Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Bottoms on the green benches



In our imperfect electoral system it is not the number of votes that each party acquires that counts, it is the number of seats in Parliament. This figure shows the respective seats gained by the two main political parties at every General Election since World War Two.

The most obvious trend is that once the leading party, the Government, starts losing seats this trend continues until their defeat. This will not be welcome news for the current Prime Minister. However, Mrs May might console herself with the fact that whilst her party are likely to lose seats at the next General Election (based on the precedent of history), this does not necessarily mean that the next GE will witness a Labour victory.

Labour has fifty-five fewer MPs than the Conservatives at the moment, a gap that has been bridged before (1997 and 1964). It must be said, though, that it was Blair and Wilson, two electorally successful Labour leaders who achieved this feat. Corbyn has yet to prove himself a winner, and who knows when he will get his chance to do that. However, he will rightly welcome another chance to chip away at the Conservative led in the House of Commons, and next time may yet see him given the keys to number ten.

The biggest leads for Labour over the Conservatives occurred under Tony Blair, whose worst result still saw Labour with 157 more MPs than the Tories. Blair’s electoral achievements exceed all since WWII, not even Thatcher versus Foot came close to the drubbing inflicted by Blair on John Major.

Minority Governments have been quite resilient, and I am not expecting another General Election any time soon. My money is on 2021, but this is just a guess. With fewer by-elections these days I do not expect the whittling away of the Coalition’s majority, a phenomena that gave both John Major and James Callaghan some fraught moments towards the end of their respective premierships.

GE
Lab
Con

Lab - Con
5-Jul-1945
393
197

196
23-Feb-1950
315
298

17
25-Oct-1951
295
321

-26
26-May-1955
277
345

-68
8-Oct-1959
258
365

-107
15-Oct-1964
317
304

13
31-Mar-1966
364
253

111
18-Jun-1970
288
330

-42
28-Feb-1974
301
297

4
10-Oct-1974
319
277

42
3-May-1979
269
339

-70
9-Jun-1983
209
397

-188
11-Jun-1987
229
376

-147
9-Apr-1992
271
336

-65
1-May-1997
418
165

253
7-Jun-2001
413
166

247
5-May-2005
355
198

157
6-May-2010
258
306

-48
7-May-2015
232
330

-98
8-Jun-2017
262
317

-55

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