The Spectator

Reasons for Ed Miliband to be cheerful (we had to stretch a bit)

Plus: the fates of fourth parties, and voting ages

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Election omens

Reasons for Ed Miliband to feel confident in 2015:

— Only three parliaments since 1945 have run to their full five-year term. The subsequent general elections, in 1964, 1997 and 2010, all resulted in a change of government. But John Major did hold on in 1992, having gone to the country four years and ten months after the last election.

— In four elections since 1945, the three main parties have been led by MPs who represent constituencies in each of the three countries which make Great Britain: 1970, 1979, 1983 and 1987. The Conservatives won them all. This year’s election, assuming no change of party leadership between now and May, will be only the second one since 1945 when all three main party leaders had constituencies in England. The other was 1997, the year of the Conservatives’ heaviest defeat.

Some reasons for David Cameron to feel confident:

— Since 1945, only one PM who served the whole length of a parliament failed to win a second term: Edward Heath in 1974. No leader since 1945 who became prime minister at his first attempt has failed to win if he stood for a second time.

Come fourth and multiply

2015 has been predicted to be the election when small parties break through. Who has come fourth in general elections since the war, in terms of the popular vote? (Liberal-SDP Alliance counts as one party)

Election year

Votes for fourth party

1945 - Liberal National

686,652

1950 - Unionist

1,013,909

1951 - Liberal

730,546

1955 - Sinn Fein

152,310

1959 - Plaid Cymru

77,571

1964 - Ind. Republican

101,628

19661992 - SNP

varying from 128,474 in 1966 to 839,617 in Oct 1974

1997 - Referendum party

811,849

2001 - SNP

464,314

2005 - Ukip

605,973

2010 - Ukip

919,471

Only one other minor party has ever polled more than half a million votes: the BNP, with 564,321 in 2010.

Youth votes

Ed Miliband has promised to lower the voting age to 16 if elected. Countries which have voting ages other than 18 in national elections:

16 Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Cuba

17 East Timor, Indonesia, Sudan

19 South Korea

21 Cameroon, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Tonga