The General Election of 1992: Another Victory for the Blue Muffins

By Mullen, Richard | Contemporary Review, May 1992 | Go to article overview

The General Election of 1992: Another Victory for the Blue Muffins


Mullen, Richard, Contemporary Review


At ten in the evening of 9 April, most people in Britain settled down in front of television to watch the election returns. The results afforded one great satisfaction to almost every viewer: the pollster and the pundis were shown to be totally wrong in their predictions. There was as great a race between the two television empires as there had been between rival political candidates. Yet television rivalry is kinder than the political variety: both the BBC and ITN (Independent Television News) could claim victory. More people watched the BBC coverage, but ITN's was quicker with its exit poll.

The returns were slow to come in because a beautiful spring day had produced a turnout of almost 78 per cent. Both BBC and ITN exit polls predicted a |hung Parliament'. Their computers confirmed the opinion polls of the last week. But the two television companies' exit polls also indicated one surprising forecast: the Conservations would have the most MPs even though they would still lack an overall majority.

The pundits began to speculate about possible coaltions: what would the Ulster Unionsists demand to support the Tories. Would the Liberal Democrats insist on their scheme of proportional representation as the price for supporting Labour? Suddenly in the midst of all this waffle, reality came down to earth: Mrs. Thatcher was landing at Heathrow, back from an American lecture tour. Reporters scurried to the Concorde lounge. |Mrs. Thatcher, Mrs. Thatcher, what will happen in a hung Parliament situation (six)?' As so often, she told them exactly what they did not want to hear. Quoting Mark Twain, she warned: |Never prophesy about the future'.

Once again, as so often in her political life, she was right. Within an hour or two all the expensive television gimmickry began to show a steady increase in Tory victories. The first real sign came with the first few results. We have heard much in these last few years of |Essex Man'. This is a term of contempt among the intellectual elite of London. |Essex Man' symbolises all those former Labour voters who rallied to Mrs. Thatcher in the 1980s. They were the people who for the first time earned enough money to enjoy life. |Essex Man' and |Essex Woman' did horrible things: they preferred to improve their kitchens rather than spend their money on the latest turgid novel from Mr. Salman Rushdie. They even refused to agonise over his latest lecture to the British nation. Many a metropolitan dinner party resounded with eloquent denunciations of the |greed and materialism' of these vulgar upstarts.

One of the first returns on election night came from Essex itself: Basildon, a fortress of |Essex Man'. The pundits and pollsters had announced that the |C2s'--their current jargon for skilled workers or |Essex Men'--would return to their ancestral allegiance to Labour. Basildon, like many other newly prosperous town in the Southeast, has suffered greatly from the recession and from high unemployment in the last few years. In a desperate effort to save the Basildon seat, Tory Central Office had been forced -- with obvious displeasure -- to call upon Mrs. Thatcher to campaign there. The pollsters and the pundits assured us that even she could not save the seat. Yet the count showed the Tories had held the seat by a majority of 1,480.

By the time most people stumbled bleary-eyed to their beds in the small hours of Friday morning, the Tories had won an absolute majority. By midday on Friday, the final results were clear:

                 MAJOR PARTIES
                          Seats   gains   losses   Popular vote
Conservatives              336     10       44     42.8 per cent
Labour                     271     44        5     35.2 per cent
Liberal Democrats           20      4        6     18.3 per cent
                 MINOR PARTIES
Scottish Nationalist         3      0        1
Welsh Nationalist            4      1        0
Unionists (N. 

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