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Should the 1997 general election be viewed as a 'critical election'?

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Should the 1997 general election be viewed as a 'critical election'? In this essay I will assess whether or not the 1997 general election can be seen as a critical election or just an election, which didn't bear much significance to the way Britain, is now. A critical election is defined as 'those exceptional contests, which produce abrupt, significant and durable realignments in the electorate with major consequences for the long term party order'1. Within the critical election there are three inter related features that are, realignments in the ideological basis of party competition; realignments in the social basis of party support and realignments in the partisan loyalties in electorate. Using many different sources I will try to come to a suitable conclusion as to whether or not the 1997 general election caused an abrupt and significant change in the electorate and the parties themselves and the way in which Britain is now run today. In the 1997 election, the Conservatives lost to the great opposition after 18 years in power. "By the time John Major finally got around to calling the 1997 election, almost everyone knew Labour was going to win, the only question was by how much" 2. That was the feeling throughout the majority of Britain and there are many reasons for this belief. Although the Conservative party won the general election in 1992, they lost electoral support due to the fact that they increased tax after they criticized the way that the Labour party were planning to raise taxes themselves. This resulted in the electorate feeling betrayed and the loss of two by - elections to the Liberal Democrats. ...read more.


This quote shows one of the main changes that occurred within the Labour party and this was the getting rid of the commitments to the shared ownership of business. Labour was no longer, a party just for Socialists; it was a party, that with a few more minor changes would eventually appeal to the whole electorate, not just a segment of it, this was 'New Labour' with new ideas. With New Labours new policies with regard to businesses, and the issues that the party were dealing with, such as trade unions etc, New Labour were going to make sure that it was appealing to the whole of the electorate not just part of it. The 1997 general election can be seen as a critical election due to the fact after the Tories lost the election, the Labour party fundamentally changed the ways in which elections are fought and the ways in which the parties act. The Labour party enhanced the way in they ran their party and this was due to their victory over the Conservative party in 1997. One of the areas in which the Labour party managed to exploit and bring into play was the use of media and the 'spin' which they were now able to use and turn a lot of things to their advantage. The Labour party used the media to highlight and therefore intensify the problems, which were occurring in the Conservative party throughout the general election. The party would make sure that all the Tories problems were being spread over all the newspapers, which was undermining the Conservative election campaign. ...read more.


The 2001 election results to some extent emulated the 1997 election results with Labour once again winning comfortably, and the general consensus is that the Labour party will be in power for quite a whilst as it is now the Conservative party who are lacking the focus of direction, and with party divisions still occurring, it is hard to see Labour being forced out. So in conclusion to the question "should the 1997 general election be viewed as a critical election?" I conclude that the 1997 election was indeed critical. Having studied the party fortunes, the changes that have occurred e.g., the change of moving away from Socialism, which Labour made in order to make it possible for them to win the general election and the loss of confidence by the electorate towards the conservatives, it is hard not to conclude the election as critical. The fact that the Labour party managed to realign the electorate to vote for them, moving away from socialism and getting rid of all the problems which dodged them for some many years previously such as problems with trade unions etc and, also the fact that the party changed in order to become eligible for everyone is an indication of how the 97 election fits the critical election definition to a good extent. The Labour party has only been in power for 6 years now but with the Conservative party not having a change in fortune at the current time, it is safe to say that the 1997 election can be seen as durable as Labour are probably going to stay in power for a significant amount of time. ...read more.

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