Paul Linford has put a list of great political misjudgements up here- they are all from British politics during the last thirty to forty years. Its a pretty good list and I'd reccomend having a look. His list reinforces to me though some of the conclusions of earlier posts on this blog- politics is ultimately about how you confront issues. Whether its Harold Wilson not devaluing the pound in 1964 or John Major forcing Thatcher into the ERM in 1990, the arguments mattered but it was the caution or inventiveness or decisiveness of politicians that really counted. Timing is crucial. For example bad timing cost the Tories in 1974 and Labour in 1979. Counter factual is always difficult to do in history- but it reinforces something that Matt Sinclair said recently about the way that causation in politics doesn't have a simple pattern, but relies upon the chaotic movement of individual choice and disposition. Its always worth remembering that- and the effect of political misjudgements- because it demonstrates to me that very few of the trends in human society are inevitable.
(The picture is for non-UK readers of Jim Callaghan, the then Prime Minister, telling the Trade Union Congress that there wouldn't be an election in 1978- a year later Margerat Thatcher was Prime Minister and Callaghan's party preparing for 18 years of opposition- 18 years which changed the Labour party completely.)