The 1997 General Election (held on May 1st, 1997) is famous because it broke the Conservative Party’s run of power in the UK. The Labour Party, lead by Tony Blair, won.
It was the beginning of ‘New Labour’ being in power.
Before the election
For twenty years the Conservative Party had been in power. However, as time went on, more and more people became disillusioned with their governing.
The Labour Party had been, traditionally, the party for the workers.
In 1992 the Conservatives won an election that many thought they would lose. Labour were favourites to win, but within the last few weeks people moved away from Labour and voted for the status quo (many people think Rupert Murdoch, owner of Britain’s biggest selling newspapers, helped achieve this by demonising Labour).
In 1994 Labour changed its style. They moved away from the workers, and instead placed itself in the middle of UK politics. They chose to not only appeal to working-class voters, but also to the disillusioned middle class.
Polls closed at 10pm. The votes were counted through the night.
Although many people thought that Labour would win, the result was a surprise: Labour won in a landslide.
There were 659 seats to be won.
The Labour Party won 418 seats (in 1992, they won 271).
The Conservative Party won 165 (in 1992, they won 343).
The Liberal Democrat Party won 46 (in 1992, they won 18).
Many Conservative MPs lost seats that nobody thought they would lose. 7 members of the Cabinet (The Prime Minister’s closest ministers) lost. The most famous defeat was Michael Portillo, the Secretary of Defence, who lost at 3.10am. A famous question became ‘Were you up for Portillo?’
Other defeats of note were David Mellor (Heritage Secretary), who got into a big argument on TV after losing, and Neil Hamilton, who was being investigated for taking money for asking questions in the House and lost to an independent candidate.
The Labour Party would stay in power until 2010. After the 1997 election they rode a wave of ‘Cool Britannia’ (a play on words of ‘Rule Britannia’), with lots of famous actors and musicians being invited to meet Tony Blair.
However, as time went on events such as the Iraq War, MPs finances, and the financial crisis ate away their popularity.
The Conservative Party spent years trying to re-invent themselves. Many feel their success in 2010 came largely by copying New Labour’s model: a young leader, trying to stay in the centre of politics, and picking up voters annoyed with the current government.