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Election Battles 1945-1997
Intro 1945 1950
1951
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Feb
1974
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1951: Churchill's return
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Overview
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1951: Front page coverage
Attlee was forced to seek a fresh mandate

Watch and listen 1951
Winston Churchill celebrates victory
real 28k
British troops advance into North Korea
quicktime 56k real 56k
Campaigning starts as Attlee announces the election date
quicktime 56k real 56k
Conservative celebrations led by party chairman, Lord Woolton
real 28k
Clement Attlee on Labour's defeat
real 28k
What they spent
Labour
£80,000
Conservatives
£112,000

King George VI’s worries over the government’s precarious hold on power pushed Attlee into calling an election just 20 months after the country had last gone to the polls.

The monarch was keen to have the tricky issue of the government’s instability dealt with before he left for a planned tour of Australia and New Zealand early in 1952.

As parliament was dissolved on 5 October and the election date was set for the 25th the Tories were enjoying a strong poll lead. Gallup had them on 50.5%, with Labour trailing on 44%.

With Labour having fulfilled most of its ambitions since the election in 1945, the party campaigned on its record. Many Labour candidates including cabinet ministers rammed home the idea that the Conservatives could not be trusted to keep the peace.

It was a theme followed up by the Labour-supporting Daily Mirror, which posed the question "Whose finger on the trigger?" on its front page. The implication that Churchill was a warmonger resulted in a libel action post-election.

For this campaign the Tories were in good heart, expecting victory. And before the age of mass-TV ownership they were able to call upon the support of much of the press. They also had more money and campaign staff to hand than their rivals.