Flashback to 1992 when Kinnock failed to overcome Major obstacle

Former Prime Minister John Major at the Aquatics Centre, London.

Former Prime Minister John Major at the Aquatics Centre, London. - Credit: PA

The General Election is May is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in recent history. In the latest of her series looking back at some of the significant elections since the second world war, political editor Annabelle Dickson looks back at the 1992 election, when against all odds the Conservatives clung onto power under John Major.

April 1992 election EDP front page

April 1992 election EDP front page - Credit: Archant

The Conservatives won their fourth election in a row under John Major in 1992 in another 'surprise' election.

Despite the climate of economic woes, voters were not prepared to back a new party. Mr Major's predecessor Margaret Thatcher had many enemies at the end of her long reign.

Voters had taken to the streets to riot about her poll tax and high interest rates also saw her popularity with home owners and businesses fade.

Conservative divisions over European integration also divided the Conservative Party, eventually seeing her forced to resign after failing to see off Michael Heseltine.

Embargoed to 0001 Monday March 3File photo dated 02/10/1985 ofLabour leader Neil Kinnock in a second

Embargoed to 0001 Monday March 3File photo dated 02/10/1985 ofLabour leader Neil Kinnock in a second passsionate speech to conference. Mr Kinnock declared that it would be "utterly dishonest" to pledge that a future Labour government would repay all the court fines incurred by the Miners Union in its year-long strike. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday March 3, 2014. The miners' strike started in Yorkshire in early March 1984 and within days half the country's mineworkers had walked out in protest at pit closures. Most of the UK's 190,000 miners were soon embroiled in a daily routine of picketing outside collieries, most of which had ground to a halt. During the strike, an estimated 20,000 people were injured or admitted to hospital, including NUM leader Arthur Scargill, while around 200 served time in prison or custody. Two men were killed on picket lines. The strike began after an announcement by National Coal Board chairman Ian MacGregor that four million tonnes of capacity, leading to a loss o - Credit: PA

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But despite the Tory turmoil, the Conservatives still managed to win.

'John Major benefits from not being Mrs Thatcher,' John Charmley, British history expert at the University of East Anglia said.

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'In a way he takes some of the heat out of the anti-Tory vote – those who wanted to vote against Mrs Thatcher,' he said.

But in the lead up to polling day, the Conservative victory was not the likely outcome. Labour was expected to win by a narrow margin, or for there to be a hung parliament.

'The picture is very much dominated by the failure of Neil Kinnock to make the impact – there could well be a parallel with Mr Miliband,' said Prof Charmley.

'It seems clear the major factor here is not Mr Major, but Neil Kinnock himself. He just goes through an election campaign in which nobody really believes he is a prime minister in waiting.'

Mr Major took to the streets with his soap box and drew on his Brixton roots, while Labour highlighted long NHS waiting lists under the Tories.

As the prospect of a hung parliament loomed large amid neck-and-neck polls, speculation about potential coalitions was rife, with the Liberal Democrats making it clear a change to the electorial system to proportional representation was needed for their support.

The Conservatives won 336 seats to Labour's 271 seats, with the Liberal Democrats winning 20 seats and 17.8pc of the votes.

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