The 1997 general election
25 March 2017 — 4 June 2017
Time 10:00 - 17:00
Duration 7 hours
Cost In order to keep our exhibitions programme affordable to everyone, please make a donation. Suggested donation £3
The 1997 general election was a unique moment in Britain’s modern democratic history. It saw a rebranded ‘New’ Labour Party end 18 years of Conservative government. With a 179 seat majority in the House of Commons, the election laid the foundations for an unprecedented 13 years in office for the party.
Yet in 1992 experts said Britain had become a one-party state: after losing four elections in a row Labour was finished as a party of power. Within five years however, Tony Blair proved them wrong and led the party to office on the back of one of its biggest ever victories.
Such was the optimism of the time, when Blair asked on the morning of 2 May 1997 when the scale of Labour’s victory was fully apparent, ‘A new dawn has broken, has it not?’, many believed a New Britain was really about to be built.
Blair claimed this would be a Britain based on fairness but also economic efficiency, one fully consistent with Labour’s ideals. Critics however argued that the price of this reversal of electoral fortunes was Blair’s abandonment of the party’s basic tenets, such as Clause Four of its constitution. He had, they claimed, transformed Labour into a pale echo of the Conservatives. That was certainly the view of Jeremy Corbyn, then a backbench MP.
The exhibition will explore this vital but controversial moment in Britain’s democratic history, helping visitors reflect on the issues it raises and explore an election that feels much further away than just two decades in the past.
Suitable for all ages
Sent out approximately every two months.