Geoffrey Wheatcroft on the (un)fortunes of Gordon Brown:
But then sometimes there are great political sea changes, or shifts of the tectonic plates, to which individual actors are irrelevant, and this may be especially true in modern democracies.
At the 1906 election, and again in 1945, the Tories were swept away. No one attributed this to the personal magnetism of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman or Major Attlee, who were – though both very able men – little more than extras in the great drama. Even when another sea change took place in 1979, the British people had not warmed to Margaret Thatcher – they admired her and thought that she was the right woman for the moment. And there was subsequently a good deal of myth-mongering about the unique personal contribution of Blair in returning Labour to power.
I would take Wheatcroft’s side here and say that 1997 was as much a Conservative defeat than a Labour win. In the same way it is worth asking, to what degree 2001 in Denmark and 2006 in Sweden were Social Democratic losses rather than right-wing wins. The big difference between Sweden on the one hand and Denmark and the UK on the other, is that the Social Democrats and the Conservatives, respectively, stayed in the doldrums for a prolonged period while the Swedish Social Democrats bounced back almost immediately after losing power.