British Election, 1964

September 10, 1964

Report Outline
Approach of October General Election
Party Leaders and Campaign Issues
Characteristics of the Major Parties
Special Focus

Approach of October General Election

Dissolution of Parliament and announcement of the date of Great Britain's general election, now momentarily expected, mark the beginning of a political campaign in the British Isles comparable in importance to that already under way in the United States. British voters will go to the polls—probably on Oct. 15 but possibly not until Oct. 22—to fill the 630 seats in the House of Commons. If Conservatives win a majority of the seats, they will chalk up their fourth general election victory in a row. If Laborites win a majority, their party will take over the reins of government for the first time since 1951.

Public opinion polls indicate that the election will be close. Although Labor held a comfortable lead over the Conservatives in public opinion sampling for more than a year, the margin has narrowed or been wiped out in recent weeks. A Gallup poll published Sept. 4 still gave Labor a 6 ½ Per cent lead, but another poll, published a week earlier, put the Conservatives in the lead by a shade under 1 per cent. And a third poll, published Sept. 2, increased the Conservative lead to a little more than 2 per cent, said to be sufficient to produce a majority of 70 to 80 seats in the House of Commons.

If a trend of opinion toward the Conservatives is actually in progress, and is sustained through the coming campaign, Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home will be proved justified in having delayed the election until almost the last possible moment. Actually, he had little choice in the matter, because a protracted sag in Conservative popularity had deprived the party in power of an opportunity to follow the usual practice of appealing to the electorate at an earlier and politically propitious date.

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