Fraser Nelson

Was this actually Labour’s worst result since World War One?

Was this actually Labour's worst result since World War One?
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I would like to call on the collective wisdom of CoffeeHousers. I have read everywhere that Thursday was Labour’s worst result for 40 years, whereas it looks to me as if it is the worst since World War One. Here’s why. As far as I can determine, the source for this “40 years” was Tony Travers from LSE. We walked out of the BBC studio in City Hall together on election night, and Tony showed me his book of wisdom – the year 1968 was a freak bad year for Labour in London as it had 28% of the vote (as I blogged earlier). Tony made this point in the studio – referring to London only - and it seems it has been repeated ever since. But now the GLA votes are all counted, Labour is on 27.1% of the vote. This – unless I have missed something - means the 40-year statistic being quoted everywhere ain’t right even if we are talking just about London.

But talking about the UK, then Labour’s Projected National Share (PNS) was 24% last week. When was the last time it was this low? Projecting local results into a PNS is an art only done from 1979 (p51, pdf) and in 1979, Labour was on 38%. Before that, we have general election results to rely on. Of course, 40 years ago Labour was doing a hell of a lot better than 24% in general elections—48% in 1966, 43% in 1970. In fact, the last time Labour did worse that 27% was in 1918 when it had 20.8%. By 1922 it had shot up to 30% and stayed above that level until 1945 where it hit 46% and stayed above 40% until 1974 when today’s three-party system starts to emerge. I would love to be corrected on this. Perhaps CoffeeHousers can find earlier local election results which suggest a lower PNS for Labour – though in the days before today’s three-party politics I doubt it.

But as far as I can work out, this is Labour’s worst national showing since the newly-formed party split over the Great War. There is no Blair to blame, no Iraq. Just Gordon Brown. Well, he did always want to make history…

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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