How Labour Governments Fall

pp 83-112

The Fall of the Wilson Government, 1970

  • Peter Dorey


The Labour government’s defeat in the June 1970 general election was a considerable surprise to many commentators, because, according to Gallup Polls, the party had enjoyed a 49–42 per cent lead over the Conservatives through May and the first half of June. The same opinion polls had shown that Labour’s leader, Harold Wilson, enjoyed a much higher approval rating than his Conservative counterpart, Edward Heath; their respective approval ratings were 49–28 per cent in May and 51–28 per cent in June. In the context of such figures, the proportion of people expecting a Labour victory increased from 56 per cent in May to 68 per cent in June, while those envisaging a Conservative victory fell from 26 per cent to a mere 13 per cent.