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Could UK's last December election in 1923 be portentous for Boris Johnson?

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By Rachael Kennedy
Could UK's last December election in 1923 be portentous for Boris Johnson?

British MPs have voted to back a general election on December 12 in what would be the first December election since 1923.

In both these ballots, Conservative prime ministers have looked to strengthen their leaderships after inheriting the role from early resigning predecessors — but it is the result from the former that the current PM would like to avoid.

Stanley Baldwin became the UK's prime minister in 1923 after Andrew Bonar Law was diagnosed with terminal throat cancer and resigned from the post in May of that year.

The UK at the time was rife with high unemployment and was dealing with ongoing issues in a post-war economy.

Baldwin, who saw an answer in reforms and an introduction of trade tariffs on imports, decided to call an election on December 6 to secure his mandate.

While it led to the Conservatives winning the most seats, the plan ultimately backfired on Baldwin after his opposition — the Labour Party and the Liberals — won enough seats between them to cause a hung parliament.

Baldwin's Conservatives won 258 seats in the election, which is 51 seats shy of the 309 seats necessary to command an overall majority.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party won 191 seats, and the Liberals 158.

Despite this blow to his leadership, the prime minister did not resign immediately and instead continued to try and govern the country.

But in January 1924, MPs voted against the King's Speech — which opens a new parliamentary session by setting out the government's priorities — and all but ended his premiership.

It eventually went on to see the Labour Party rule with a minority government along with the UK's first Labour prime minister, Ramsay MacDonald, at the helm.

It is also interesting to note that Ramsey's premiership didn't last long. A vote of no confidence in his government was carried by a large majority, leading to another election in October 1924 - which was won by the Conservatives. 

The UK's current Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who took the role after his predecessor Theresa May resigned in July, will look to avoid history repeating itself as he seeks a mandate amid the country's ongoing Brexit woes.