'Oppositions don't win elections, governments lose them'. How valid is this view in relation to the 1951 general election?


In the election of 1950, Labour's landslide majority of 146 seats from 1945 had been eroded to just 7, leading to Attlee calling the 1951 election in order to try and strengthen Labour once again. However, in despite of winning the majority of votes (48.8% compeares to the Conservatives winning 40%) the Conservatives came out of the 1951 election with an overall majority of 17 seats. The reasons for the results can largely by split into Labour weaknesses and Conservative strengths: 

Factors to suggest oppositions don't win elections, government's lose them:

Labour weaknesses 


  • Diverse industries such as sugar and cement had been nationalised, which led many to question the merits of state ownership. 
  • Bought out owners to but kept them on as managers and directors, which cost the taxpayer £2700 milliom, and didn't always change much, or improve efficiency, within the industries. 

Problems within the party:

  • Labour figureheads Stafford Cripps and Ernest Bevin had to stand down from the government due to ill-health, Attlee also suffered bouts of illness. 
  • Critics such as D. Pritt, argue the Labour Government was not Socialist enough as they failed to alter class structure or weaken the ruling class. 

Effects of the Korean War: 

  • Turned the 1949 surplus of £297 million into a deficit of £3419 million in 1950. 
  • Defence expenditure was to be doubled, with £4700 million to be raised over 3 years from 1951, part of this was to come from the introduction of prescription charges to meet half the cost of dentures and spectacles in the NHS, leading to division within the party and resignations of Nye Bevan, John Freeman and Harold Wilson.

Campaign Weaknesses: 

  • 1951 Manifesto did not mention Socialism 
  • Bevan alienated support by calling Conservatives ''lower than Vermin''.
  • Accused of campaigning on its past record, a lot of comments in its manifesto about the future were vague. 
  • As the King was due to tour Australia in the Spring of 1952, Attlee called the election early in October 1951 so as not…


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