The General Election of May 1997 was a disaster for the Conservative Party. Damaged by claims of sleaze and economic incompetence and divided on Europe, the result was the largest election defeat for the Conservatives for a century. The electorate switched decisively in favour of “New Labour”. The Conservatives won a mere 165 parliamentary seats compared to Labour’s 419. As John Major later wrote: “We should have been popular. Economic buoyancy is the traditional recipe for political recovery. But . . . We had been in offi ce, the public thought, for too long, and the accumulation of political debris over many years was a burden not even a strong economy could erase.”2