‘Honoured that you are writing my father’s biography’ the late Tony Benn, ‘...wonderfully written’ Hilary Benn

‘Sparkles with fascinating detail…a remarkable story of Liberal and Labour politics in the first half of the twentieth century.’ Michael Crick, Political Correspondent, Channel 4 News

‘Casts much light both on the evolution of British radicalism, and on the legacy which he bequeathed to his son, Tony. Professor Vernon Bogdanor, King's College, London

‘Brilliant biography…wonderful reading about the father and...discovering more about the son.’ Steve Richards of The Independent

‘Well-written and carefully researched, this fascinating biography brings to life a major figure in British political history…an excellent job of weaving together the strands of a complex life…as well as filling in the background of the Benn family’ Richard Doherty, military historian

Friday, 25 October 2013

1951 election - more votes but fewer seats for Attlee

Today is the anniversary of the 1951 general election, which brought to an end Clement Attlee’s brief second term as Labour prime minister.

The election saw the return to office of Winston Churchill’s Conservative Party with 48.0% of the vote – less than Labour’s share of 48.8%. However, the Conservatives won 321 seats to Labour’s 295. (There were only 625 seats in the Commons then, compared to 650 today.)

This was one of two post-war elections when the party with the largest share of the vote did not win the most seats. The other was February 1974, when the Conservatives won more votes but fewer seats than Labour.

In 1951 the Labour and Conservative parties won 96.8% of the vote between them. By contrast in 2010, the figure was 65.1%.

The Liberal Party, under the leadership of Clement Davies, won just six seats and only 2.5% of the vote – its worst result in any general election.

The turnout in the 1951 election was 82.5%, but this represented a drop from the 84.0% figure in 1950. The 2010 turnout figure was also coincidentally 65.1%

The Conservatives won a total of three consecutive elections, under three different leaders - Churchill in 1951, Eden in 1955 and Macmillan in 1959, before being defeated after 13 years in power.

Some rationing was still in force in 1951 and there also seemed to be a shortage of names. The Labour Party was led by a Clement, the Liberal Party was led by a Clement and the wife of the Conservative Party leader was Clementine.

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