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Election Battles 1945-1997
Intro 1945 1950 1951 1955 1959 1964 1966 1970 1974
Feb
1974
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1979 1983 1987 1992
1997
1997: Blair's landslide
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Overview
Battlefield
Campaign
Personalities
Issues
Results
1997: New danger
New Labour's arrival wrong footed the Tories

Watch and listen 1997
BBC Radio examines the results
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John Major ends the “phoney war”
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Neil Hamilton and Martin Bell lock horns in Tatton
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The Lib Dems stage a Punch and Judy show
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The best of election night coverage
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Tony Blair: "We will govern as New Labour"
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Key events
1992, Sept, Pound drops out of ERM
1992 John Smith succeeds Neil Kinnock
1993 Government defeated on Maastricht bill
1994 Smith dies, Blair becomes Labour leader
1995 John Major defeats John Redwood's leadership bid
1996 Worldwide ban in place on British beef due to BSE
1997 Jan, Labour accepts Tory spending plans

John Major had virtually no honeymoon period after his election victory in 1992.

Within months of the Tories' fourth election win on the trot, events were to take place that went a long way to losing them the next contest before it was even on the political horizon.

In September 1992 the pound spectacularly crashed out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism even though the government spent more than £10bn attempting to maintain its value against other currencies.

With the Tories' reputation for economic excellence in shreds from this stage on, Labour was ascendant in the polls.

But Major's troubles did not end there, far from it. The whole of the parliament was dominated by open Tory feuding on Europe.

The destabilising internal bickering was responsible for the government's defeat on the Maastricht Bill in 1993 as well as for John Redwood's 1995 leadership challenge.

This was beaten off, but Redwood gained a significant amount of support for replacing the prime minister.

In addition, eight Tory MPs had the whip withdrawn for failing to back the party line on Europe - which was to keep an open mind on the single currency.

Sleaze, as well as splits, also hit the party with 12 resignations from office taking place over allegations of personal impropriety, among the most famous being Jonathan Aitken and Neil Hamilton.

Labour also had an eventful parliament. John Smith replaced Neil Kinnock as leader, but died of a heart attack in May 1994.

He was replaced by the shadow home secretary, Tony Blair.

Under Blair the "modernisation" process set in train by Neil Kinnock stepped up several gears, as the party ditched the commitment to nationalisation set out in Clause IV of its constitution and took to referring to itself as New Labour.

With Blair at the helm the polls briefly registered a Labour lead over the Tories' of above 30%. After the best part of 20 years in opposition, Labour's return to power at the next election looked a sure thing.