United Kingdom general election, 1955

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United Kingdom general election, 1955
United Kingdom
1951 ←
members
26 May 1955 → 1959
members

All 630 seats in the House of Commons
316 seats needed for a majority
Turnout 76.8%
  First party Second party Third party
  Sir Anthony-Eden number 10 Official.jpg Clement Attlee.png Clement Davies c1955.jpg
Leader Anthony Eden Clement Attlee Clement Davies
Party Conservative Labour Liberal
Leader since 7 April 1955 25 October 1935 2 August 1945
Leader's seat Warwick and Leamington Walthamstow West Montgomeryshire
Last election 321 seats, 48% 295 seats, 48.8% 6 seats, 2.5%
Seats won 345 277 6
Seat change Increase 23 Decrease 18 0
Popular vote 13,310,891 12,405,254 722,402
Percentage 49.7% 46.4% 2.7%
Swing Increase 1.7% Decrease 2.4% Increase0.2%

PM before election

Anthony Eden
Conservative

Subsequent PM

Anthony Eden
Conservative

1950 election MPs
1951 election MPs
1955 election MPs
1959 election MPs

The 1955 United Kingdom general election was held on 26 May 1955, four years after the previous general election. It resulted in a substantially increased majority of 60 for the Conservative government under new leader and prime minister Sir Anthony Eden against the Labour Party, then in their 20th year of leadership by Clement Attlee. Boundary changes however make a direct comparison with 1951 impossible.

This election has been described by many since as one of the "dullest" post war elections, due to there being little change in the country, with Labour steadily losing ground due to infighting. This was due to Nye Bevan, who had initiated a split in the party between the left (Bevanites) and the right (Gaitskellites). This resulted in an unclear election message from the Labour party. It would also be the 5th and last election fought by Labour leader Clement Attlee, who by this time was 72. Eden had only just become leader of the Conservative party a few weeks before the election, after the retirement of Winston Churchill. Despite this however Eden had for some time been considered the natural heir apparent to the Conservative leadership. For the first time television took a prominent role in the campaign. The Conservatives were hoping to take advantage of the end of food rationing and the good mood created by the recent coronation of Queen Elizabeth. Eden himself was telegenic, although not a great public speaker, and gradual economic growth benefited the party greatly.[1] However, it would prove to be the last time the Conservatives won the most seats in Scotland; after 1959, Labour established itself as the dominant party in the country at UK general elections, a feat it maintains to the present day.

This was the earliest general election in the United Kingdom of which television coverage survives (the 1950 and 1951 election nights were not recorded). Only three hours of the coverage presented by Richard Dimbleby was kept and this was rebroadcast on BBC Parliament on the fiftieth anniversary of the date.

On election day, the Daily Mirror had printed the front page headline "Don't Let The Tories Cheat Our Children", urging its readers to elect Labour on the basis that it had "built a better Britain for us all".[2]

Results[edit]

This election was fought on new boundaries, with 5 seats added to the 625 in 1951.

The result saw very little change from 1951, with fewer than 25 seats changing hands and only a small swing from Labour to the Conservatives. The only real highlight of the night being in Northern Ireland, where Sinn Féin won 2 seats in a British election for the first time since 1918 (before the partition of Ireland). Despite deep divisions in the Labour party, the election was not the disaster it could have been. Although little changed, this was a strong victory for the Conservatives, who won the largest share of the vote for a single party in a post war general election.

345 277 6 2
Conservative Labour Lib O
UK General Election 1955
Candidates Votes
Party Standing Elected Gained Unseated Net  % of total  % No. Net %
  Conservative 624 345 + 23 54.8 49.7 13,310,891 + 1.7
  Labour 620 277 1 19 - 18 44.0 46.4 12,405,254 - 2.4
  Liberal 110 6 0 0 0 1.0 2.7 722,402 + 0.2
  Sinn Féin 12 2 2 0 + 2 0.3 0.6 152,310 + 0.5
  Plaid Cymru 11 0 0 0 0 0.2 45,119 + 0.2
  Independent 8 0 0 0 0 0.2 43,791 + 0.1
  Communist 17 0 0 0 0 0.1 33,144 0.0
  Irish Labour 1 0 0 1 - 1 0.1 16,050 0.0
  Independent Labour 2 0 0 0 0 0.1 15,322 N/A
  SNP 2 0 0 0 0 0.1 12,112 0.0
  Ind. Labour Party 2 0 0 0 0 0.0 3,334 0.0

All parties shown. Conservatives include National Liberal Party and Ulster Unionists.

Government's new majority 60
Total votes cast 26,759,729
Turnout 76.8%

Votes summary[edit]

Popular vote
Conservative and Unionist
  
49.7%
Labour
  
46.4%
Liberal
  
2.7%
Independent
  
0.2%
Others
  
1.0%

Headline Swing: 1.6% to Conservative

Seats summary[edit]

Parliamentary seats
Conservative and Unionist
  
54.8%
Labour
  
44.0%
Liberal
  
1.0%
Sinn Féin
  
0.3%

Selected declarations[edit]

First Declaration: Cheltenham (Con: 24,259, Lab:16,638. Con hold)
Prime Minister's Seat: Warwick and Leamington (Con: 29,979, Lab: 16,513. Con hold)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • David E, Butler The British General Election of 1955 (1956). the standard study

Manifestos[edit]

Notes[edit]