PETER FROST remembers another general election that the media predicted the Tories couldn’t lose.
THE Tory media and TV news are crowing about the inevitability of victory by an unelected Prime Minister Theresa May and her Tory gang.
This isn’t the first time the result of an election has been predicted with such cast-iron certainty. However let me tell you of at least one election where the Tory Party and its tame media got it very wrong indeed.
It is always worth learning from history, so come back with me to 1945. The war has just been won and Tory prime minister Churchill (below) is enjoying popularity scores of over 80 per cent — that is not far short of double what some polls are claiming today for May.
Most of the post-war press were solidly behind Churchill and the Tories, including those owned by rightwing press barons like the unholy trinity of Northcliffe, Beaverbrook and Rothermere.
Rothermere was the most vicious, famously supporting Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists with his disgraceful and notorious “Hurrah for the Blackshirts!” Daily Mail headline. Rothermere and his slimy Mail were often openly sympathetic to Hitler.
This Tory press mocked the Labour Party and declared Labour leader Clem Attlee (below) unelectable — now where have we heard that recently?
Today the current Lord Rothermere, Rupert Murdoch, the Barclay brothers and Richard Desmond play a identical role spouting their reactionary views through the braying mouthpieces of their Tory rags.
There were a few exceptions in 1945. The Daily Mirror and the TUC’s very own hugely popular newspaper the Daily Herald both sided with Labour.
The Daily Worker, forerunner of today’s Morning Star, came out solidly in favour of a Labour victory alongside support for the 21 Communist candidates standing in the election.
In 1941 the Daily Worker had been banned by Churchill’s home secretary Herbert Morrison. Morrison was a Labour MP serving in the coalition national government. He had long hated the Daily Worker.
The ban on the paper was lifted in September 1942 following a massive campaign. Some 2,000 people attended a conference to demand an end to the ban.
On May 26 1942, the Labour Party passed a resolution demanding the government lift the ban. As if the ban wasn’t enough, the Worker’s offices were also totally destroyed by Luftwaffe nazi bombing. In 1945 new offices were acquired in Farringdon Road.
Once the election had been announced the Labour Party ran an effective propaganda campaign. The Labour manifesto, Let us Face the Future Together, offered the nation a radical departure from the past.
It outlined socialist policies, including comprehensive social security benefits, a National Health Service and the nationalisation of major industries.
Labour reminded voters about the pre-war Conservative Party’s appeasement of Hitler and its failure to rearm Britain and cautioned voters not to forget the Depression and mass unemployment of the 1930s.
Most importantly Labour painted a picture of a new socialist Britain with better housing, free medical services and jobs for all. Not very different in fact from the issues that will dominate our election this June.
In December 1942 Sir William Beveridge had produced a report. It was in fact nothing less than the first blueprint for the welfare state.
Beveridge’s report was amazingly popular. British politics became dominated by questions of social reform. Churchill mocked the report calling Beveridge “a windbag and a dreamer.”
Labour, however, accepted and welcomed the socialist principles incorporated in the report. It would become the foundation of its 1945 election policies.
Predictably Churchill decided to use the usual Tory anti-socialist scare tactics. In his opening election broadcast he warned that socialism in Britain would require “some form of Gestapo.” He frightened nobody.
When the election had been called it was generally believed that Churchill, as the man who had won the war, was unbeatable.
Polling took place on July 5, but in order to allow time for the ballot boxes to be collected from servicemen overseas the count did not begin until July 25.
By the afternoon of July 25, to nearly everyone’s surprise, it was clear that Labour had won by a massive landslide — 393 Labour seats and an overall majority of 183 in the House of Commons. With 48 per cent of the vote, Labour gained a parliamentary majority of 146 seats. The swing of 12 points to Labour was unprecedented.
Conservative numbers in the House of Commons dropped from 387 to 197. The Liberal Party was reduced to just 12 seats. Sadly minibuses were still to be invented.
New Labour faces in Parliament for the first time included Hugh Gaitskell, Harold Wilson (below), James Callaghan, Barbara Castle (below), Denis Healey and Michael Foot. Harold Macmillan was one Tory minister who lost his seat.
Labour’s remarkable 1945 victory changed Britain forever. It ushered in the welfare state and the NHS. The commanding heights of the British economy were nationalised and India was granted independence.
It wasn’t just Labour which brought a new socialist voice to the post-war Parliament. The Communist Party won 103,000 votes and two seats.
Willie Gallacher was re-elected in West Fife and Phil Piratin (below) won Mile End, east London. Harry Pollitt failed by just 972 votes to take the Rhondda East constituency.
One of those new Labour MPs of 1945, Harold Wilson, (below with wife Mary) once declared: “A week is a long time in politics.”
We have around seven of those weeks to prove him right and May, her media lackeys and their smug predictions very wrong indeed.
This article first appeared in the Morning Star 24 April 2017.