Thursday, June 28, 2007

Pointless historical PM pedantry

Tom Hamilton picks factually sound yet arguably unimportant holes in some of the media commentary on Gordon Brown’s accession to No. 10. I thought I’d join in the fun.

(I realise that I can’t expect too many readers for a blog post with ‘pointless’ in the title, so thanks to any of you who have made it this far. It’s still not too late for you to go and find some as-yet-unwatched drying paint…)

It’s been said several times (I can’t be bothered to look up an example) that while both Brown and John Major became PM without a general election, Major was at least elected by his MPs and so had the advantage in terms of legitimacy.

An unappreciated fact is that John Major didn’t win any such election.

In the first round of the election, Margaret Thatcher got 204 votes to Michael Heseltine’s 152. Under Conservative Party rules, this wasn’t a big enough winning margin, and so the contest went on to a second round.

Thatcher, weakened by her worse-than-expected showing, dropped out, and Major and Douglas Hurd joined in. The second round result was: Major 185, Heseltine 131, Hurd 56. Major’s lead also did not count as a winning margin, so a third round beckoned. However, at this point Heseltine and Hurd judged that they lacked the support to win and dropped out, and no other candidate came forward.

Major was declared the winner unopposed. Just like Brown.

Although there is one notable difference: Major only had the support of 185 of his party’s MPs (just under half); but Brown was nominated by 313 Labour MPs (89%). So the comparison reflects well on Brown – as, indeed, do many other Major-Brown comparisons.

Anyone still awake?

1 comment:

James said...

Yep still awake. I'd forgotten quite how the Major election had happened thanks for the reminder