Letter: More votes mean less for Mr Major

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The Independent Online
Sir: Why do government ministers think it helps their beleaguered leader to keep claiming that John Major achieved a record Tory vote at the last election?

His actual score was 41.9 per cent of the total UK vote, compared with an average of 42.9 per cent for Margaret Thatcher's three victories, 46.4 per cent for Edward Heath (1970), 49.4 per cent for Harold Macmillan (1959), 49.7 per cent for Anthony Eden (1955) and 48.0 per cent for Winston Churchill (1951). We have to go back to 1922, when Stanley Baldwin won with 38.5 per cent, for a Tory victory based on a smaller share of the votes cast.

However, the actual votes cast for each party have gone up as the total electorate has increased, which enables Mr Major's supporters to say he won more votes than any predecessor. But what are they implying? Is he a mixture of a medical wonder-man and a super-dad, personally responsible for all those longer lives and extra births that have increased the number of voters, a smaller proportion of whom supported him than any other recent Tory prime minister?

Yours faithfully,



30 March