Election forecasts

Ed Miliband will not lose his seat at the general election

Neither will Nick Clegg.

Two new polls from Lord Ashcroft have suggested that the Lib Dem leader is at risk from Labour and that Ed Miliband could be defeated if Tory voters swing behind Ukip. But neither will happen. Leaders of big parties no longer get defeated at general elections. It just doesn’t happen in modern politics.

In fact it hasn’t happened in this country for almost 70 years. The last time the leader of one of the main UK parties lost their seat at a general election was in 1945. The unlucky individual was Archibald Sinclair, leader of the Liberal party. He was even more unlucky to lose the seat by just 61 votes:

Caithness 1945 result
Sinclair’s predecessor as Liberal leader suffered the same fate. Herbert Samuel lost his seat of Darwen at the 1935 election. But aside from these two, no other leader of a major UK political party has lost their seat at a general election for at least 100 years. I can’t find any other examples from the 20th century, though I’m sure there are instances of minor parties seeing their leader defeated at the polls*.

A prominent national profile combined with a loyal following is usually enough to see a leader overcome any attempt at tactical voting or a local insurgency.

The same has not been true of deputies, however. Labour’s deputy leader George Brown lost his seat of Belper at the 1970 general election, in what must rank as the most famous defeat of a party number two. At the time Brown declared pointedly that he was “lending” the seat to his opponent – but he never got it back.

*DUP leader Peter Robinson in 2010, for example.



2 responses to ‘Ed Miliband will not lose his seat at the general election

  1. Wasn’t it George Brown who was known for being frequently “tired and emotional”?

    He quickly decided against trying to recover his seat and took a life peerage in the dissolution honours, becoming Lord George-Brown.

  2. Also the two Arthurs, Balfour and Hendeson. So not one since the Second World War, but not entirely unknown in the 20th century.

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