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The 1951 General Election

October 25th, 1951

A Parliament which excluded women and had uncontested seats would be true for much of British history but that this was the case when the country went to the polls fifty years ago may come as a shock. Women could not sit in the House of Lords and the campaign was fought differently too.

The 1951 general election marked the end of six years of Labour government. The landslide majority of 1945 had been reduced to five in 1950. On September 19th, the Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, asked for a dissolution. Later that day he announced on the radio that an election would take place on October 25th. This was the first time a prime minister had called an election in this way. Previously a statement had been made to Parliament or issued to the press from 10 Downing Street.

On October 4th, a pre-election service was held in St Paul’s Cathedral and attended by the party leaders. Similar services were held in several constituencies and were seen as an appropriate way to open the campaign. Nominations closed on October 15th. Each candidate was required to pay a deposit (£150). This was returned if the candidate secured more than one eighth of the total votes cast. But the parties did not contest all the seats. The Conservatives did not stand in the three Welsh seats held by the Liberals, nor in five other constituencies. 

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