"One more heave" was a slogan used by British Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe during the October 1974 general election and a phrase used (sometimes pejoratively) to describe the political strategy of John Smith, leader of the Labour Party from July 1992 until his death in May 1994.

Liberal Party

Jeremy Thorpe became leader of the Liberal Party in January 1967. The 1970 general election was disappointing as the Liberals lost six of their twelve seats in the House of Commons. But in the February 1974 general election, they increased their number of MPs to 14 and won over 6 million votes (19.3%), their best result in terms of seats since 1945 and in terms of the percentage of the popular vote won since 1929. The governing Conservative Party, led by Prime Minister Edward Heath, had won four fewer seats than Labour under Harold Wilson. Heath did not immediately resign, however, instead entering negotiations with Thorpe and the Ulster Unionist Party to form a coalition government. Thorpe, never enthusiastic about supporting the Conservatives, demanded major electoral reforms in exchange for such an agreement. Unwilling to accept such terms, Heath resigned and Wilson returned for his second spell as Prime Minister. As Wilson did not have an overall majority, he was widely expected to call another election before too long; he did so in September 1974.[1]

Thorpe anticipated a turning point in the Liberals' fortunes and campaigned under the slogan "one more heave",[1][2][3] aiming for a complete breakthrough with entering a coalition a last resort.[4] The phrase is attributed to advertising agent and Liberal parliamentary candidate Adrian Slade.[5] The slogan was memorable, but considered uninspiring. Future Liberal Party leader David Steel called the whole campaign "a slightly less successful re-run of February."[4][6]

In the October general election, the Liberals received over 700,000 fewer votes and returned 13 MPs, down one. The result was a great disappointment to Thorpe and marked the beginning of the end of his tenure as leader. He was ousted as Liberal leader in May 1976 after the Thorpe affair, which concerned his alleged homosexual relationship with Norman Scott and the shooting of Scott's dog by a hired gunman. Thorpe was later tried and acquitted of conspiracy and incitement to murder, but lost his seat at the 1979 general election.[1]

David Dutton wrote in A History of the Liberal Party since 1900: "By adopting the phrase 'one more heave', the party tried to encourage the belief that its ambitions were eminently realizable [sic]. In practice, however, the task of retaining the fickle support that had been attracted in February, while at the same time persuading another substantial tranche of voters to desert their traditional preferences, was enormous. Even an extra 5 per cent of the total vote, evenly distributed across the country, would only have produced six extra MPs."[7]

Labour Party

Ahead of the 1992 general election, the Conservatives were campaigning for a fourth straight election victory, having recently replaced Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister with John Major. But with Labour consistently albeit narrowly ahead, with the economy approaching recession and the Conservatives racked by internal divisions, Labour under Neil Kinnock were expected to win. However, the Conservatives confounded the polls and won the election, receiving the most votes at any general election in history, although they returned only 10 more MPs than they needed for a majority. Kinnock announced his resignation and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John Smith was elected to succeed him in July 1992.[8]

Under Smith, Labour adopted what many saw as a cautious approach, seeking to avoid controversy and win the next election by capitalising on the unpopularity of the Conservative government.[9] This approach was dubbed, sometimes pejoratively, "one more heave".[8][10][11] It exasperated some, with the Fabian Society saying in 1993 that "one more heave" meant doing nothing, changing nothing and "sleepwalking to oblivion".[9] Labour "modernisers" like Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson considered such an approach too timid and were critical of it in private and later.[11][12][13][14][15]

However, others argued that this is an unfair description of Smith's approach. Former cabinet minister and former Labour Deputy Leader Roy Hattersley wrote in 1997 that Smith was "determined to modernise the party. But he wanted to bring the old principles up to date, not to replace them. He looked for intellectual improvements not ideological alternatives."[16]

The electoral success of such an approach was never tested as Smith died of a heart attack in 1994. Blair won the subsequent leadership election; he and Brown re-branded the party New Labour and then won the 1997 general election in a landslide. Labour strategist Peter Hyman wrote in his memoirs in 2005, "I could sense too, and share, the exasperation that some had for the 'one more heave' strategy that John Smith employed, the assumption that if Labour held tight it would win next time round. I think he was right, we would have won, but to sustain us in power and lock out the Tories, possibly for a generation, required far more brutal changes."[13]

Numerous political commentators used the phrase (often disparagingly) when writing about potential Labour Party electoral strategy following the 2017 general election.[17][18][19][20][21] The term has also been used to refer to the leadership style of party leader Jeremy Corbyn[22] and his successor Keir Starmer.[23]


  1. ^ a b c Julian Glover (20 May 2012). "Jeremy Thorpe, 1929-2014". Liberal History. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  2. ^ Peter Black (30 September 2007). "Great election slogans". Peter Black's Blog. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  3. ^ Peter Joyce (1999). Realignment of the Left? A History of the Relationship between the Liberal Democrat and Labour Parties. MacMillan Press Ltd. p. 235. ISBN 9781349143535. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  4. ^ a b David Torrance (18 September 2012). David Steel: Rising Hope to Elder Statesman. Biteback Publishing. ISBN 9781849544665. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  5. ^ Duncan Brack (11 September 2013). The Dictionary of Liberal Quotations. Biteback Publishing. ISBN 9781849546553. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  6. ^ Julian Glover; Patrick Wintour (4 February 2005). "Winners and losers". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  7. ^ David Dutton (26 April 2013). A History of the Liberal Party since 1900. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781137141347. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  8. ^ a b Paul Richards (4 April 2012). "The worst loss of all". Progress. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  9. ^ a b Stephen Pollard (27 June 2001). "A safe pair of hands is the last thing Conservatives need". The Telegraph. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  10. ^ Michael White (28 March 2007). "Will he or won't he?". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  11. ^ a b Stephen Driver (2011). Understanding British Party Politics. Polity Press. pp. 86–87. ISBN 9780745640778. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  12. ^ Roy Hattersley (24 April 1999). "Books: Opportunist in blue socks". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2022-05-24. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  13. ^ a b Peter Hyman (2005). One Out of Ten: From Downing Street Vision to Classroom Reality. Vintage. p. 48. ISBN 9780099477471. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  14. ^ John Rentoul (15 October 2001). Tony Blair: Prime Minister. Faber and Faber. ISBN 9780571299874. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  15. ^ Andrew Grice (13 May 2005). "Andrew Grice: The Week in Politics". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2022-05-24. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  16. ^ Mark Stuart (2012). Timothy Heppell (ed.). Leaders of the Opposition: From Churchill to Cameron. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 162. ISBN 9780230369009. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  17. ^ Billington, Polly (13 June 2017). "One more heave? Taking the 64 seats to put Labour back in power". LabourList. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  18. ^ Rawnsley, Andrew (2 July 2017). "Will one more heave be enough to get Jeremy Corbyn to Number 10?". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  19. ^ Cadywould, Charlie (3 July 2017). "Why Labour will need more than just "one more heave" to take power". New Statesman. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  20. ^ Sowemimo, Matthew (22 September 2017). "Why "one more heave" won't be enough to win Labour power". New Statesman. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  21. ^ "Labour's route to Downing Street". The Economist. 23 September 2017. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  22. ^ Chorley, Matt (24 September 2018). "Have we reached peak Jeremy Corbyn?". The Times. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  23. ^ Rentoul, John (2021-09-18). "Starmer may have John Smith's style – but he faces stronger opposition". The Independent. Retrieved 2022-06-20.