24th February 1950.
The 1950 General Election, came after a five-year-term of a Labour Government, in a huge 84% record turn out.
What the results did show was one of the quirks of the UK voting system whereby Labour achieved the highest popular vote any party had ever achieved, even more than in 1945.
However despite polling 1 ½m more than the Tories and receiving more votes than in 1945, they ended with a slim overall majority of 5 seats.
So it was Today in 1950 which saw Clement Attlee back in office after an election which constituted the closest result for 100 years, after a contest which Churchill called ‘demure’.(1)
However many things had changed since 1945, including legislation of The Representation of the People Acts 1948/9, which abolished plural voting (that where business and residence were separate), abolition of separate ‘Oxbridge’ university seats and abolition of Two Member Constituencies.
Then the redrawing of Constituency Boundaries, took notice of population movements since the War, and the introduction of the Postal-Vote was said to have benefited the Tories..
The Tories, in the 1950 campaign emphasised Labour’s bureaucratic and state control of the economy, whilst Labour relied on the memory of the pre-war poverty and insecurity. Posters featured hunger marchers of those times, with the slogan ‘Ask your Dad’.(2)
The high point of electioneering in those pre TV days, was the evening meeting in village and town halls. People were closer then, still with common memories of wartime. The language was different too. Churchill hoping that ‘God gives me strength’.
.At that time there were only two recognised opinion polls- The Gallup, published by the News Chronicle, and the Daily Express, Poll of Public Opinion.
After the narrow victory in 1950, on 19th September 1951, Attlee called an election for October 25th. But despite winning more of the popular vote was defeated.
Thereafter Labour broke into factions led by the Bevanites (Marxist), and the [Hugh] Gaitskelites (Social Democrat), which was to rumble on for years.
(1) Results 1950: Labour 315; Tory 295; Libs 9.
(2) Of course said Churchill making his final Conservative Party election radio broadcast of February. ‘I am– I am reminded I am an old man’. At seventy-five, he was the oldest party leader of modern times.
Ref: historytoday.com. Robert Pearce. 1950, 1951 Election in Britain. Issue. 60. March, 2008.
Ref: Chronicle of the 20th Century.