Theme: Parties & Elections | Content Type: Journal article

Bouncing Back from the ‘Mid-Term Blues’: Myth or Reality in Postwar Britain?

Adrian Williamson

NR Westminster blue


| 1 min read

It is commonly thought that British governments can rapidly recover from mid-term unpopularity and go on to secure success in general elections at the end of their term in office. However, it is in fact very difficult to gain a working majority for a full term, and then secure a further working majority for a further full term. Thirteen of the twenty administrations in the postwar period failed to achieve this. Only three administrations managed to recover from serious mid-term unpopularity. The 1979–1983 government was, uniquely, saved by the Falklands War. The 1987–1992 administration recovered from unpopularity in the mid-term by brutally dispatching the patriotic war leader of 1982. Only the 1955–1959 Macmillan government came back for more humdrum reasons, such as lower interest rates and improving living standards. In short, if politicians think they can readily shake off the mid-term blues, postwar British history has some uncomfortable lessons for them.

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    Adrian Williamson

    Adrian Williamson is Research Associate, the Centre for Financial History, Darwin College, Cambridge and Honorary Professor, The Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction, UCL.

    Articles by Adrian Williamson