Is UK Election a 1964 Redux?

Undoubtedly, the snap UK election was called by Theresa May with 1983 in mind, when a rejuvenated Thatcher, bouyed by a successful Falklands campaign, trounced the hapless Michael Foot. When she called the election about four weeks ago, opinion polls were showing a similar outcome on June 8th. Now, with less than two weeks to go, the gap has narrowed considerably, and Tory strategists are probably hoping for a slim majority as opposed to a landslide. Rumours of Corbyn’s demise were exxagerated. He has shown himself to have a comfortable, if rather uncharismatic, presence on the hustings. Theresa May, on the other hand, has presided over a disastrous campaign, with her approach drawing unfavourable comparisons with Far Eastern dictators.

So, 1983 is not being bandied about anymore. Will we witness a repeat of another year in the mists of time, 1964 and all that? That election took place against a war of sorts that had been quietly raging for a little less than two decades. The incumbent Tory Prime Minister, Alec Douglas-Home, had taken power without an election and was PM for only a year. The Tories had been in power for a long period, but the economy had begun to slow and there was uncertainty in the air. A recently elected Labour leader far to the left of the political spectrum with suspected ties to outside enemies had recently taken the reins of the party from a more left of centre individual in Hugh Gaitskell. As for the election itself, the Tories were expected to win, but suffered a narrow defeat.

1964’s shock election of Harold Wilson seems very close to the scenario being played out at the moment. Theresa May will certainly lose if she continues to hide her face. Corbyn took a gamble today when he made a statement on the Manchester bombing. It is unclear whether he will be seen as someone opening a door of hope, or as someone demonstrating gross insensitivity at a time of national mourning. The former seems the more likely as of time of writing.

The election of Harold Wilson heralded years of crisis, but also a vast transformation of British society. With less than two weeks to go before polling day, that would seem to be the outlook if the outsider clinches victory on the home straight.


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