Sunday, 8 June 2008

More bad poll news for Labour

I was recently reading Dominic Sandbrook's excellent history of the 1964-70 period, White Heat. It is a successor to the equally good Never Had It So Good which covered the 1956-63 period. Sandbrook's basic thesis is that Britain is a more conservative country than more superficial commentaries on the
1960s would suggest and there is certainly something in that, although he overdoes it at times.

A chapter 'Wilson Must Go' records the travails of Labour in the late 1960s. Only one person in five said they would support the party at the next election. Only 19 per cent of those polled said that they were satisfied with the Government's record and 69 per cent pronounced themselves dissatisfied. Sandbrook notes, 'No government had been so widely disliked and despised since polling began.'

Yet at one time it looked as if they would win the 1970 election and only after some bad news had punctured Wilson's search for a 'doctor's mandate' in the summer sunshine did a late swing put Ted Heath into Downing Street.

Incidentally, to show how political campaigning has changed, I was a PhD student at Exeter University at the time and I got word that Wilson was going to visit the marginal constituency. I went down to the station where large numbers of rural Tories were sounding hunting horns. I got a platform ticket, Wilson got off the train and I walked alongside him down the platform.

The latest poll figures make bad reading for Labour, although the Telegraph does note that at a comparable time in the 1960s the Conservatives led by the wooden Ted Heath rather than cuddly Dave Cameron were attracting 50 per cent of the vote:
Latest Poll


Justin Greaves said...

Is it not often claimed that England being knocked out of the World Cup shortly before election day was a factor in Heath winning?

Wyn Grant said...

These things are difficult to measure, but I think that it punctured the 'feel good' mood that Wilson was trying to create, while Heath kept to his script about rising prices.