British Election, 1970

June 10, 1970

Report Outline
Features of Current Political Campaign
Postwar Changes in the Political Parties
Similarity of Outlook on Foreign Affairs
Economic Questions Before the Electorate

Features of Current Political Campaign

Candidates for seats in the House of Commons to be elected by British voters on Thursday, June 18, now have passed the mid-point of the traditional three-week campaign. The new House will meet on June 29 to begin the swearing-in of members and to elect the Speaker. The Queen's Speech on July 2 will formally open the next session of Parliament. Although this orderly British process is often held up as a standard which others should follow, not all Englishmen stand in awe of their campaign procedures. The New Statesman said on its cover, May 22, that the current three-week electoral exercise was likely to produce “an orgy of parochialism, a spate of minor domestic statistics, an auction of national self-interest…the apotheosis of triviality.”

Many of the younger generation think the United Kingdom is over-governed, over-taxed, over-regulated and over-directed. The more than three million youths between the ages of 18 and 21, who will be eligible to vote for the first time in the coming election, may well decide its outcome. Nevertheless, the mood of the country has been judged by Prime Minister Harold Wilson to be one of comfortable conservatism. “Britain's present stability reflects the existence of a satisfied majority,” commented the Observer on May 17, noting that “Most people are reasonably well off and do not want any dramatic changes.”

Extraordinary Fluctuations in Opinion Polls

A year ago, in the spring of 1969, the Marplan Poll in the Times of London, the Gallup Poll, the National Opinion Poll in the Daily Mail, and the Opinion Research Center all indicated that the Conservatives held more than a 20 per cent lead in public favor. But in mid-May 1970 all except one of the polls (Opinion Research Center) showed balances in favor of the Labor Party. The Gallup Poll in the Daily Telegraph on May 13 reported a peak 7 ½ per cent margin for Harold Wilson's party; the margin fell off to 5 ½ per cent in the same poll a fortnight later—still a healthy lead for the party in power.

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