United Kingdom general election, 1955
All 630 seats in the House of Commons
316 seats needed for a majority
Colours denote the winning party, as shown in the main table of results.
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 twentieth year of leadership by Clement Attlee.
This general election has since been described by many as one of the "dullest" post war elections, because there was little change in the country[clarification needed], with Labour steadily losing ground owing to infighting between the left (Bevanites) and the right (Gaitskellites). This resulted in an unclear election message from the Labour Party. It was the fifth and last general 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, but he had long been considered the heir apparent to the Conservative leadership. The Conservatives were hoping to take advantage of the end of food rationing and the good mood created by the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953. Eden himself was telegenic, although not a great public speaker, and gradual economic growth benefited the party greatly. However, it remains the last time the Conservatives won the most seats in Scotland and also the last time they won the most Scottish seats of any unionist party until the 2017 election. After 1959, Labour established itself as the dominant party in that country at UK general elections, a position it maintained until the rise of the pro-independence Scottish National Party at the 2015 election.
For the first time television took a prominent role in the campaign, and this was the earliest UK general election 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; this was rebroadcast on BBC Parliament on the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the date of the election.
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".
This election was fought on new boundaries, with 5 seats added to the 625 in 1951.
The result showed 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 was 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 for that party. 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.
Future Labour leader Michael Foot temporarily left Parliament as a result of this election.
|Party||Leader||Standing||Elected||Gained||Unseated||Net||% of total||%||No.||Net %|
|Conservative||Anthony Eden||624||345||+ 23||54.8||49.7||13,310,891||+ 1.7|
|Labour||Clement Attlee||620||277||1||19||− 18||44.0||46.4||12,405,254||− 2.4|
|Liberal||Clement Davies||110||6||0||0||0||1.0||2.7||722,402||+ 0.2|
|Sinn Féin||Paddy McLogan||12||2||2||0||+ 2||0.3||0.6||152,310||+ 0.5|
|Plaid Cymru||Gwynfor Evans||11||0||0||0||0||0.2||45,119||+ 0.2|
|Irish Labour||William Norton||1||0||0||1||− 1||0.1||16,050||0.0|
|Ind. Labour Party||Annie Maxton||2||0||0||0||0||0.0||3,334||0.0|
|Government's new majority||60|
|Total votes cast||26,759,729|
Headline Swing: 1.6% to Conservative
Transfers of seats
- All comparisons are with the 1951 election.
- In some cases the change is due to the MP defecting to the gaining party. Such circumstances are marked with a *.
- In other circumstances the change is due to the seat having been won by the gaining party in a by-election in the intervening years, and then retained in 1955. Such circumstances are marked with a †. The parliament of 1951-55 only saw one by-election where a seat changed hands (Sunderland South), and unusually this was a gain for the party in government.
1 Sinn Féin winner overturned on petition. The second place Ulster Unionist candidate was also overturned by resolution of the House and eventually the 1956 by-election was held which returned an Independent Unionist.
2 Sinn Féin winner overturned on petition for criminal conviction. The second place candidate, an Ulster Unionist, was awarded the seat.
- F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987
- United Kingdom election results - summary results 1885-1979
- David E, Butler The British General Election of 1955 (1956). the standard study
- United for Peace and Progress: The Conservative and Unionist Party's Policy- 1955 Conservative manifesto.
- Forward With Labour: Labour's Policy for the Consideration of the Nation - 1955 Labour Party manifesto.
- Crisis Unresolved - 1955 Liberal Party manifesto.