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1959: 'Supermac' leads Tories to victory

The Conservatives have been re-elected for a third successive term - and with a huge majority.

The final tally of seats was Conservatives 365, Labour 258, Liberals 6.

It was also a personal victory for Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, affectionately known as Supermac, who was leading his party in a general election for the first time.

He increased his majority by more than 2,000 votes in his Bromley constituency, the highest in his whole political career.


"This election has shown that the class war is obsolete"

Harold Macmillan, Prime Minister
In a statement, he thanked the nation for making their decision.

"Whatever is the result of an election, we must try to emphasise the fundamental unity of our people and not exaggerate the differences which divide us, important as they are," he said.

"This election has shown that the class war is obsolete."

He also said the nation should use its "growing economic strength" to work towards world peace, a reference no doubt to the upcoming East-West summit involving the United States, France and the USSR.

Labour's 'setback'

During the campaign, the Tories asked the electorate who should represent Britain at the peace conference - "Do you want Supermac or Labour's less experienced Hugh Gaitskell?"

Mr Gaitskell, who conceded the election at 0100 GMT, said in a statement: "We have suffered neither a landslide nor a disaster, but a setback."

He added: "We have attacked, and on this occasion, we have been repulsed. We shall attack again, and again, and again until we win."

Jo Grimond, leader of the Liberal party said, "The results today emphasise the general swing to Liberalism."

Mr Macmillan took over as prime minister in 1957 after Sir Anthony Eden was forced out over his handling of the Suez crisis.

When he entered Number 10, Labour were 13 points ahead in the opinion polls and by the time the election was called the Conservatives enjoyed a seven-point lead.

In Context
Under Harold Macmillan, Britain continued to enjoy an economic boom and stable prices.

In his meetings with US Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, Mr Macmillan strengthened Anglo-American collaboration.

But the "special relationship" with the US ultimately led France's President de Gaulle to veto Britain's entry into the European Economic Community in 1962.

His attempts to join the EEC and his approval of African independence, made known in his "wind of change" speech in South Africa in 1960, were regarded as progressive - a little too progressive for some in the party.

After several political setbacks - including the Profumo scandal - and due to ill health, Mr Macmillan resigned from office in October 1963 and left the Commons a year later.

In 1984 he was granted the title Earl of Stockton. He died, aged 92, two years later.

The 1959 election saw Margaret Thatcher first enter Parliament as MP for Finchley. She went on to become the first British woman prime minister in 1979.

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