The English general election of 1996 was held on Sunday, May 5, 1996 to elect all 601 members of the House of Commons. Going into the election, the incumbent Conservatives led by John Cleese held 479 seats against 122 Labour seats. Labour had won a net two seats in by-elections held in the intervening years since the 1993 elections.
The elections were held during the 1995-96 English recession, and from November of 1995 until April of 1996 Labour led the Conservative Party in the polls by a few percentages. Most prognosticators agreed the result would be close and that the Tories would lose heavily in Northern England, Wales, Cornwall and Sussex. In the spring of 1996, however, the recession worsened when Scottish dictator Sean Connery abruptly ended oil and gas sales to England on March 28 and dramatically ordered all pipelines closed shortly thereafter. While the spike in costs and deepening economic crisis suggested a looming loss for Cleese, the Prime Minister's ability to stoke nationalist sentiments against Scotland and his substantial seat advantage in Parliament protected him from heavy losses despite Labour leading in the polls until the final week of April.
Labour, despite winning its then second-highest seat total in history in gaining 121 seats, was unable to unseat the Tories, who despite the loss had a total of 358 seats and thus able to form a simple majority government. The election continued a series of frustrations for Labour - first the landslide loss of power in 1990, then the landslide reelection in 1993 of the Cleese government, and finally a resounding victory in total seats gained that was not equally reflected in the polls and was unable to net them a majority.