United Kingdom general election, 1959
1951 election
United Kingdom general election, 1951
The 1951 United Kingdom general election was held eighteen months after the 1950 general election, which the Labour Party had won with a slim majority of just five seats...

MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 1951
This is a complete list of Members of Parliament elected to the 40th Parliament of the United Kingdom at the 1951 general election on 25 October 1951.Notable newcomers to the House of Commons included Anthony Barber, Lord Lambton and Ted Short....

1955 election
United Kingdom general election, 1955
The 1955 United Kingdom general election was held on 26 May 1955, four years after the previous general election. It resulted in a substantially increased majority of 60 for the Conservative government under new leader and prime minister Sir Anthony Eden against Labour Party, now in their 20th year...

MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 1955
This is a list of Members of Parliament elected to the 41st Parliament of the United Kingdom at the 1955 general election, held on 26 May 1955. A total of 630 MPs were elected.Notable newcomers to the House of Commons included William Whitelaw and Geoffrey Rippon....

1959 election MPs
MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 1959
This is a list of members of Parliament elected to the 42nd Parliament of the United Kingdom at the 1959 general election, held on 8 October 1959.Notable newcomers to the House of Commons included Margaret Thatcher, Nicholas Ridley, Jim Prior, Peter Tapsell, John Morris and Jeremy Thorpe...

1964 election
United Kingdom general election, 1964
The United Kingdom general election of 1964 was held on 15 October 1964, more than five years after the preceding election, and thirteen years after the Conservative Party had retaken power...

MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 1964
This is a list of members of Parliament elected to the Parliament of the United Kingdom at the 1964 general election, held on 15 October 1964, for the 43rd Parliament of the United Kingdom....

This United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 general election
General election
In a parliamentary political system, a general election is an election in which all or most members of a given political body are chosen. The term is usually used to refer to elections held for a nation's primary legislative body, as distinguished from by-elections and local elections.The term...

was held on 8 October 1959. It marked a third successive victory for the ruling Conservative Party
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

, led by Harold Macmillan
Harold Macmillan
Maurice Harold Macmillan, 1st Earl of Stockton, OM, PC was Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 10 January 1957 to 18 October 1963....

. The Conservatives increased their overall majority again, to 100 seats over the Labour Party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 under Hugh Gaitskell
Hugh Gaitskell
Hugh Todd Naylor Gaitskell CBE was a British Labour politician, who held Cabinet office in Clement Attlee's governments, and was the Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition from 1955, until his death in 1963.-Early life:He was born in Kensington, London, the third and youngest...



Following the Suez Crisis
Suez Crisis
The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression, Suez War was an offensive war fought by France, the United Kingdom, and Israel against Egypt beginning on 29 October 1956. Less than a day after Israel invaded Egypt, Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to Egypt and Israel,...

 in 1956, Anthony Eden
Anthony Eden
Robert Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon, KG, MC, PC was a British Conservative politician, who was Prime Minister from 1955 to 1957...

 the Conservative Prime Minister became unpopular and resigned early the following year to be succeeded by Harold Macmillan. At this stage, the Labour Party, with Hugh Gaitskell having taken over as leader from Clement Attlee
Clement Attlee
Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH, PC, FRS was a British Labour politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951, and as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955...

 just after the 1955 election, enjoyed large opinion poll leads over the Conservatives, and it looked as if they could win.

The Liberals also had a new leader in Jo Grimmond, meaning that all three parties would contest the election with a new leader at the helm.

However, the Conservatives enjoyed an upturn in fortunes as the economy improved under Macmillan, and his personal approval ratings remained high. By September 1958 the Conservatives had moved ahead of Labour in the opinion polls.


This would be the first election in some time taking place after all of the 3 main parties changed their leaders. The Conservatives fought under the slogan "Life is better with the Conservatives, don't let Labour ruin it" and were aided by a pre-election economic boom. Macmillan very effectively "summed up" the mood of the British public when he said that most of the people had "never had it so good". Macmillan was very popular and was described as being in a politician of the centre ground, he himself had once held a constituency in the north (Stockton-on-Tees
Stockton-on-Tees (UK Parliament constituency)
Stockton-on-Tees is a former borough constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It elected one Member of Parliament by the first past the post system of election....

) during the 1930s that had experienced large scale unemployment and poverty. The first week of polling put the Tories comfortably ahead of Labour by over 5%, which narrowed as the election progressed. The Labour Party fought a generally effective campaign, with television broadcasts masterminded by Tony Benn
Tony Benn
Anthony Neil Wedgwood "Tony" Benn, PC is a British Labour Party politician and a former MP and Cabinet Minister.His successful campaign to renounce his hereditary peerage was instrumental in the creation of the Peerage Act 1963...

 under the umbrella of their manifesto entitled "Britain belongs to you", which concentrated on Tory complacency in the light of the growing gap between the rich and poor. Hugh Gaitskell made a mistake by declaring that a Labour government would not raise taxes if it came to power. This was despite the fact that the Labour manifesto contained pledges to increase spending, especially with regard to raising pensions. This led voters to doubt Labour's spending plans, and is usually cited as a key reason for their defeat.


Early on election night it became clear that the Conservative government had been returned with an increased majority. However there were swings to Labour in parts of North West England, and in Scotland. For the 4th time in a row the Conservatives increased their number of seats at a general election, despite a slight drop in their share of the vote. For Labour the result was disappointing, despite appearing more united than they had in recent years under Gaitskell, the party had failed for the 3rd time to win an election.
The BBC's election coverage, presented by Richard Dimbleby
Richard Dimbleby
Richard Dimbleby CBE was an English journalist and broadcaster widely acknowledged as one of the greatest figures in British broadcasting history.-Early life:...

, was shown on BBC Parliament
BBC Parliament
BBC Parliament is a British television channel from the BBC. Its remit is to make accessible to all the work of the parliamentary and legislative bodies of the United Kingdom and the European Parliament...

 on 9 October 2009 to mark the 50th anniversary of the election.


All parties shown. Conservatives include the National Liberal Party
National Liberal Party (UK, 1931)
The National Liberal Party, known until 1948 as the Liberal National Party, was a liberal political party in the United Kingdom from 1931 to 1968...

, Scottish Unionist Party and Ulster Unionist
Ulster Unionist Party
The Ulster Unionist Party – sometimes referred to as the Official Unionist Party or, in a historic sense, simply the Unionist Party – is the more moderate of the two main unionist political parties in Northern Ireland...


Government's new majority 100
Total votes cast 27,862,652
Turnout 78.7%

Votes summary

Headline Swing: 1.32% to Conservative

Seats summary

Seats changing hands

  • From Conservative to Labour (6 seats): Ayrshire Central, Glasgow Craigton, Glasgow Scotstoun, Lanark, Oldham East and Rochdale
  • From Conservative to Liberal (1 seat): Devon North
  • From Conservative to Independent (1 seat): Caithness and Sutherland
  • From Labour to Conservative (28 seats): Acton, Barons Court, Birmingham All Saints, Birmingham Sparkbrook, Birmingham Yardley, Brierley Hill, Bristol North East, Bristol North West, Clapham, Cleveland, Coventry South, Derbyshire South East, Holborn and St Pancras South, Keighley, Lowestoft, Meriden, Newcastle upon Tyne East, Nottingham West, Reading, Rochester and Chatham, Rowley Regis and Tipton, Rugby, Swansea West, The Hartlepools, Uxbridge, Wellingborough, Willesden East and Willesden West
  • From Liberal to Labour (1 seats): Carmarthen


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