In 1945, the first year general elections were held since 1935, the Labour Government of Clement Atlee swept into power, surprising many people over the extent of the landslide victory, and setting the stage as well as a mandate for Britain and the Post-War reconstruction of Europe.
But in 1950, another General Election was called and Atlee held on, while maintaining a slim majority. 20 months later, in October of 1951 and with the hopes of increasing Labour’s slim majority and hoping for a mandate, the plan backfired and it was Churchill who surprised many by taking back the seat of Power, and setting up a 13 year spell of opposition for the defeated Labour Party.
You can’t help but draw comparisons between 1951 and the 2017 British elections – a slim majority and calling elections with the hopes of gaining more seats and a clear mandate, only to have the exact opposite happen and a ruling party in a state of disarray. So history does, after all, repeat.
This documentary – the last of a two part series on the British Elections from the weekly NBC Radio program Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow offers some background as well as the voices taking part in those historic elections, some 66 years ago. It’s interesting to draw parallels, but also to hear just how much the election process has changed, how the level of discourse has changed (for the most part), not to mention the makeup of the parties themselves. One imagines the Conservative and Labour parties of the 1940s and early 1950s bear and can’t help notice very little resemblance to those parties now, as does the average voter.
So to get an idea how much politics and electioneering have changed in that time, here is that episode of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, as it was broadcast on October 21, 1951 by NBC Radio.