England Arise! The General Election of 1945

Historian article

By Keith Laybourn

The first landslide election victory of the Labour Party

‘The past week will live in history for two things’, announced the Sunday Times of 29 July 1945, ‘first the return of a Labour majority to Parliament and the end of Churchill's great war Premiership.’ Most other newspapers concurred. The Daily Mirror, of 27 July, proclaimed that the 1945 general election ‘is an historic moment in British politics. The Labour Party, which has in the past held office without power, now finds itself in possession of a decisive majority.’

The 1945 general election victory was indeed an historic moment for the Labour Party, which had formed two minority governments during the inter-war years, was now in power with a landslide victory which the main national newspapers, despite the omens for the Conservative Party, had failed to predict. Why had this occurred? What were the reasons for Labour's victory? These, and related questions, have been asked by both contemporary writers and recent historians. Was it simply that wartime socialism favoured Labour's success or that the previous track record of the Conservatives told against them? It seems likely that both of these factors were important and that Labour was neither ahead of nor behind the British electorate but in tune with its prevailing mood...

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