table with all the other changes of government either the outgoing party did not have a workable majority (1951, 1979 and 1997) or the incoming didn’t ( 1964, 1974 Feb and now 2010). Looking at it in this context last year’s general election simply followed the post-war pattern.
Governments with comfortable working majorities have so much going for them that they are very difficult to shift completely. There’s a lot in the old saying that “oppositions don’t win elections – government’s lose them”.