Friday, May 09, 2008

When Labour *lost* Jarrow

I've blogged about this before (When Labour was even more flappable) but the news that the Conservatives are 26% ahead in the opinion polls (ConservativeHome's ToryDiary: Tories 26% ahead) and predictions of a 288 seat majority has reminded me of the all time greatest landslide election this country has ever seen - the 1931 general election.

This election saw the Conservatives and their National Government allies win all over the country, carrying seats such as Jarrow (so anyone who's read Things Can Only Get Better should be aware that the "Labour holds Jarrow" 1983 election could have been so much worse), and took not a mere set of Labour scalps but virtually the entire front bench - National Labour members aside, only one member of the ex Labour Cabinet (George Lansbury) and two other ex ministers (Clement Attlee and Sir Stafford Cripps) held their seats. The Labour leader, Arthur Henderson, lost Burnley by over 8000 votes and overall Labour lost nearly 4/5ths of their seats.

It was also the high water mark for the Liberals that they have still to reach, securing 72 seats. Historians like to separate the Liberals into three different groupings but such divides were not so clear cut at the time. And indeed one Lib Dem MP to this day can't make up his mind about this matter (see An inability to get the figures right or just whatever will benefit?).

So will the next election be such a walkover? I doubt it - but it would be a fun night if the election graphics are unable to cope with such an overwhelming avalanche. And it would be a blow against complacency that would be felt on all sides.


Anonymous said...

It's certainly unfair to say there were 72 Liberal MPs in 1931. The distinction between Simonites and Samuelites was clear over protection, John Simon having left the Liberals before the formation of the National Govt. As for numbers... let's just say "ROUGHLY 34 each" (LLG family = 4).

Tim Roll-Pickering said...

Simon (and two others) resigned the whip earlier in the summer but it's somewhat anachronistic to regard the Liberal Nationals as a separate party from day one. They were the latest in a series of formally organised internal factions in the party and regarded themselves as still being part of the party. It was the events in the 1931 Parliament that drove the permanent wedge between the two main Liberal groups, with them still effectively being one party in 1931.


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