The 1966 general election was the third constitutionally mandated election held in the Republic of England, conducted on May 1st, 1966. The election featured the first true two-party election in the country's history - the governing coalition of various factions under Prime Minister Charles Morgan was challenged, and defeated, by a strong, focused Labour Party led by Donald Sutcliffe that took a small majority of seats in Parliament and thereby ousted the Morgan regime that had governed effectively unchallenged since the provisional Parliament was formed in 1957.
The election was significant in that it brought a more liberal, left-wing approach to the ongoing Reconstruction, began the process of turning the Republic of England into a two-party parliamentary state and brought out the highest voter turnout in English history until the 1990 election. It also elevated a Jewish man as the head of government and state in an industrialized, Western country for the first time in history, as Sutcliffe came from a primarily Jewish family.
The 1966 election was preceded by the 1960 and '63 general elections, which did not feature any real partisan politics and in which most candidates had run unopposed. Charles Morgan, the architect of the 1957-60 Provisional Government and the Constitution, had largely been ceded enormous powers by the Parliament and his Cabinet typically deferred decisions to Morgan.
Morgan had begun to drift closer and closer to the right wing of Parliament during the early 1960's after his liberal, progressive Constitution had been enacted into law, signing away massive contracts through the Phoenix Program to private companies, typicall American or Scottish businesses. The economic vacuum that was England during this period was attribtued to the violent Anarchy, but by the mid-1960's many citizens were frustrated that the beleaugered Reconstruction wasn't doing more and criticized the fact that England was still, developmentally, considerably behind neighboring countries, in particular thriving Ireland.
The Labour Party was formed in 1964 by the chief of the English Judaic Council, Donald Sutcliffe, an expatriate during the Anarchy who had returned from Palestine and ratcheted efforts to get wealthy and skilled Jews to immigrate to England in search of opportunity in the rebuilding country. Sutcliffe's platform was relatively centrist, but also encouraged the Parliament to take direct action, and thus responsibility, for the Phoenix Program. He campaigned vigorously throughout 1965 while Morgan and his allies largely ignored him and signed the landmark Mutual Defense Act of 1965 with the United States, guaranteeing a permanent American presence on English soil as part of the Cold War. The MDA was enormously unpopular and helped boost Sutcliffe entering the winter and early spring of 1965.
The Parliament in 1966 only had 400 seats - it would not expand to its current level of 601 until 1977. Out of 400 seats, the Labour Party won 250 against 150 held by a variety of other candidates and MPs. Charles Morgan was able to hold onto his own constituency but lost the Premiership and the majority (although there was no concept of a majority earlier). When the new government was formed on May 4th, Sutcliffe was chosen as its new Prime Minister, making him the second PM under the new Constitution and the first Jewish man to hold such a high office in history.
Aftermath and Impact
Morgan would resign from his seat in 1968 due to his disappointment in the early formation of the Whig Party, led by a conservative, right-wing politician named Eustace Minor whom he had clashed with numerous times in the early 1960's. Morgan predicted that the Whigs and Labour Party would never achieve a successful government in England due to the inevitably of partisan rancor and retired shortly thereafter, passing away in 1971.
Sutcliffe would lead the Labour-dominated government through the second phase of Reconstruction, in which the government expanded its role in the economy and rebuilding efforts. His popularity quickly eroded, however, when the weak English banking system, which was reliant on foreign capital, collapsed during the Japanese banking crisis of the early 1970's and the weak United States economy at the same time. The government was forced to cut dozens of major projects and lay off thousands of employees who relied on the English government for work - Eustace Minor and the Whigs defeated Sutcliffe soundly in 1972.
The 1966 elections are considered by historians as a great example of how a focused, widespread campaign with a clear message can topple entrenched politicians. Sutcliffe accurately pointed out that many of the men in Morgan's government had been members of the Socialist regime from the 1940's and that several of them had fought in the EWA. He also inspired a sentiment of responsibility for the Phoenix Program - by staking his name to the success of the economy, his political fortunes would thus respond likewise. The elections also established the early formation of the English two-party system, which would truly come to fruition in 1972, and be made permanent in 1977 thanks to constitutional reform. The flaws of the system would be made evident in the 1980's, when between 1981 and 1990, every general election brought a new majority to power - in other words, Parliament changed hands in '81, '84, '87 and '90.