Periods of warfare-that is to say of violence, brutality and general mayhem-are often followed by outbreaks of tender idealism whose most common symptom is the vision of a fairer society. As in 1918, with ‘a fit country for heroes to live in’, so in 1945, when the Labour party was closely associated with hopes for better housing and a welfare state. In consequence the election result no longer seems even mildly surprising. Indeed it has been said that, by the time of the campaign, Labour did not have to win the election but merely avoid losing it. Perhaps the only puzzle, given recent historical accounts, is that Attlee’s Labour party, while admittedly achieving a great victory with 61 per cent of seats and an overall majority of 146, won only 47.8 per cent of total votes cast.