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Why Did Labour Win the 1997 General Election?

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Why Did Labour win the 1997 Election?
The 1997 General election saw the Labour party clinch a landslide victory with a 93 seat majority, whilst winning 43.2% of the popular vote. Their success in this election was won due to many different factors. Their new image and transformation coupled with impressive campaigning proved to be a major factor. But the damage to the Conservative party during Major’s years in power meant the Conservatives weren’t even a viable competitor, thus leading to Labour’s victory. But we can’t neglect the role third parties played in ensuring a Labour victory.
Blair was representing a generation of new labour that looked to move over to the centre of the political spectrum. This centralisation had removed the traditional extreme socialist ideology associated with Labour. Their exclusion of extreme left wing elements, such as the Militant Tendency, was an example of them moving away from such ideology. In addition, Blair communication skills should be highly credited. He was very articulate and skilful. He gave an image of a modern and young labour which had seemed to gain large support from women and younger voters. Also, the use of spin doctors and media support had boosted their public image. Alistair Campbell, editor of the Today newspaper was an example of support from they had from the media. This all contributed to create a new image for Labour that public enjoyed, and voted for.
But Blair not only created a new image for Labour, he had transformed the party. He abolished Clause IV; the long-time party ideology of nationalisation of industry and services. He promised that he would keep industries and services private, something that pleased the 11 million shareholders of private services and industry. Also, he promised to keep all legal restrictions already placed on trade unions. This was very important because the ‘Winter of Discontent’ had damaged the party so he needed to ensure such a thing wouldn’t happen again. In addition to that he abandoned the policy of Unilateralism. All in all these transformations made them a formidable force because they were no longer an extreme socialist party, and their policies backed that up, which in turned increase their popularity, and eventually led to their victory.
Moreover, third parties played a key role in the process of victory. The Referendum Party was one of these parties. They were lavishly funded, but despite not winning any seats they restricted the Conservatives because Labour had won marginal seats due to many Conservative votes going to the Referendum Party. For example Mellor in Putney. But the Liberal Democrats helped also. They had a very carefully managed campaign and had managed to exploit tactical voting to ensure a Labour victory. Although the Liberal Democrats won some seats themselves, many supporters of the Liberal Democrats voted Labour to ensure the Conservatives didn’t win and many Labour supporters voted Liberals to ensure Conservative defeat. So this meant the Conservatives never stood a chance because people were tactfully voting just ensure their downfall.
On the other side, damage to the Conservative Party during Major’s years as leader had handed Labour the victory. Major’s party had been marred by scandals that damaged the party’s reputation. David Mellor, heritage minister, resigned in 19992 after having an affair. Also, MP Stephen Milligan accidentally killed himself through an act of sexual asphyxiation. Whilst these may not have been the most scandalous acts ever they still damaged the party’s reputation. Furthermore, the party seemed to be even more divided over Britain’s European Union membership. Eurosceptics in the party were against further integration into the EU, but Major signed the Maastricht Treaty, an agreement for further integration, which caused rifts in the party. In fact Major had to rely upon Labour to ratify the Treaty, which undermined his power. Lamont famously said about Major “Party in office but not in power”. Also, Black Wednesday 1992 damaged the party. The measures taken to curb inflation tipped the UK into an economic recession reaching a peak of 17%.
To conclude, whilst Labour’s shift to the centre and its skilful campaigning techniques played a key role in securing its victory. Their victory can still argued to be based on their only competitor being divided and ridden with scandals and a poor economic record that took the country into a recession.…...

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