The 1964 General Election Reconsidered.

RGS History

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Labour won the 1964 election by a hair’s breadth, with a majority of just 5 seats. To gain a majority, it was thought Labour would need a swing from the Conservatives of around 5%, as Robert McKenzie’s famous swingometer showed here on the night itself. In reality, the picture was much more complex, and has as much to do with the Liberals as it did Labour.

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Labour’s win in 1964 is often attributed to the leadership of Harold Wilson. The Wilson of 1964 was one of the most effective opposition leaders of the century. He was formidably intelligent, a brilliant Commons performer, good on television, had the popular touch, and fought an upbeat, optimistic campaign we all remember for ‘the white heat of technology’.

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Labour made a net gain of 59 seats, the Conservatives having a net loss of 62. The popular vote tells an interesting story. In 1959, Labour…

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