|Turnout||68.7% ( 2.3%)|
|2005 election • MPs|
|2010 election • MPs|
|2015 election • MPs|
|2017 election • MPs|
The United Kingdom general election of 2017 took place on 8 June 2017. Each of the 650 parliamentary constituencies elected one Member of Parliament (MP) to the House of Commons, the lower house of Parliament. Under the terms of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, an election had not been due until 7 May 2020. However, a call for a snap election by Prime Minister Theresa May was ratified by a 522-to-13 vote in the House of Commons on 19 April 2017.
The Conservative Party (governing since 2010 as a senior coalition partner prior to 2015 and as a majority government thereafter) was defending a majority of 12, against the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn. May had hoped to “strengthen [her] hand in forthcoming Brexit negotiations” with an increased Conservative majority.
Opinion polls had shown consistent leads for the Conservatives over Labour. From a 20-point lead, the Conservatives’ lead began to diminish in the final weeks of the campaign. In a surprising result, the Conservatives made a net loss of 13 seats with 42.4% of the vote, while Labour made a net gain of 30 seats with a 40.0% vote share.
The Conservative Party won its highest vote share since 1983. Securing second place, Labour achieved its greatest share of the vote since 2001, and made a net gain of seats for the first time since 1997. Its 9.6 percentage-point increase in vote share was its largest in a general election since 1945. The result was said to represent a return to two-party politics in the UK. The Scottish National Party, which had won 56 of the 59 Scottish constituencies in 2015, returned with 21 fewer seats. The Liberal Democrats made a net gain of four seats. In Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) won 10 seats, while Sinn Féin won seven. Support for the UK Independence Party, which enjoyed a significant portion of the popular vote in 2015, was largely wiped out.
The election campaign was interrupted by two major terrorist attacks, in Manchester and London, with national security becoming a prominent issue during the latter weeks. Negotiation positions following the UK’s invocation of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union in March 2017 to leave the EU also featured significantly in the campaign, as did the regular major issues of the economy, education, jobs and the National Health Service.
- 1Electoral system
- 2Date of the election
- 3Parties and candidates
- 6Politicians not standing
- 7Opinion polling and seat projections
- 12External links
Electoral system[edit source]
Each parliamentary constituency of the United Kingdom elects one MP to the House of Commons using the “first past the post” system. If one party obtains a majority of seats, then that party is entitled to form the Government, with its leader as Prime Minister. If the election results in no single party having a majority, then there is a hung parliament. In this case, the options for forming the Government are either a minority government or a coalition government.
The postponed Sixth Periodic Review of Westminster constituencies is not due to report until 2018, and therefore this general election took place under existing boundaries, enabling direct comparisons with the results by constituency in 2015.
Voting eligibility[edit source]
- on the Electoral Register;
- aged 18 or over on polling day;
- a British, Irish or Commonwealth citizen;
- a resident at an address in the UK (or a British citizen living abroad who has been registered to vote in the UK in the last 15 years),[n 5] and;
- not legally excluded from voting (for example a convicted person detained in prison or a mental hospital, or unlawfully at large if he/she would otherwise have been detained, or a person found guilty of certain corrupt or illegal practices) or disqualified from voting (peers sitting in the House of Lords).
Individuals had to be registered to vote by midnight twelve working days before polling day (22 May). Anyone who qualified as an anonymous elector had until midnight on 31 May to register.[n 6] A person who has two homes (such as a university student who has a term-time address and lives at home during holidays) may be registered to vote at both addresses, as long as they are not in the same electoral area, but can vote in only one constituency at the general election.
On 18 May, The Independent reported that more than 1.1 million people between 18 and 35 had registered to vote since the election was announced on 18 April. Of those, 591,730 were under the age of 25.
Date of the election[edit source]
The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 introduced fixed-term Parliaments to the United Kingdom, with elections scheduled every five years following the general election on 7 May 2015. This removed the power of the Prime Minister, using the royal prerogative, to dissolve Parliament before its five-year maximum length. The Act permits early dissolution if the House of Commons votes by a supermajority of two-thirds of the entire membership of the House.
On 18 April 2017, the Prime Minister Theresa May announced she would seek an election on 8 June, despite previously ruling out an early election. A House of Commons motion to allow this was passed on 19 April, with 522 votes for and 13 against, a majority of 509, meeting the required two-thirds majority. The motion was supported by the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens while the SNP abstained. Nine Labour MPs, one SDLP MP and three independents (Sylvia Hermon and two former SNP MPs, Natalie McGarry and Michelle Thomson) voted against the motion.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn supported the early election, as did Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron and the Green Party. The SNP stated that it was in favour of fixed-term parliaments, and would abstain in the House of Commons vote. UKIP leader Paul Nuttall and First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones criticised May for being opportunistic in the timing of the election, motivated by the then strong position of the Conservative Party in the opinion polls.
On 25 April, the election date was confirmed as 8 June, with dissolution on 3 May. The government announced that it intended for the next parliament to assemble on 13 June, with the state opening on 19 June.
|18 April||Prime Minister Theresa May announced her intention to hold a snap election|
|19 April||MPs voted to dissolve Parliament|
|22 April||Start of purdah|
|25 April||Royal Proclamation under section 2(7) of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, 2011 issued by HM The Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister|
|27 April||Second session of Parliament prorogued|
|3 May||Formal dissolution of Parliament (in order for the election to take place on 8 June) and official start of ‘short’ campaigning|
|3 May||Royal Proclamation was issued summoning a new UK Parliament|
|4 May||Local elections (were already scheduled, and are not part of the general election)|
|11 May||Deadline (4pm) for the delivery of candidate nomination papers|
|11 May||Deadline (5pm) for the publication of Statements of Persons Nominated (or 4 pm on 12 May if objections were received)|
|11 May||Earliest date returning officers can issue poll cards and postal ballot packs|
|22 May||Last day the public was able to register to vote (unless an anonymous elector)|
|23 May||Deadline (5pm) to apply for a postal vote/postal proxy vote|
|31 May||Deadline (5pm) to apply for a proxy vote, and last day to register to vote as an anonymous elector[n 6]|
|8 June||Polling day (polling stations opened at 7 am and closed at 10 pm or once voters present in a queue at/outside the polling station at 10 pm have cast their vote).Counting of votes started no later than 2 am on 9 June.|
|13 June||Parliament re-assembles|
|19 June||Planned State Opening of Parliament (postponed)|
Parties and candidates[edit source]
Most candidates were representatives of a political party registered with the Electoral Commission. Candidates not belonging to a registered party could use an “independent” label, or no label at all.
The leader of the party commanding a majority of support in the House of Commons is the person who is called on by the monarch to form a government as Prime Minister, while the leader of the largest party not in government becomes the Leader of the Opposition. Other parties also form shadow ministerial teams. The leaders of the SNP and Plaid Cymru are not MPs; hence, they appoint separate leaders in the House of Commons.
The Conservative Party and the Labour Party have been the two biggest parties since 1922, and have supplied all Prime Ministers since 1935. Both parties changed their leader since the 2015 election. David Cameron, who had been the leader of the Conservative Party since 2005 and Prime Minister since 2010, was replaced in July 2016 by Theresa May following the referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union. Jeremy Corbyn replaced Ed Miliband as Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition in September 2015, and was re-elected leader in September 2016.
While the Liberal Democrats and their predecessors had long been the third-largest party in British politics, they returned only 8 MPs in 2015 – 49 fewer than at the previous election. Tim Farron became the Liberal Democrat leader in July 2015, following the resignation of Nick Clegg. Led by First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP stand only in Scotland and won 56 of 59 Scottish seats in 2015. UKIP, then led by Nigel Farage, who was later replaced by Diane James and then by Paul Nuttall in 2016, won 12.7% of the vote in 2015 but gained only one MP, Douglas Carswell, who left the party in March 2017 to sit as an independent. After securing 3.8% of the vote and one MP in the previous general election, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett was succeeded by joint leaders Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley in September 2016.
A number of parties that contested the previous election chose not to stand candidates, including Mebyon Kernow, the Communist Party of Britain, the Scottish Socialist Party and the National Front.
- Northern Ireland
In Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Sinn Féin, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), and the Alliance Party contested the 2017 election. Sinn Féin maintained its abstentionist policy. The DUP, Sinn Féin, SDLP, UUP and APNI were all led by new party leaders, changed since the 2015 election. The Conservatives, Greens and four other minor parties also stood. Despite contesting 10 seats last time, UKIP did not stand in Northern Ireland.
3,304 candidates stood for election, down from 3,631 in the previous general election. The Conservatives stood in 637 seats, Labour in 631 (including jointly with the Co-operative Party in 50) and the Liberal Democrats in 629. UKIP stood in 377 constituencies, down from 624 in 2015, while the Greens stood in 468, down from 573. The SNP contested all 59 Scottish seats and Plaid Cymru stood in all 40 Welsh seats. In Great Britain 183 candidates stood as independents; minor parties including the Christian Peoples Alliance which contested 31 seats, the Yorkshire Party which stood in 21, the Official Monster Raving Loony Party in 12, the British National Party in 10, the Pirate Party in 10, the English Democrats in 7, the Women’s Equality Party in 7, the Social Democratic Party in 6, the National Health Action Party in 5 and the Workers Revolutionary Party in 5, while an additional 79 candidates stood for 46 other registered political parties.
In Wales, 213 candidates stood for election. Labour, Conservatives, Plaid Cymru, and Liberal Democrats contested all forty seats and there were 32 UKIP and 10 Green candidates. In Scotland the SNP, the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats stood in all 59 seats while UKIP contested 10 seats and the Greens only 3.
Of the 109 candidates in Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin, the SDLP and the Alliance contested all 18 seats; the DUP stood in 17, the UUP in 14 and the Conservatives and Greens stood in 7 each. People Before Profit and the Workers’ Party contested two seats while Traditional Unionist Voice and the new Citizens Independent Social Thought Alliance stood in one each; four independents including incumbent Sylvia Hermon also stood.
Party selection processes[edit source]
Unlike in previous elections, the timetable of the snap election required parties to select candidates in just under three weeks, to meet the 11 May deadline.
For the Conservatives, local associations in target seats were offered a choice of three candidates by the party’s headquarters from an existing list of candidates, without inviting applications; candidates in non-target seats were to be appointed directly[clarification needed]; and MPs were to be confirmed by a meeting of their local parties. Labour required sitting MPs to express their intention to stand, automatically re-selecting those that did. Labour advertised for applications from party members for all remaining seats by 23 April. Having devolved selections to its Scottish and Welsh parties, Labour’s National Executive Committee endorsed all parliamentary candidates on 3 May except for Rochdale, the seat of suspended MP Simon Danczuk. On 7 May Steve Rotheram announced he was standing down as MP for Liverpool Walton following his election as Liverpool City Region mayor, leaving five days to appoint a candidate by close of nominations.
The SNP confirmed on 22 April that its 54 sitting MPs would be re-selected and that its suspended members Natalie McGarry and Michelle Thomson would not be nominated as SNP candidates; the party subsequently selected candidates for McGarry’s and Thomson’s former seats as well as for the three Scottish constituencies they did not win in 2015. The Liberal Democrats had already selected 326 candidates in 2016 and over 70 in 2017 before the election was called. Meetings of local party members from UKIP, the Greens and Plaid Cymru selected their candidates. Parties in Northern Ireland were not believed to have already selected candidates due to the Assembly elections in March.
High-profile candidates[edit source]
Ken Clarke, the Father of the House of Commons, had said he would retire in 2020, but opted to stand again in the 2017 election. Former Conservative employment minister Esther McVey was selected to contest Tatton and Zac Goldsmith was adopted as the Conservative candidate for Richmond Park, having lost the 2016 by-election as an independent after previously serving as the constituency’s Conservative MP since 2010.
After coming second in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election earlier in the year, UKIP leader Paul Nuttall announced he would contest Boston and Skegness. Tony Lloyd, a former Labour MP for Manchester Central who served as Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner from 2012 and interim Mayor of Greater Manchester since 2015, was selected to contest Rochdale. The former Labour MP Simon Danczuk stood as an independent candidate, after being banned from standing as a Labour candidate and leaving the party.
A number of former Liberal Democrat ministers who were defeated in 2015 stood for election in their former seats including Vince Cable in Twickenham, Ed Davey in Kingston and Surbiton, Jo Swinson in East Dunbartonshire, and Simon Hughes in Bermondsey and Old Southwark. After David Ward, the former MP for Bradford East, was dropped as a candidate by the Liberal Democrats for anti-semitism, he ran as an independent in his former seat.
Electoral alliances and arrangements[edit source]
Ahead of the general election, crowdfunding groups such as More United and Open Britain were formed to promote candidates of similar views standing for election, and a “progressive alliance” was proposed. Former UKIP donor Arron Banks suggested a “patriotic alliance” movement. Tactical voting to keep the Conservatives out of government was suggested on social media. Gina Miller, who took the government to court over Article 50, set out plans to tour marginal constituencies in support of pro-EU candidates.
Within a few days of the election being announced, the Green Party and the SNP each proposed to collaborate with Labour and the Liberal Democrats to prevent a Conservative majority government. Lib Dem leader Tim Farron quickly reaffirmed his party’s opposition to an electoral pact or coalition with Labour, citing “electorally toxic” Corbyn and concerns over Labour’s position on Brexit. On 22 April the Liberal Democrats also ruled out a coalition deal with the Conservatives and SNP. Labour ruled out an electoral pact with the SNP, Liberal Democrats and Greens.
Notwithstanding national arrangements, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and UKIP indicated they might not stand in every constituency. The Green Party chose not to contest 22 seats in England and Wales explicitly “to increase the chance of a progressive candidate beating the Conservatives”, including in South West Surrey, the seat of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, in favour of the National Health Action Party candidate. The Scottish Greens contested just three constituencies. The Liberal Democrats agreed to stand down in Brighton Pavilion. After indicating they may not nominate candidates in seats held by strongly pro-Brexit Conservative MPs, UKIP nominated 377 candidates; it was suggested this would help the Conservatives in marginal seats.
In Northern Ireland, there were talks between the DUP and UUP. Rather than a formal pact, the DUP agreed not to contest Fermanagh and South Tyrone, while the UUP chose not to stand in four constituencies. Talks took place between Sinn Féin, the SDLP and the Greens about an anti-Brexit agreement (the Alliance Party were approached but declined to be involved) but no agreement was reached; the Greens said there was “too much distance” between the parties, Sinn Féin’s abstentionist policy was criticised, and the SDLP admitted an agreement was unlikely. On 8 May the SDLP rejected Sinn Féin’s call for them to stand aside in some seats.
Prior to the calling of the general election, the Liberal Democrats gained Richmond Park from the Conservatives in a by-election, a seat characterised by its high remain vote in the 2016 EU referendum. The Conservatives held the safe seat of Sleaford and North Hykeham in December 2016. In by-elections on 23 February 2017, Labour held Stoke-on-Trent Central but lost Copeland to the Conservatives, the first time a governing party had gained a seat in a by-election since 1982.
The general election comes soon after the Northern Ireland Assembly election on 2 March. Talks on power-sharing between the DUP and Sinn Féin had failed to reach a conclusion, with Northern Ireland thus facing either another Assembly election or the imposition of direct rule. The deadline was subsequently extended to 29 June.
Local elections in England, Scotland and Wales took place on 4 May. These saw large gains by the Conservatives, and large losses by Labour and UKIP. Notably, the Conservatives won metro mayor elections in Tees Valley and the West Midlands, areas traditionally seen as Labour heartlands. Initially scheduled for 4 May, a by-election in Manchester Gorton was cancelled; the seat was contested on 8 June along with all the other seats.
On 6 May, a letter from Church of England Archbishops Justin Welby and John Sentamu stressed the importance of “education for all, of urgent and serious solutions to our housing challenges, the importance of creating communities as well as buildings, and a confident and flourishing health service that gives support to all – especially the vulnerable – not least at the beginning and end of life.”
All parties suspended campaigning for a time in the wake of the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing on 22 May. The SNP had been scheduled to release their manifesto for the election but this was delayed. Campaigning resumed on 25 May.
Major political parties also suspended campaigning for a second time on 4 June, following the June 2017 London attack. UKIP chose to continue campaigning. There were calls for the polling date to be postponed, but these were rejected.
The UK’s withdrawal from the European Union was a key issue in the campaign. May said she called the snap election to secure a majority for her Brexit negotiations.UKIP support a “clean, quick and efficient Brexit” and, launching his party’s election campaign, Nuttall stated that Brexit is a “job half done” and UKIP MPs are needed to “see this through to the end”.
Labour had supported Brexit in the previous parliament, but proposed different priorities for negotiations. The Liberal Democrats and Greens called for a deal to keep the UK in the single market and a second referendum on any deal proposed between the EU and the UK.
The Conservative manifesto committed to leaving the single market and customs union but seek a “deep and special partnership” through a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement. It proposed seeking to remain part of some EU programmes where it would “be reasonable that we make a contribution” and stay as a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights over the next parliament and maintain the Human Rights Act during Brexit negotiations. Parliament would be able to amend or repeal EU legislation once converted into UK law, and have a vote on the final agreement.
Two major terrorist attacks took place during the election campaign, with parties arguing about the best way to prevent such events. May, after the second attack, focused on global co-operation to tackle Islamist ideology and tackling the use of the Internet by terrorist groups.[not in citation given] After the first attack, Labour criticised cuts in police numbers under the Conservative government. Corbyn also linked the Manchester attack to British foreign policy. The Conservatives stated that spending on counter-terrorism for both the police and other agencies had risen.
Former Tory strategist Steve Hilton said Theresa May should be “resigning not seeking re-election”, because her police cuts and security failures had led to the attacks.Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn backed calls for May to resign, but said she should be removed by voters. May said that police budgets for counter-terrorism had been maintained and that Corbyn had voted against counter-terrorism legislation.
The Conservative manifesto proposed more government control and regulation of the internet, including forcing internet companies to restrict access to extremist and adult content. After the London attack, Theresa May called for international agreements to regulate the internet. Conservative stances on regulation of internet and social media have been criticised by Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron, the Open Rights Group and some academic experts on radicalisation, Farron likening them to North Korea and China state surveillance and censorship.
On 6 June, May promised longer prison sentences for people convicted of terrorism and restrictions on the freedom of movement or deportation of militant suspects when it is thought they present a threat but there is not enough evidence to prosecute them, stating that she would change human right laws to do so if necessary.
The UK’s nuclear weapons, including the renewal of the Trident system, was also prominent during the campaign. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats favour Trident renewal. The Labour manifesto commits the party to Trident renewal, but Corbyn declined to speak in favour of the renewal. He also declined to answer whether, as Prime Minister, he would ever use nuclear weapons if the UK were under an imminent nuclear threat.
Social care[edit source]
Social care became a major election issue after the Conservative Party’s manifesto included new proposals, which they subsequently changed after criticism. The previous coalition government had commissioned a review by Andrew Dilnot into how to fund social care. Measures that disadvantaged pensioners were also in the Conservative manifesto: eliminating the pension triple lock and Winter Fuel Payments for all pensioners.
Scottish independence and the future of the UK[edit source]
The question of a proposed Scottish independence referendum is also likely to influence the campaign in Scotland. On 28 March 2017, the Scottish Parliament approved a motion for a second independence referendum, suggesting that there had been a “material change” in the terms of the failed independence referendum in 2014 as a result of the UK’s vote to leave the EU. The SNP hopes to hold a second independence referendum once the Brexit terms are clear but before the UK leaves the EU; May has said her government would not approve an independence referendum before Brexit negotiations have finished.
Tuition fees[edit source]
Labour is thought to have attracted a significant number of student voters with its pledge to abolish tuition fees and bring back student grants.
Possible coalitions[edit source]
Although Labour and the Liberal Democrats have both rejected election pacts with each other and with the Greens and the SNP, and although the Liberal Democrats have also ruled out a coalition deal with the Conservatives, the Conservatives campaigned on this theme, using the phrase “coalition of chaos”, Similar messages against a potential Lib-Lab pact are credited with having secured a Conservative win in the 1992 and 2015 elections. On 19 April, May warned against a Labour-SNP-Lib Dem pact that would “divide our country”. However, after the hung result led the Conservatives to seek DUP support for a minority government, May and the Conservatives’ rhetoric was mocked by opponents.
Party campaigns[edit source]
May launched the Conservative campaign with a focus on Brexit, lower domestic taxes and avoiding a Labour-Lib Dem-SNP “coalition of chaos”, but she refused to commit not to raise taxes. On 30 April, May stated that it was her intention to lower taxes if the Conservatives won the general election, but only explicitly ruled out raising VAT.May reiterated her commitment to spending 0.7% of GNI on foreign aid.
Theresa May hired Lynton Crosby, the campaign manager for the Conservatives in the 2015 general election, as well as Barack Obama‘s 2012 campaign manager, Jim Messina. The Conservative campaign was noted for the use of targeted adverts on social media, in particular attacking Corbyn. The repeated use of the phrase “strong and stable” in the Conservatives’ campaigning attracted attention and criticism. Some expressed concern that the party may have restricted media access to the prime minister. While some speculated that an investigation into campaign spending by the Conservatives in the 2015 general election was a factor behind the snap election, on 10 May the Crown Prosecution Service said that despite evidence of inaccurate spending returns, no further action was required.
On 7 May the Conservatives promised to replace the 1983 Mental Health Act, to employ an additional 10,000 NHS mental health workers by 2020 and to tackle discrimination against those with mental health problems. May indicated that the Conservatives would maintain their net immigration target, and promised to implement a cap on “rip-off energy prices”, a policy that appeared in Labour’s 2015 manifesto. May indicated she would permit a free vote among Conservative MPs on repealing the ban on fox hunting in England and Wales. On 11 May the Conservatives promised above-inflation increases in defence spending alongside its NATO commitment to spend at least 2% of GDP on defence.
In a speech in Tynemouth the next day, May said Labour had “deserted” working-class voters, criticised Labour’s policy proposals and said Britain’s future depended on making a success of Brexit. On 14 May the Conservatives proposed a “new generation” of social housing, paid from the existing capital budget, offering funding to local authorities and changing compulsory purchase rules. The following day May promised “a new deal for workers” that would maintain workers’ rights currently protected by the EU after Brexit, put worker representation on company boards, introduce a statutory right to unpaid leave to care for a relative and increase the National Living Wage in line with average earnings until 2022. The proposals were characterised as an “unabashed pitch for Labour voters”; however Labour and the GMB trade union criticised the government’s past record on workers’ rights.
Unveiling the Conservative manifesto in Halifax on 18 May, May promised a “mainstream government that would deliver for mainstream Britain”. It proposed to balance the budget by 2025, raise spending on the NHS by £8bn per year and on schools by £4bn per year by 2022, remove the ban on grammar schools, means-test the winter fuel allowance, replace the state pension “triple lock” with a “double lock” and require executive pay to be approved by a vote of shareholders. It dropped the 2015 pledge to not raise income tax or national insurance contributions but maintained a commitment to freeze VAT. New sovereign wealth funds for infrastructure, rules to prevent foreign takeovers of “critical national infrastructure” and institutes of technology were also proposed. The manifesto was noted for its intervention in industry, lack of tax cuts and increased spending commitments on public services. On Brexit it committed to leaving the single market and customs union while seeking a “deep and special partnership” and promised a vote in parliament on the final agreement. The manifesto was noted for containing similar policies to those found in Labour’s 2015 general election manifesto.
The manifesto also proposed reforms to social care in England that would raise the threshold for free care from £23,250 to £100,000, while include property in the means test and permitting deferred payment after death. After attracting substantial media attention, four days after the manifesto launch May stated that the proposed social care reforms would now include an “absolute limit” on costs in contrast to the rejection of a cap in the manifesto. She criticised the “fake” portrayal of the policy in recent days by Labour and other critics, who had termed it a “dementia tax”. Evening Standard editor George Osborne called the policy change a “U-turn”.
Corbyn launched the Labour campaign focusing on public spending, and argued that services were being underfunded, particularly education. Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer stated that the party would replace the existing Brexit white paper with new negotiating priorities that emphasise the benefits of the single market and customs union, that the residence rights of EU nationals would be guaranteed and that the principle of free movement would have to end. Corbyn emphasised Labour’s support for a “jobs-first Brexit” that “safeguards the future of Britain’s vital industries”.
Labour proposed the creation of four new bank holidays, marking the feast days of the patron saints of the United Kingdom’s constituent nations. On 27 April the party pledged to build 1 million new homes over five years. Labour’s proposal to employ 10,000 new police officers was overshadowed when Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott cited incorrect figures in an LBC interview on how it would be funded. Labour later confirmed that the £300 million cost would be funded by reversing cuts to Capital Gains Tax, although it was noted that the party had also pledged some of those savings towards other expenditure plans.
On 7 May, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell ruled out rises in VAT, and in income tax and employee national insurance contributions for those with earnings below £80,000 per year. The following day Labour outlined plans to ban junk food TV adverts and parking charges at NHS hospitals. Labour promised an additional £4.8 billion for education, funded by raising corporation tax from 19% to 26%.
A draft copy of Labour’s manifesto was leaked to the Daily Mirror and The Daily Telegraph on 10 May. It included pledges to renationalise the National Grid, the railways and the Royal Mail, and create publicly owned energy companies. The draft was noted for including commitments on workers’ rights, a ban on fracking, and the abolition of tuition fees in England. The draft manifesto included a commitment to the Trident nuclear deterrent, but suggested a future government would be “extremely cautious” about using it. The next day Labour’s Clause V meeting endorsed the manifesto after amendments from shadow cabinet members and trade unions present.
In a speech at Chatham House on 12 May, Corbyn set out his foreign policy, saying he would reshape Britain’s foreign relations, avoid the use of nuclear weapons, and while Labour supported Trident renewal he would initiate a defence review in government. Corbyn stated that he would halt all weapons sales from the UK to Saudi Arabia citing the violations of human rights in the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen. After the June 2017 London attack, Corbyn said that a conversation should take place “with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states that have funded and fuelled extremist ideology”.
On 14 May, Labour revealed plans to extend stamp duty by introducing a financial transactions tax, which McDonnell claimed would raise up to £5.6bn per year. The next day Corbyn set out plans to spend £37bn on the NHS in England over a five-year parliament, including £10bn on IT upgrades and building repairs.
Launching its manifesto on 16 May, Labour revealed it would nationalise the water industry, provide 30 hours per week of free childcare for two to four-year-olds, charge companies a levy on annual earnings above £330,000, lower the 45p income tax rate threshold to £80,000 per year, and reintroduce the 50p tax rate for those earning more than £123,000 per year. Labour said it would raise an additional £48.6bn in tax revenue per year and insisted its policies were fully costed, though it was noted no costings were provided for its nationalisation pledges. Compared to the leaked draft, the manifesto was noted for toughening Labour’s position on defence and Trident, confirming that outside the EU free movement would have to end, qualifying support for airport expansion, and clarifying the party’s stance on Israel-Palestine, as well as other changes.After initial confusion, Labour clarified it would not reverse the government’s freeze on most working-age benefits.
In an interview following the manifesto launch, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said victory for Labour in the general election would be “extraordinary” and that winning just 200 seats (compared to 229 seats held at the time) would be a “successful” result; the following morning he clarified he was now “optimistic” about Labour’s chances.
The SNP, keen to maintain its position as the third-largest party in the House of Commons, made the need to protect Scotland’s interests in the Brexit negotiations a central part of its campaign. The SNP manifesto also called for a vote on independence to be held “at the end of the Brexit process”, sets out “anti-austerity” plans to invest £118bn in UK public services over the next five years, pledges to increase the minimum wage to £10 an hour and calls for Scotland to have control over immigration and to remain in the EU single market after Brexit. With the polls closing, Nicola Sturgeon told the Today programme that SNP could support a Labour government “on an issue-by-issue basis” in the event of a hung parliament and that she would be open to forming a “progressive alternative to a Conservative government”.
Liberal Democrats[edit source]
Central themes of the Liberal Democrat campaign were an offer of a second referendum on any eventual Brexit deal and a desire for the UK to stay in the single market. The party reportedly targeted seats which had voted to remain in the EU, such as Twickenham, Oxford West and Abingdon, and Vauxhall. Bob Marshall-Andrews, a Labour MP from 1997 to 2010, announced he would support the Liberal Democrats.
The party reported a surge in membership after the election was called, passing 100,000 on 24 April, having grown by 12,500 in the preceding week. The party also reported raising £500,000 in donations in the first 48 hours after May’s announcement of an early election.
An early issue raised in the campaign was Tim Farron’s views, as a Christian, regarding gay sex and LGBT rights. After declining to state whether he thought gay sex was a sin, Farron affirmed that he believed neither being gay nor having gay sex are sinful.
The party proposed raising income tax by 1p to fund the NHS, and maintaining the triple-lock on the state pension. The Liberal Democrats also promised an additional £7 billion to protect per-pupil funding in education; they said it would be partly funded by remaining in the EU single market. The party pledged on 11 May to accept 50,000 refugees from Syria over five years, with Farron saying that the £4.3 billion costs would over time be repaid in taxes by those refugees that settle in Britain.
On 12 May the party revealed plans to legalise cannabis and extend paid paternity leave. Farron proposed financial incentives for graduates joining the armed forces and committed to Nato’s 2% of GDP defence spending target. The next day the Liberal Democrats promised to end the cap on public-sector pay increases and repeal the Investigatory Powers Act. On 16 May the Liberal Democrats proposed an entrepreneurs’ allowance, to review business rates and to increase access to credit.
Policies emphasised during their manifesto launch on 17 May included a second referendum on a Brexit deal with the option to remain a member of the EU, discounted bus passes for 16- to 21-year-olds, the reinstatement of Housing Benefit for 18- to 21-year-olds, a £3bn plan to build 300,000 new houses a year by 2022 and support for renters to build up equity in their rented properties.
Paul Nuttall announced that UKIP’s manifesto will seek to ban the burqa, outlaw sharia law, impose a temporary moratorium on new Islamic schools and require annual checks against female genital mutilation (FGM) for high-risk girls. UKIP’s Deputy Leader Peter Whittle confirmed that beekeepers would be exempt from the ban on face coverings; and Margot Parker argued that nun’s habits were not included in the ban as they “don’t cover their face”. In response to the proposed burqa ban UKIP’s foreign affairs spokesperson James Carver resigned, labelling the policy “misguided”.
Despite losing all 145 of the seats it was defending in the 2017 local elections (but gaining one from Labour in Burnley), Nuttall insisted voters would return to UKIP in the general election. On 8 May UKIP proposed a net migration target of zero within five years.
On fishing, UKIP wanted to see a 200-mile exclusive economic zone, where all fish caught by foreign vessels in British waters must be landed, processed and sold in Britain.
Television debates[edit source]
|← 2015 debates||2017||Next debates →|
Within hours of the election being announced, Corbyn, Farron and Sturgeon called for televised debates. The Prime Minister’s office opposed the idea of any televised debates during the campaign. Despite the opposition of the Prime Minister, on 19 April the BBC and ITV announced they planned to host leaders’ debates, as they had done in the 2010 and 2015 elections, whether or not May takes part. Labour subsequently ruled out Corbyn taking part in television debates without May.
Broadcaster Andrew Neil also separately interviewed the party leaders in The Andrew Neil Interviews on BBC One, starting on 22 May with Theresa May. There were also due to be interviews with Paul Nuttall, Tim Farron, Nicola Sturgeon and Jeremy Corbyn during the same week; however the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing led to the suspension of General Election campaigning on 23 and 24 May 2017. The interview with Corbyn still went ahead as planned on 26 May 2017 and the interviews with the leaders of the smaller parties that had been cancelled in between were rescheduled for later dates.
ITV Tonight also ran a series of programmes with the major party leaders.
Sky News and Channel 4 announced an election programme to take place on 29 May, where Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn would be individually interviewed by Jeremy Paxman after taking questions from a studio audience. The BBC announced two debates to which all seven main party leaders would be invited, on 31 May in Cambridge and 6 June in Manchester, to be shown on BBC One; both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn had earlier stated they would not attend the 31 May debate. May stated that she had decided not to attend as she had debated Jeremy Corbyn many times in Parliament, and that she would be meeting the public instead. Corbyn announced on 31 May that he had changed his mind and would be attending the BBC Leader’s Debate in Cambridge, calling on May to do the same. Amber Rudd appeared for the Conservatives.
The BBC hosted separate debates for the English regions, and for both Scotland and Wales, and also a Question Time special with May and Corbyn separately answering questions from voters, on 2 June. This was chaired by David Dimbleby. Sturgeon and Farron were expected to do the same on 4 June, but this programme was delayed by the June 2017 London attack. It was rescheduled for 9 pm on 5 June, and the presenter was changed to Nick Robinson.
However, the BBC did host two back-to-back episodes of a special election programme titled Election Questions on the night 4 June (after election campaigning had resumed that evening). The first episode took place in Bristol and featured the co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, Jonathan Bartley, followed by the leader of the UK Independence Party, Paul Nuttall. The second episode took place in Swansea and featured Leanne Wood, leader of the Welsh political party, Plaid Cymru. The programme consisted of each of the party leaders being individually questioned by a studio audience.
STV planned to host a live TV debate in Glasgow with four Scottish party leaders on 24 May, but it was postponed, owing to the Manchester Arena bombing. The debate was rescheduled for Tuesday 6 June.
|United Kingdom general election debates, 2017|
|Date||Party leaders invited||Organisers||Venue||P Present S Surrogate NI Non-invitee A Absent invitee|
|Conservatives||Labour||SNP||Liberal Democrats||Plaid Cymru||Green||UKIP|
|16 May||Welsh||ITV Wales||Cardiff||P
|18 May||UK||ITV||MediaCityUK, Salford||A||A||P
|21 May||Scottish||BBC Scotland||Edinburgh||P
|29 May||UK||Sky News
|30 May||Welsh||BBC Wales||Cardiff||S
|30 May||English Regions||BBC English Regions||Various||P
|31 May||UK||BBC||Senate House, Cambridge||S
|University of York, York||P
|Bristol and Swansea||NI||NI||NI||NI||P
|5 June||Northern Ireland||UTV||Belfast||Nigel Dodds (DUP), Michelle O’Neill (SF), Robin Swann (UUP), Colum Eastwood (SDLP) and Naomi Long (APNI)|
|6 June||Northern Ireland||BBC||Belfast||Jeffrey Donaldson (DUP), John O’Dowd (SF), Robin Swann (UUP), Colum Eastwood (SDLP) and Naomi Long (APNI)|
Newspapers, organisations and individuals have endorsed parties or individual candidates for the election.
Politicians not standing[edit source]
Members of Parliament not standing for re-election[edit source]
Other politicians[edit source]
Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage announced that he would not stand, saying he could be more effective as an MEP. UKIP major donor Arron Banks, who had earlier indicated his intention to stand in Clacton to defeat Douglas Carswell, withdrew in favour of the UKIP candidate after Carswell announced he would be standing down.
Opinion polling and seat projections[edit source]
In the 2015 general election, polling companies underestimated the Conservative Party vote and overestimated the Labour Party vote and so failed to predict the result accurately. Afterwards they started making changes to polling practices; recommendations from a review by the British Polling Council are likely to result in further changes.
Predictions three weeks before the vote[edit source]
The first-past-the-post system used in UK general elections means that the number of seats won is not directly related to vote share. Thus, several approaches are used to convert polling data and other information into seat predictions. The table below lists some of the predictions.
as of 15 May 2017
as of 20 May 2017
as of 12 May 2017
as of 12 May 2017
|Others||1[n 7]||18[n 8]||19||N/A|
|Overall result (probability)||Conservative
Predictions two weeks before the vote[edit source]
as of 26 May 2017
as of 28 May 2017
as of 26 May 2017
as of 26 May 2017
as of 26 May 2017
|Others||1[n 7]||18[n 8]||19||—||—|
|Overall result (probability)||Conservative
Predictions one week before the vote[edit source]
as of 1 June 2017
as of 31 May 2017
as of 31 May 2017
as of 1 June 2017
as of 1 June 2017
|Others||1[n 7]||18[n 8]||—||2||19|
|Overall result (probability)||Conservative
Predictions less than a week before the vote[edit source]
The UK’s first-past-the-post electoral system means that national shares of the vote do not give an exact indicator of how the various parties will be represented in Parliament. Different commentators and pollsters currently provide a number of predictions, based on polls and other data, as to how the parties will be represented in Parliament:
as of 8 June 2017
as of 8 June 2017
as of 8 June 2017
as of 8 June 2017
as of 8 June 2017
as of 8 June 2017
as of 8 June 2017
majority of 10
majority of 82
majority of 66
majority of 64
majority of 66
majority of 24
(Con 24 seats short)
majority of 62
- Lord Ashcroft Polls has announced an estimate for the election result. He updates it at intervals on his website.
- Electoral Calculus maintains a running projection of seats according to latest polls on its website. It also maintains a seat-by-seat projection for Scotland.
- Election Forecast also maintains a projection of seats based on current opinion poll averages on their website.
- Elections Etc. issues regular forecasts based on current opinion poll averages, Betting Markets, expert predictions and other sources on their website.
- YouGov issue daily seat estimates using their aggregated statistical[clarification needed] election model.
- Britain Elects maintains a ‘nowcast’ – a projection showing what the result would be if held today – of seats based on historical data as well as national and regional polling.
Exit poll[edit source]
An exit poll, conducted by GfK and Ipsos MORI on behalf of the BBC, ITV and Sky News, was published at the end of voting at 10 pm, predicting the number of seats for each party, with the Conservatives being the largest party, but short of an overall majority: Actual results were close to the prediction.
|Scottish National Party||34||22|
|UK Independence Party||0||1|
|Conservatives 12 short of a majority|
|Wikinews has related news: Theresa May’s Conservative Party wins UK election but loses majority, leaving Brexit plan in question|
Results for all constituencies except Kensington were reported by the morning after the election. The Conservatives remained the largest single party; but without a parliamentary majority.
In England, Labour made a net gain of 21 seats, taking 25 constituencies from the Conservatives and two from the Liberal Democrats. Their gains were predominantly in London and university towns and cities, most notably achieving surprise wins in Battersea, Canterbury, Kensington and Ipswich from the Conservatives by narrow margins; they also lost five seats to the Conservatives, largely in the Midlands, and were unable to regain Copeland which had been lost in a February by-election. The Conservatives experienced a net loss of 22 seats. They gained Clacton from UKIP and Southport from the Liberal Democrats in addition to the six gains from Labour. The Liberal Democrats took five seats from the Conservatives, including Twickenham, won back by Vince Cable, and Kingston and Surbiton, won by Ed Davey, but lost two seats to Labour: Leeds North West and Sheffield Hallam, the seat of former party leader Nick Clegg. Richmond Park, which the Liberal Democrats had won in a 2016 by-election, was narrowly lost to the Conservatives. Caroline Lucas remained the sole Green Party MP, holding Brighton Pavilion.
In Scotland, the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats all won seats from the SNP, whose losses were attributed to opposition to a second Scottish independence referendum, contributing to tactical voting for unionist parties. The Conservatives placed second for the first time since 1992, won their largest number of seats in Scotland since 1983 and recorded their highest share of the vote there since 1979. With thirteen seats, the Scottish Conservatives became the largest unionist party in Scotland for the first time since 1955. Labour gained six seats from the SNP while the Liberal Democrats gained three. Having won 56 of 59 Scottish constituencies in the last election, the SNP lost a total of 21 seats, and majorities in their remaining seats were cut drastically. High-profile losses included SNP Commons leader Angus Robertson in Moray and former party leader Alex Salmond in Gordon.
In Wales, Labour held 25 seats and gained Cardiff North, Gower and Vale of Clwyd from the Conservatives, leaving the Welsh Tories with eight seats. Plaid Cymru held its 3 existing seats and gained Ceredigion, the Lib Dems’ only constituency in Wales.
In Northern Ireland, the SDLP lost its three seats, the UUP lost its sole seat, and the Alliance Party failed to win any seats. The DUP won ten seats (up from eight), Sinn Féin won seven (up from four), and independent unionist Sylvia Hermon held North Down.
The results left the DUP as kingmakers, and May announced that she intended to form a minority government with their support. Sinn Féin, who recorded their best result since partition, subsequently confirmed it would maintain its policy of abstentionism, leaving the Conservatives five seats short of a sitting majority. Their abstentionism in the circumstances was criticised by various people, including Micheál Martin, leader of Fianna Fáil in the Republic of Ireland, who also noted the resultant lack of nationalist representation in the House of Commons.
Despite a significant drop in its overall vote share, the Green Party held on to its single seat, Brighton Pavilion, with an increased majority. UKIP failed to win any seats, with its vote falling by almost 4 million to less than 600,000. Paul Nuttall, who came third in Boston and Skegness, and resigned as party leader the day after the election.
The result was noted for increased vote shares for Labour (up 9.6 percentage points) and the Conservatives (up 5.5 percentage points), with a combined 83% share of the vote, up from 67% in 2015. The election was characterised by higher turnout, particularly amongst younger voters, contributing to Labour’s increased vote share. It was suggested that UKIP’s decline boosted both main parties, but tended to help Labour retain seats in the North of England and the Midlands against the Conservatives.
|Of total||±||Of total||±|
|Conservative Party||Theresa May||317||48.8%||
317 / 650
|Labour Party||Jeremy Corbyn||262||40.3%||
262 / 650
|Scottish National Party||Nicola Sturgeon||35||5.4%||
35 / 650
|Liberal Democrats||Tim Farron||12||1.8%||
12 / 650
|Democratic Unionist Party||Arlene Foster||10||1.5%||
10 / 650
|Sinn Féin||Gerry Adams||7||1.1%||
7 / 650
|Plaid Cymru||Leanne Wood||4||0.6%||
4 / 650
|Green Party||Jonathan Bartley
1 / 650
1 / 650
1 / 650
|UK Independence Party||Paul Nuttall||0||0.0%||
0 / 650
|Social Democratic & Labour Party||Colum Eastwood||0||0.0%||
0 / 650
|Ulster Unionist Party||Robin Swann||0||0.0%||
0 / 650
|Alliance Party of Northern Ireland||Naomi Long||0||0.0%||
0 / 650
|Yorkshire Party||Stewart Arnold||0||0.0%||
0 / 650
|National Health Action Party||Alex Ashman||0||0.0%||
0 / 650
|Christian Peoples Alliance||Sid Cordle||0||0.0%||
0 / 650
|People Before Profit Alliance||Collective leadership||0||0.0%||
0 / 650
|British National Party||Adam Walker||0||0.0%||
0 / 650
|Official Monster Raving Loony Party||Howling Laud Hope||0||0.0%||
0 / 650
|Women’s Equality Party||Sophie Walker||0||0.0%||
0 / 650
|Traditional Unionist Voice||Jim Allister||0||0.0%||
0 / 650
0 / 650
A record number of female and LGBTQ MPs were elected. 201 female MPs were elected to Parliament; the first time more than 200 MPs were female and beating the previous high of 196 female MPs in the last Parliament. For the first time, a majority of MPs were educated at state comprehensive schools. There also seem to be more individuals with disabilities elected.
Seats which changed allegiance[edit source]
Corbyn and Farron called on May to resign. On 9 June, May apologised to candidates who lost their seats and confirmed she would continue as party leader and prime minister, with the intention of forming a minority government with support from the Democratic Unionist Party in order to ensure “certainty”. May’s joint chiefs of staff Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill resigned, replaced by Gavin Barwell, who had lost his seat in the election.
In a post-election reshuffle carried out on 11 June, May promoted her close ally Damian Green to become First Secretary of State and brought Michael Gove into the cabinet as environment secretary, making Andrea Leadsom Leader of the House of Commons. Liz Truss, David Lidington and David Gauke changed roles, while eleven cabinet members including key figures such as Boris Johnson, Amber Rudd, Michael Fallon, Philip Hammond and David Davis remained in post.
On 10 June, a survey of 1,500 ConservativeHome readers found that almost two thirds of Conservative Party members wanted Theresa May to resign. A YouGov poll of 1,720 adults for the Sunday Times had 48% saying Theresa May should resign, with 38% against. A Survation poll of 1,036 adults online for the Mail on Sunday had 49% of people wanting her resignation, with 38% against.
Negotiations between the Conservatives and DUP started on 9 June, and continued over the weekend and into the following week. On 12 June, it was reported that the State Opening of Parliament, scheduled for 19 June, could be delayed “for a few days” because of ongoing talks between the Conservatives and DUP.
After achieving just 1.8% of the popular vote, down from 12.7% in 2015, and failing to win any seats, Nuttall resigned as UKIP leader on 9 June.
On 13 June, the parliament returned to re-elect John Bercow as Speaker and it was announced that the British Parliament would resume normal operations the following week
|2001 election • MPs|
|2005 election • MPs|
|2010 election • MPs|
The United Kingdom general election of 7 May 2015 elected 650 members to the British House of Commons. It was the first general election at the end of a fixed-term Parliament. Local elections took place in most of the same day.
Polls and commentators had predicted the outcome would be too close to call and would result in a second hung parliament similar to the 2010 election. Opinion polls were eventually proven to have underestimated the Conservative vote as they won a surprise outright majority, which bore resemblance to their victory in the 1992 general election. Having governed in coalition with the Liberal Democrats since 2010, the Conservatives won 330 seats and 36.9% of the vote, this time winning a working majority of 12.
The British Polling Council began an inquiry into the substantial variance between opinion polls and the actual result. Forming the first Conservative majority government since 1992, David Cameron became the first Prime Minister to continue in office immediately after a term of at least four years with a larger popular vote share since 1900, and the only Prime Minister other than Margaret Thatcher to continue in office immediately after a term of at least four years with a greater number of seats. The Labour Party, led by Ed Miliband, saw a small increase in its vote share to 30.4%, but incurred a net loss of seats to return 232 MPs. This was its lowest seat tally since the 1987 election. Senior Labour shadow cabinet members, notably Ed Balls, Douglas Alexander, and Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy, were defeated.
The Scottish National Party, enjoying a surge in support since the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, recorded a number of huge swings of over 30% (including a record-breaking swing of 39.3% achieved in Glasgow North East) from Labour, as it won 56 of the 59 Scottish seats to become the third-largest party in the Commons. The Liberal Democrats, led by outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, had their worst result since being formed in 1988, holding just eight out of their previous 57 seats with cabinet ministers Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Danny Alexander losing their seats. The UK Independence Party (UKIP) came third in terms of votes with 12.6%, but only won one seat, with party leader Nigel Farage failing to win the seat of South Thanet. The Green Party won its highest-ever share of the vote with 3.8%, and held Brighton Pavilion with an increased majority, though did not win any additional seats. Labour’s Miliband (as national leader) and Murphy (as Scottish leader) resigned, as did Clegg. Farage claimed that his resignation was rejected by his party, and he remained in post.
The Conservative majority meant that Cameron was able to fulfil a manifesto commitment to renegotiate British membership of the European Union. That renegotiation was followed by a referendum in June 2016, which resulted in the British people voting to leave the EU and led to the resignation of Cameron as Prime Minister. The new Prime Minister, Theresa May, called in April 2017 for a fresh general election with the stated aim of securing a majority for her Brexit negotiations; it received parliamentary approval and was scheduled for 8 June 2017.
- 1Election process
- 2Date of the election
- 3MPs not standing for re-election
- 4Contesting political parties and candidates
- 6Television debates
- 8Opinion polling
- 11See also
- 14External links
Election process[edit source]
The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (as amended by the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013) led to the dissolution of the 55th Parliament on 30 March 2015 and the scheduling of the election on 7 May, the House of Commons not having voted for an earlier date. There were local elections on the same day in most of England, with the exception of Greater London. No other elections were scheduled to take place in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, apart from any local by-elections.
All British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens over the age of 18 on the date of the election were permitted to vote. In general elections, voting takes place in all parliamentary constituencies of the United Kingdom to elect members of parliament (MPs) to seats in the House of Commons, the dominant (historically termed the lower) house of Parliament. Each parliamentary constituency of the United Kingdom elects one MP to the House of Commons using the “first-past-the-post” system. If one party obtains a majority of seats, then that party is entitled to form the Government. If the election results in no single party having a majority, then there is a hung parliament. In this case, the options for forming the Government are either a minority government or a coalition government.
Although the Conservative Party planned the number of parliamentary seats to be reduced from 650 to 600, through the Sixth Periodic Review of Westminster constituencies under the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011, the review of constituencies and reduction in seats was delayed by the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 amending the 2011 Act. The next boundary review is now set to take place in 2018; thus the 2015 general election was contested using the same constituencies and boundaries as in 2010. Of the 650 constituencies, 533 are in England, 59 in Scotland, 40 in Wales and 18 in Northern Ireland.
In addition, the 2011 Act mandated a referendum in 2011 on changing from the current “first-past-the-post” system to an alternative vote (instant-runoff) system for elections to the Commons. The Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition agreement committed the coalition government to such a referendum. The referendum was held in May 2011 and resulted in the retention of the existing voting system. Before the previous general election the Liberal Democrats had pledged to change the voting system, and the Labour Party pledged to have a referendum about any such change. The Conservatives, however, promised to keep the first-past-the-post system, but to reduce the number of constituencies by 10%. Liberal Democrat plans were to reduce the number of MPs to 500, and for them to be elected using a proportional system.
Ministers increased the amount of money that parties and candidates were allowed to spend on the election by 23%, a move decided against Electoral Commission advice.The election saw the first cap on spending by parties in individual constituencies during the 100 days before Parliament’s dissolution on 30 March: £30,700, plus a per-voter allowance of 9p in county constituencies and 6p in borough seats. An additional voter allowance of more than £8,700 is available after the dissolution of Parliament. UK political parties spent £31.1m in the 2010 general election, of which the Conservative Party spent 53%, the Labour Party spent 25% and the Liberal Democrats 15%.
This was the first UK general election to use individual rather than household voter registration.
Date of the election[edit source]
An election is called following the dissolution of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The 2015 general election was the first to be held under the provisions of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. Prior to this, the power to dissolve Parliament was a royal prerogative, exercised by the sovereign on the advice of the prime minister. Under the provisions of the Septennial Act 1716, as amended by the Parliament Act 1911, an election had to be announced on or before the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the previous parliament, barring exceptional circumstances. No sovereign had refused a request for dissolution since the beginning of the 20th century, and the practice had evolved that a prime minister would typically call a general election to be held at a tactically convenient time within the final two years of a Parliament’s lifespan, to maximise the chance of an electoral victory for his or her party.
Prior to the 2010 general election, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats pledged to introduce fixed-term elections. As part of the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition agreement, the Cameron ministry agreed to support legislation for fixed-term Parliaments, with the date of the next general election being 7 May 2015. This resulted in the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, which removed the prime minister’s power to advise the monarch to call an early election. The Act only permits an early dissolution if Parliament votes for one by a two-thirds supermajority, or if a vote of no confidence is passed by a majority and no new government is subsequently formed within 14 days. However, the prime minister had the power, by order made by Statutory Instrument under section 1(5) of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, to fix the polling day to be up to two months later than 7 May 2015. Such a Statutory Instrument must be approved by each House of Parliament. Under section 14 of the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013, the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 was amended to extend the period between the dissolution of Parliament and the following general election polling day from 17 to 25 working days. This had the effect of moving forward the date of the dissolution of the Parliament to 30 March 2015.
The key dates were:
|Monday 30 March||Dissolution of Parliament (the 55th) and campaigning officially began|
|Saturday 2 May||Last day to file nomination papers, to register to vote, and to request a postal vote|
|Thursday 7 May||Polling day|
|Monday 18 May||New Parliament (the 56th) assembled|
|Wednesday 27 May||State Opening of Parliament|
MPs not standing for re-election[edit source]
While at the previous election there had been a record 148 MPs not standing for re-election, the 2015 election saw 90 MPs standing down. These comprised 38 Conservative, 37 Labour, 10 Liberal Democrat, 3 Independent, 1 Sinn Féin and 1 Plaid Cymru MP. The highest profile members of parliament leaving were: Gordon Brown, a former Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party (both 2007–2010) and Chancellor of the Exchequer (1997–2007); and William Hague, the outgoing First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons and former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (2010–2014), Leader of the Conservative Party and Leader of the Opposition (both 1997–2001). Alongside Brown and Hague, 17 former cabinet ministers stood down at the election, including Stephen Dorrell, Jack Straw, Alistair Darling, David Blunkett, Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Dame Tessa Jowell. The highest profile Liberal Democrat to stand down was former leader Sir Menzies Campbell, while the longest-serving MP (the “Father of the House“) Sir Peter Tapsell also retired, having served from 1959 to 1964 and then continuously since the 1966 general election.
Contesting political parties and candidates[edit source]
As of 9 April 2015, the deadline for standing for the general election, the Electoral Commission‘s Register of Political Parties included 428 political parties registered in Great Britain, and 36 in Northern Ireland. Candidates who did not belong to a registered party could use an “independent” label, or no label at all.
The Conservative Party and the Labour Party had been the two biggest parties since 1922, and had supplied all UK prime ministers since 1935. Polls predicted that these parties would together receive between 65% and 75% of votes, and would together win between 80% and 85% of seats; and that, as such, the leader of one of those parties would be the prime minister after the election. The Liberal Democrats had been the third party in the UK for many years; but as described by various commentators, other parties had risen relative to the Liberal Democrats since the 2010 election. The Economist described a “familiar two-and-a-half-party system” (Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats) that “appears to be breaking down” with the rise of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), the Greens and the Scottish National Party (SNP). Newsnight and The Economist described the country as moving into a six-party system, with the Liberal Democrats, SNP, UKIP and Greens all being significant. Ofcom, in their role regulating election coverage in the UK, ruled that, for the general election and local elections in May 2015, the major parties in Great Britain were the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats, with UKIP a major party in England and Wales, the SNP a major party in Scotland, and Plaid Cymru (PC) in Wales, and that the Greens were not a major party. The BBC‘s guidelines were similar but excluded UKIP from the category of “larger parties” in Great Britain, and instead stated that UKIP should be given “appropriate levels of coverage in output to which the largest parties contribute and, on some occasions, similar levels of coverage”. Seven parties (Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, UKIP, SNP, PC and Green) participated in the election leadership debates.
Great Britain-based[edit source]
The main Great Britain-based parties—several parties operate in Northern Ireland only, which has a mainly separate political culture—are listed below in order of seats being contested:
- Conservative Party: led by David Cameron, the prime minister. The Conservative Party was the larger party in the coalition government, having won the most seats (306) at the 2010 election. The party stood in 647 seats (every seat except for two in Northern Ireland and the Speaker‘s seat).
- Labour Party: led by Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition. Labour had been in power from 1997 to 2010. The party constituted Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition (also called the Official Opposition) after the 2010 election, having won 258 seats. It stood in 631 of Great Britain’s 632 constituencies,[n 2] missing only the Speaker’s seat.
- Liberal Democrats: led by Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister. The Liberal Democrats were the junior member of the 2010–15 coalition government, having won 57 seats. They contested the same 631 seats as the Labour Party.
- UK Independence Party (UKIP): led by Nigel Farage, a Member of the European Parliament, who had not previously been in parliament but was standing in South Thanet in the general election. UKIP won the fourth-most votes at the 2010 election, but failed to win any seats. It subsequently won two seats at by-elections in 2014 – both having been sitting Conservative MPs who resigned from the party, stood down voluntarily from their seat to fight a by-election, and won it for their new party – and won the highest share of votes at the 2014 European elections. It contested 624 seats across the United Kingdom.[n 3]
- Green parties: two distinct but co-operating Green parties operate in Great Britain: the Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW) and the Scottish Green Party, with opinion polling generally making no distinction between the two. The Green Party of England and Wales is led by Natalie Bennett, who had not previously been elected to Westminster, but stood in Holborn and St Pancras at the general election. The GPEW won the fourth-largest share of votes in the 2014 European elections, ahead of the Liberal Democrats. The Scottish Green Party is co-led by Patrick Harvie MSP and councillor Maggie Chapman, neither of whom were standing for election to Westminster. Caroline Lucas was elected as the only Green MP in 2010, in which the two parties received a combined 1% of the vote and were seventh overall. The Greens stood in 568 seats in Great Britain.
- Scottish National Party (SNP): led by Nicola Sturgeon, who is First Minister of Scotland and did not stand in the general election. The SNP only contested seats in Scotland and stood in all 59 Scottish constituencies. The party received the second-most votes in Scotland and sixth-most overall in 2010, winning six seats. It won the 2011 election to the Scottish Parliament and had a surge of support since the Scottish independence referendum in September 2014, in which it was the main political party behind the losing Yes campaign. Most projections suggested that it would be the third-largest party overall after the 2015 election, in terms of seats won, overtaking the Liberal Democrats.
- Plaid Cymru: led by Leanne Wood, who is a member of the Welsh Assembly and did not stand in the general election. Plaid Cymru organises only in Wales, where it contested all 40 Welsh constituencies. The party has three MPs and was fourth in Wales (eighth in Great Britain) by vote share in 2010, later finishing third in the 2011 Welsh Assembly elections.
Minor parties[edit source]
Dozens of other minor parties stood in Great Britain. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, founded as an electoral alliance of socialist parties in 2010, had 135 candidates and was the only other party to have more than 40 candidates. Respect came into the election with one MP (George Galloway), who was elected at the 2012 Bradford West by-election, but stood just four candidates. The British National Party, which finished fifth with 1.9% of the vote for its 338 candidates at the 2010 general election, stood only eight candidates following a collapse in support. 753 other candidates stood at the general election, including all independents, Northern Ireland-based party candidates, and candidates from other parties.
Northern Ireland[edit source]
- Alliance Party of Northern Ireland: the Alliance Party had one MP, Naomi Long, who had been elected for the first time in 2010. (Long lost her seat in 2015.) It was fifth in the 2010 election by vote share, fifth overall in 2011 and sixth in 2014. Alliance has a relationship with the Liberal Democrats in Great Britain: the party’s former leader sits in the House of Lords as a Liberal Democrat, but Alliance’s one MP elected in 2010 sat on the opposition benches in the Commons and not with the Liberal Democrats on the government benches. The party contested all 18 Northern Irish constituencies in 2015.
- Democratic Unionist Party (DUP): the DUP won eight seats in 2010, making it the largest Northern Ireland political party, and the fourth biggest in the UK as a whole. The party also won the 2011 Northern Ireland Assembly election, but was second in the 2014 European election. It contested 16 Northern Irish constituencies, having entered into an electoral pact with the Ulster Unionist Party in the remaining two.
- Sinn Féin: Sinn Féin won the most votes in Northern Ireland in 2010, but came second in seats, winning five constituencies. It was second in the 2011 Assembly elections, but first in the 2014 European elections. Sinn Féin follows an abstentionist policy with respect to the Commons, and has never so far taken its seats there. The party also operates in the Republic of Ireland, where it does take seats in parliament. It was standing in all 18 Northern Irish constituencies. Michelle Gildernew lost her seat in 2015, which she had held by only 4 votes in 2010, thus reducing the SF MPs from 5 to 4.
- Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP): the SDLP was third in terms of votes and seats in the 2010 and 2011 elections, and fourth in the 2014 European elections. Prior to dissolution, the party had three MPs. The SDLP has a relationship with the Labour Party in Great Britain, with SDLP MPs generally following the Labour whip. The party was expected to have supported Labour in the event of a hung Parliament and contested all 18 constituencies at the election.
- Ulster Unionist Party (UUP): in 2010 the UUP shared an electoral alliance with the Conservative Party, and finished fourth in terms of votes in Northern Ireland, but won no seats. The party has one MEP, having placed third in the 2014 European elections. It was fourth in the 2011 Assembly elections. The UUP contested 15 seats; the party did not run in two seats because of its electoral pact with the DUP, and also did not nominate a candidate against former UUP member and incumbent independent MP Sylvia Hermon.
Smaller parties in Northern Ireland included Traditional Unionist Voice (standing in seven seats) and the Green Party in Northern Ireland (standing in five seats). In 2015 TUV and the Greens each held one seat in the Legislative Assembly. The North Down seat was retained by independent Sylvia Hermon. The Northern Ireland Conservatives and UKIP fielded candidates, whereas Labour and the Liberal Democrats do not contest elections in Northern Ireland.
Pacts and possible coalitions[edit source]
Coalitions have been rare in the United Kingdom, because the first-past-the-post system has usually led to one party winning an overall majority in the Commons. However, with the outgoing Government being a coalition and with opinion polls not showing a large or consistent lead for any one party, there was much discussion about possible post-election coalitions or other arrangements, such as confidence and supply agreements.
Some UK political parties that only stand in part of the country have reciprocal relationships with parties standing in other parts of the country. These include:
- Labour (in Great Britain) and SDLP (in Northern Ireland)
- Liberal Democrats (in Great Britain) and Alliance (in Northern Ireland)
- SNP (in Scotland) and Plaid Cymru (in Wales)
- Green Party of England and Wales (in England and Wales), Scottish Greens (in Scotland) and the Green Party in Northern Ireland (in Northern Ireland)
On 17 March 2015 the Democratic Unionist Party and the Ulster Unionist Party agreed an election pact, whereby the DUP would not stand candidates in Fermanagh and South Tyrone (where Michelle Gildernew, the Sinn Féin candidate, won by only four votes in 2010) and in Newry and Armagh. In return the UUP would stand aside in Belfast East and Belfast North. The SDLP rejected a similar pact suggested by Sinn Féin to try to ensure that an agreed nationalist would win that constituency. The DUP also called on voters in Scotland to support whichever pro-Union candidate was best placed to beat the SNP.
The deadline for parties and individuals to file candidate nomination papers to the acting returning officer (and the deadline for candidates to withdraw) was 4 p.m. on 9 April 2015. The total number of candidates was 3,971; the second-highest number in history, slightly down from the record 4,150 candidates at the last election in 2010.
There were a record number of female candidates standing in terms of both absolute numbers and percentage of candidates: 1,020 (26.1%) in 2015, up from 854 (21.1%) in 2010. The proportion of female candidates for major parties ranged from 41% of Alliance Party candidates to 12% of UKIP candidates. According to UCL’s Parliamentary Candidates UK project the major parties had the following percentages of black and ethnic minority candidates: the Conservatives 11%, the Liberal Democrats 10%, Labour 9%, UKIP 6%, the Greens 4%. The average age of the candidates for the seven major parties was 45.
The youngest candidates were all aged 18: Solomon Curtis (Labour, Wealden); Niamh McCarthy (Independent, Liverpool Wavertree); Michael Burrows (UKIP, Inverclyde); Declan Lloyd (Labour, South East Cornwall); and Laura-Jane Rossington (Communist Party, Plymouth Sutton and Devonport). The oldest candidate was Doris Osen, 84, of the Elderly Persons’ Independent Party (EPIC), who was standing in Ilford North. Other candidates aged over 80 included three long-serving Labour MPs standing for re-election: Sir Gerald Kaufman (aged 84; Manchester Gorton), Dennis Skinner (aged 83; Bolsover) and David Winnick (aged 81; Walsall North).
A number of candidates—including two for Labour and two for UKIP – were suspended from their respective parties after nominations were closed. Independent candidate Ronnie Carroll died after nominations were closed.
Possibility of a hung Parliament[edit source]
Hung Parliaments have been unusual in post-War British political history, but with the outgoing Government a coalition and opinion polls not showing a large or consistent lead for any one party, it was widely expected and predicted throughout the election campaign that no party would gain an overall majority, which could have led to a new coalition or other arrangements such as confidence and supply agreements. This was also associated with a rise in multi-party politics, with increased support for UKIP, the SNP and the Greens.
The question of what the different parties would do in the event of a hung result dominated much of the campaign. Smaller parties focused on the power this would bring them in negotiations; Labour and the Conservatives both insisted that they were working towards winning a majority government, while they were also reported to be preparing for the possibility of a second election in the year. In practice, Labour were prepared to make a “broad” offer to the Liberal Democrats in the event of a hung Parliament. Most predictions saw Labour as having more potential support in Parliament than the Conservatives, with several parties, notably the SNP, having committed to keeping out a Conservative government.
Conservative campaigning sought to highlight what they described as the dangers of a minority Labour administration supported by the SNP. This proved effective at dominating the agenda of the campaign and at motivating voters to support them. The Conservative victory was “widely put down to the success of the anti-Labour/SNP warnings”, according to a BBC article and others. Labour, in reaction, produced ever stronger denials that they would co-operate with the SNP after the election.
The Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties rejected the idea of a coalition with the SNP. This was particularly notable for Labour, to whom the SNP had previously offered support: their manifesto stated that “the SNP will never put the Tories into power. Instead, if there is an anti-Tory majority after the election, we will offer to work with other parties to keep the Tories out.” SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon later confirmed in the Scottish leaders’ debate on STV that she was prepared to “help make Ed Miliband prime minister.” However, on 26 April, Miliband ruled out a confidence and supply arrangement with the SNP too. Miliband’s comments suggested to many that he was working towards forming a minority government.
The Liberal Democrats said that they would talk first to whichever party won the most seats. They later campaigned on being a stabilising influence should either the Conservatives or Labour fall short of a majority, with the slogan “We will bring a heart to a Conservative Government and a brain to a Labour one.”
Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats ruled out coalitions with UKIP. Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, asked about a deal with UKIP in the Scottish leaders’ debate, replied, “No deals with UKIP.” She continued that her preference and the Prime Minister’s preference in a hung Parliament was for a minority Conservative government. UKIP say they could support a minority Conservative government through a confidence and supply arrangement in return for a referendum on EU membership before Christmas 2015. They also spoke of the DUP joining UKIP in this arrangement. UKIP and DUP said they would work together in Parliament. The DUP welcomed the possibility of a hung Parliament and the influence that this would bring them. The party’s deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, said the party could work with the Conservatives or Labour, but that the party is “not interested in a full-blown coalition government”. Their leader, Peter Robinson, said that the DUP would talk first to whichever party wins the most seats. The DUP said they wanted, for their support, a commitment to 2% defence spending, a referendum on EU membership, and a reversal of the under-occupation penalty. They opposed the SNP being involved in government. The UUP also indicated that they would not work with the SNP if it wanted another independence referendum in Scotland.
The Green Party of England & Wales, Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party all ruled out working with the Conservatives, and agreed to work together “wherever possible” to counter austerity. Each would also make it a condition of any agreement with Labour that Trident nuclear weapons was not replaced; the Green Party of England and Wales stated that “austerity is a red line.” Both Plaid Cymru and the Green Party stated a preference for a confidence and supply arrangement with Labour, rather than a coalition. The leader of the SDLP, Alasdair McDonnell, said, “We will be the left-of-centre backbone of a Labour administration”, and that, “the SDLP will categorically refuse to support David Cameron and the Conservative Party”. Sinn Féin reiterated their abstentionist stance. In the event, the Conservatives did secure an overall majority, rendering much of the speculation and positioning moot.
Government finance[edit source]
The deficit, who was responsible for it and plans to deal with it were a major theme of the campaign. While some smaller parties opposed austerity, the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and UKIP all supported some further cuts, albeit to different extents.
Conservative campaigning sought to blame the deficit on the previous Labour government. Labour, in return, sought to establish their fiscal responsibility. With the Conservatives also making several spending commitments (e.g. on the NHS), commentators talked of the two main parties’ “political crossdressing”, each trying to campaign on the other’s traditional territory.
Television debates[edit source]
The first series of televised leaders’ debates in the United Kingdom was held in the previous election. After much debate and various proposals, a seven-way debate with the leaders of Labour, the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, UKIP, Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru was held. with a series of other debates involving some of the parties.
Various newspapers, organisations and individuals endorsed parties or individual candidates for the election.
Opinion polling[edit source]
Throughout the 55th parliament of the United Kingdom, first and second place in the polls without exception alternated between the Conservatives and Labour. Labour took a lead in the polls in the second half of 2010, driven in part by a collapse in Liberal Democrat support. This lead rose up to approximately 10 points over the Conservative Party during 2012, whose ratings dipped alongside an increase in UKIP support. UKIP passed the Liberal Democrats as the third-most popular party at the start of 2013. Following this, Labour’s lead over the Conservatives began to fall as UKIP gained support from them as well, and by the end of the year Labour were polling at 39%, compared to 33% for the Conservative Party and 11% for UKIP.
UKIP received 26.6% of the vote at the European elections in 2014, and though their support in the polls for Westminster never reached this level, it did rise up to over 15% through that year. 2014 was also marked by the Scottish independence referendum. Despite the ‘No’ vote winning, support for the Scottish National Party rose quickly after the referendum, and had reached 43% in Scotland by the end of the year, up 23 points from the 2010 general election, largely at the expense of Labour (−16 points in Scotland) and the Liberal Democrats (−13 points). In Wales, where polls were less frequent, the 2012–2014 period saw a smaller decline in Labour’s lead over the second-placed Conservative Party, from 28 points to 17. These votes went mainly to UKIP (+8 points) and Plaid Cymru (+2 points). The rise of UKIP and SNP, alongside the smaller increases for Plaid Cymru and the Green Party (from around 2% to 6%) saw the combined support of the Conservative and Labour party fall to a record low of around 65%. Within this the decline came predominantly from Labour, whose lead fell to under 2 points by the end of 2014. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrat vote, which had held at about 10% since late 2010, declined further to about 8%.
Early 2015 saw the Labour lead continue to fall, disappearing by the start of March. Polling during the election campaign itself remained relatively static, with the Labour and Conservative parties both polling between 33–34% and neither able to establish a consistent lead. Support for the Green Party and UKIP showed slight drops of around 1–2 points each, while Liberal Democrat support rose up to around 9%. In Scotland, support for the SNP continued to grow with polling figures in late March reaching 54%, with the Labour vote continuing to decline accordingly, while Labour retained their (reduced) lead in Wales, polling at 39% by the end of the campaign, to 26% for the Conservatives, 13% for Plaid Cymru, 12% for UKIP and 6% for the Liberal Democrats. The final polls showed a mixture of Conservative leads, Labour leads and ties with both between 31–36%, UKIP on 11–16%, the Lib Dems on 8–10%, the Greens on 4–6%, and the SNP on 4–5% of the national vote.
In addition to the national polls, Lord Ashcroft funded from May 2014 a series of polls in marginal constituencies, and constituencies where minor parties were expected to be significant challengers. Among other results, Lord Ashcroft’s polls suggested that the growth in SNP support would translate into more than 50 seats; that there was little overall pattern in Labour and Conservative Party marginals; that the Green Party MP Caroline Lucas would retain her seat; that both Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and UKIP leader Nigel Farage would face very close races to be elected in their own constituencies; and that Liberal Democrat MPs would enjoy an incumbency effect that would lose fewer MPs than their national polling implied. As with other smaller parties, their proportion of MPs remained likely to be considerably lower than that of total, national votes cast. Several polling companies included Ashcroft’s polls in their election predictions, though several of the political parties disputed his findings.
Predictions one month before the vote[edit source]
The first-past-the-post system used in UK general elections means that the number of seats won is not closely related to vote share. Thus, several approaches were used to convert polling data and other information into seat predictions. The table below lists some of the predictions. ElectionForecast was used by Newsnight and FiveThirtyEight. May2015.com is a project run by the New Statesman magazine.
Seat predictions draw from nationwide polling, polling in the constituent nations of Britain and may additionally incorporate constituency level polling, particularly the Ashcroft polls. Approaches may or may not use uniform national swing (UNS). Approaches may just use current polling, i.e. a “nowcast” (e.g. Electoral Calculus, May2015.com and The Guardian), or add in a predictive element about how polling shifts based on historical data (e.g. ElectionForecast and Elections Etc.). An alternative approach is to use the wisdom of the crowd and base a prediction on betting activity: the Sporting Index column below covers bets on the number of seats each party will win with the midpoint between asking and selling price, while FirstPastThePost.net aggregates the betting predictions in each individual constituency. Some predictions cover Northern Ireland, with its distinct political culture, while others do not. Parties are sorted by current number of seats in the House of Commons:
as of 9 April 2015
as of 12 April 2015
as of 3 April 2015
as of 12 April 2015
as of 12 April 2015
as of 12 April 2015
|First Past the Post
as of 12 April 2015
|DUP||8||Included under Other||GB forecast only||Included under Other||Included under Other||No market||8.7|
|SDLP||3||Included under Other||GB forecast only||Included under Other||Included under Other||No market||2.7|
|Other||8||18(including 18 NI seats)||GB forecast only, but
above may not sum to 632
due to rounding
|18(including 18 NI seats)||19(including 18 NI
seats & Respect 1)
|No market||Respect 0.5
Sinn Féin 4.5
Sylvia Hermon 1
|Overall result (probability)||Hung parliament (93%)||Hung parliament (60%)||Hung parliament (80%)||Hung parliament||Hung parliament||Hung parliament||Hung parliament|
Other predictions were published. An election forecasting conference on 27 March 2015 yielded 11 forecasts of the result in Great Britain (including some included in the table above). Averaging the conference predictions gives Labour 283 seats, Conservatives 279, Liberal Democrats 23, UKIP 3, SNP 41, Plaid Cymru 3 and Greens 1. In that situation, no two parties (excluding a Lab-Con coalition) would have been able to form a majority without the support of a third. On 27 April, Rory Scott of the bookmaker Paddy Power predicted Conservatives 284, Labour 272, SNP 50, UKIP 3, and Greens 1. LucidTalk for the Belfast Telegraph predicted for Northern Ireland: DUP 9, Sinn Féin 5, SDLP 3, Sylvia Hermon 1, with the only seat change being the DUP gaining Belfast East from Alliance.
Final predictions before the vote[edit source]
Percentage shares of votes, as predicted in the first week of May:
|Lead||Tie||Con +1||Con +1||Lab +1||Tie||Con +1||Tie||Con +1||Lab +2||Tie||Tie||Tie|
- PC Includes Plaid Cymru
Seats predicted on 7 May:
|Electoral Calculus||Elections Etc||The Guardian||May2015.com||Sporting Index||First Past the Post||Mean|
|DUP||8||Included under Other||GB forecast only||Included under Other||Included under Other||No market||8.7|
|SDLP||3||Included under Other||GB forecast only||Included under Other||Included under Other||No market||2.7|
|Other||Sinn Féin 5
Sylvia Hermon 1
|18 (including 18 NI seats)||1, although its GB forecast only,
18 NI seats
|18 (including 18 NI seats)||19 (including 18 NI seats
& Respect 1)
|No market||Sinn Féin 4.7
|Overall result (probability)||Hung parliament (100%)||Hung parliament (92%)||Hung parliament (91%)||Hung parliament||Hung parliament||Hung parliament||Hung parliament||Hung parliament|
Exit poll[edit source]
|Scottish National Party||58|
|UK Independence Party||2|
|Conservatives 10 short of majority|
This predicted the Conservatives to be 10 seats short of an absolute majority, although with the 5 predicted Sinn Féin MPs not taking their seats, it was likely to be enough to govern. (In the event, Michelle Gildernew lost her seat, reducing the number of Sinn Féin MPs to 4.)
The exit poll was markedly different from the pre-election opinion polls, which had been fairly consistent; this led many pundits and MPs to speculate that the exit poll was inaccurate, and that the final result would have the two main parties closer to each other. Former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown vowed to “eat his hat” and former Labour “spin doctor” Alastair Campbell promised to “eat his kilt” if the exit poll, which predicted huge losses for their respective parties, was right.
As it turned out, the results were even more favourable to the Conservatives than the poll predicted, with the Conservatives obtaining 330 seats, an absolute majority.Ashdown and Campbell were presented with hat- and kilt-shaped cakes (labelled “eat me”) on BBC Question Time on 8 May.
Opinion polling inaccuracies and scrutiny[edit source]
With the eventual outcome in terms of both votes and seats varying substantially from the bulk of opinion polls released in the final months before the election, the polling industry received criticism for their inability to predict what was a surprisingly clear Conservative victory. Several theories have been put forward to explain the inaccuracy of the pollsters. One theory was that there had simply been a very late swing to the Conservatives, with the polling company Survation claiming that 13% of voters made up their minds in the final days and 17% on the day of the election.The company also claimed that a poll they carried out a day before the election gave the Conservatives 37% and Labour 31%, though they said they did not release the poll (commissioned by the Daily Mirror) on the concern that it was too much of an outlier with other poll results.
However, it was reported that pollsters had in fact picked up a late swing to Labour immediately prior to polling day, not the Conservatives. It was reported after the election that private pollsters working for the two largest parties actually gathered more accurate results, with Labour’s pollster James Morris claiming that the issue was largely to do with surveying technique. Morris claimed that telephone polls that immediately asked for voting intentions tended to get a high “Don’t know” or anti-government reaction, whereas longer telephone conversations conducted by private polls that collected other information such as views on the leaders’ performances placed voters in a much better mode to give their true voting intentions. Another theory was the issue of ‘shy Tories‘ not wanting to openly declare their intention to vote Conservative to pollsters. A final theory, put forward after the election, was the ‘Lazy Labour’ factor, which claimed that Labour voters tend to not vote on polling day whereas Conservative voters have a much higher turnout.
The British Polling Council announced an inquiry into the substantial variance between the opinion polls and the actual election result. The inquiry published preliminary findings in January 2016, concluding that “the ways in which polling samples are constructed was the primary cause of the polling miss”. Their final report was published in March 2016.
The British Election Study team have suggested that weighting error appears to be the cause.
|Of total||Of total|
|Conservative Party||David Cameron||330||50.8%||
330 / 650
|Labour Party||Ed Miliband||232||35.7%||
232 / 650
|Scottish National Party||Nicola Sturgeon||56||8.6%||
56 / 650
|Liberal Democrats||Nick Clegg||8||1.2%||
8 / 650
|Democratic Unionist Party||Peter Robinson||8||1.2%||
8 / 650
|Sinn Féin||Gerry Adams||4||0.6%||
4 / 650
|Plaid Cymru||Leanne Wood||3||0.5%||
3 / 650
|Social Democratic & Labour Party||Alasdair McDonnell||3||0.5%||
3 / 650
|Ulster Unionist Party||Mike Nesbitt||2||0.3%||
2 / 650
|UK Independence Party||Nigel Farage||1||0.2%||
1 / 650
|Green Party||Natalie Bennett||1||0.2%||
1 / 650
1 / 650
1 / 650
|Candidates||Total||Gained||Lost||Net||Of total (%)||Total||Of total (%)||Change[b](%)|
|Liberal Democrat||Nick Clegg||631||8||0||48||−48||1.2||2,415,888||7.9||−15.1|
|Green||Natalie Bennett England & Wales
Patrick Harvie / Maggie ChapmanScotland
Steven Agnew Northern Ireland
|Plaid Cymru||Leanne Wood||40||3||0||0||0||0.5||181,694||0.6||0.0|
|Sinn Féin||Gerry Adams||18||4||0||1||−1||0.6||176,232||0.6||0.0|
|National Health Action[f]||Richard Taylor &
|People Before Profit||Collective||1||0||0||0||0||0||7,854||0.0||0.0|
|Yorkshire First||Richard Carter||14||0||0||0||0||0||6,811||0.0||New|
|English Democrat||Robin Tilbrook||35||0||0||0||0||0||6,531||0.0||−0.2|
|Mebyon Kernow||Dick Cole||6||0||0||0||0||0||5,675||0.0||0.0|
|Lincolnshire Independent||Marianne Overton||5||0||0||0||0||0||5,407||0.0||0.0|
|Monster Raving Loony||Alan “Howling Laud” Hope||27||0||0||0||0||0||3,898||0.0||0.0|
|Independent Save Withybush Save Lives||Chris Overton||1||0||0||0||0||0||3,729||0.0||New|
|Socialist Labour||Arthur Scargill||8||0||0||0||0||0||3,481||0.0||0.0|
|Christian Peoples||Sidney Cordle||17||0||0||0||0||0||3,260||0.0||0.0|
|Workers’ Party||John Lowry||5||0||0||0||0||0||2,724||0.0||0.0|
|North East Party||Hilton Dawson||4||0||0||0||0||0||2,138||0.0||0.0|
|Poole People||Mike Howell||1||0||0||0||0||0||1,766||0.0||New|
|Residents for Uttlesford||John Lodge||1||0||0||0||0||0||1,658||0.0||New|
|Rochdale First Party||Farooq Ahmed||1||0||0||0||0||0||1,535||0.0||New|
|Communist||Robert David Griffiths||9||0||0||0||0||0||1,229||0.0||New|
|National Front||Kevin Bryan||7||0||0||0||0||0||1,114||0.0||0.0|
|Communities United||Kamran Malik||5||0||0||0||0||0||1,102||0.0||New|
|Reality||Mark “Bez” Berry||3||0||0||0||0||0||1,029||0.0||New|
|The Southport Party||David Cobham||1||0||0||0||0||0||992||0.0||New|
|All People’s Party||Prem Goyal||4||0||0||0||0||0||981||0.0||New|
|Bournemouth Independent Alliance||David Ross||1||0||0||0||0||0||903||0.0||New|
|Scottish Socialist||Executive Committee||4||0||0||0||0||0||875||0.0||0.0|
|Alliance for Green Socialism||Mike Davies||4||0||0||0||0||0||852||0.0||0.0|
|Your Vote Could Save Our Hospital||Sandra Allison||1||0||0||0||0||0||849||0.0||New|
|Wigan Independents||Gareth Fairhurst||1||0||0||0||0||0||768||0.0||New|
|Animal Welfare||Vanessa Hudson||4||0||0||0||0||0||736||0.0||0.0|
|Something New||James Smith||2||0||0||0||0||0||695||0.0||New|
|Independents Against Social Injustice||Steve Walmsley||1||0||0||0||0||0||603||0.0||New|
|Independence from Europe||Mike Nattrass||5||0||0||0||0||0||578||0.0||New|
|Guildford Greenbelt Group||Susan Parker||1||0||0||0||0||0||538||0.0||New|
|Class War||Ian Bone||7||0||0||0||0||0||526||0.0||New|
|Above and Beyond||Mark Flanagan||5||0||0||0||0||0||522||0.0||New|
|Workers Revolutionary||Sheila Torrance||7||0||0||0||0||0||488||0.0||0.0|
|Left Unity||Kate Hudson||3||0||0||0||0||0||455||0.0||New|
|Liberty GB||Paul Weston||3||0||0||0||0||0||418||0.0||New|
- 66 parties are grouped together as ‘other parties’. None of those parties contested more than 2 constituencies, or gained more than 300 votes
- This column shows the change in vote share percentage from the 2010 general election to the 2015 general election. It does not account for by-elections.
- BBC News includes the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, in the MP tally and the vote tally for the Conservatives. See About these results, BBC News (30 April 2015). In this table, however, the speaker (who usually does not vote in the Commons) is listed separately, and has been removed from the Conservative tally.
- The UUP did not run itself in 2010; instead, it ran candidates under the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists banner.
- Several MPs who were each formally affiliated with a party at the beginning of the 55th Parliament were either suspended or had resigned from their parties by the time Parliament was dissolved and became independents; see here for details.
- BBC News lists the National Health Action Party together with Independent Community and Health Concern (formerly known as Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern), which is affiliated with the larger party, for a total of 20,210 votes. The Guardian lists each party separately. Health Concern received 7,211 of the votes attributed to the National Health Action Party.
- 66 parties, none of which contested more than 2 constituencies, each with under 300 votes
- The BBC groups together the votes under the Scottish Christian Party (1,467 votes); Christian Party (1,040 votes); and Christian (698 votes) labels, for a total of 3,205 votes. The Guardian lists these designations separately.
- Candidates who do not specify a party or Independent are categorised as No description
Geographic voting distribution[edit source]
One result of the 2015 general election was that a different political party won the popular vote in each of the countries of the United Kingdom. This was reflected in terms of MPs elected: The Conservatives won in England with 319 MPs out of 533 constituencies, the SNP won in Scotland with 56 out of 59, Labour won in Wales with 25 out of 40, and the Democratic Unionist Party won in Northern Ireland with 8 out of 18.
Despite most opinion polls predicting that the Conservatives and Labour were neck and neck, the Conservatives secured a surprise victory after having won a clear lead over their rivals and incumbent Prime Minister David Cameron was able to form a majority single-party government with a working majority of 12 (in practice increased to 15 due to Sinn Féin‘s 4 MPs’ abstention). Thus the result bore resemblance to 1992. The Conservatives gained 38 seats while losing 10, all to Labour, with Employment Minister Esther McVey the most senior Conservative to lose her seat. Cameron became the first Prime Minister since Lord Salisbury in 1900 to increase his popular vote share after a full term, and is sometimes credited as being the only Prime Minister other than Margaret Thatcher (in 1983) to be re-elected with a greater number of seats for his party after a ‘full term’[n 4].
The Labour Party polled below expectations and won 30.4% of the vote and 232 seats, 24 fewer than their previous result in 2010, even though in 222 constituencies there was a Conservative to Labour swing, as against 151 constituencies where there was a Labour to Conservative swing. Their net loss of seats were mainly a result of their resounding defeat in Scotland, where the Scottish National Party took 40 of their 41 seats, unseating key Labour politicians such as shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander and Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy. Labour also lost a further nine seats to the Conservatives to record their lowest share of the seats since the 1987 general election. Ed Miliband subsequently tendered his resignation as Labour leader.
The Scottish National Party had a stunning election, rising from just 6 seats to 56 – winning all but 3 of the constituencies in Scotland and securing 50% of the popular vote in Scotland. They recorded a number of record breaking swings of over 30% including the new record of 39.3% in Glasgow North East. They also won the seat of former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, overturning a majority of 23,009 to win by a majority of 9,974 votes and saw Mhairi Black, then a 20-year-old student, defeat Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander with a swing of 26.9%.
The Liberal Democrats, who had been in government as coalition partners, suffered the worst defeat they or the previous Liberal Party had suffered since the 1970 general election. Winning just eight seats, the Liberal Democrats lost their position as the UK’s third party and found themselves tied in fourth place with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland in the House of Commons, with Nick Clegg being one of the few MPs from his party to retain his seat. The Liberal Democrats gained no seats, and lost 49: 27 to the Conservatives, 12 to Labour and 10 to the SNP.
The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) were only able to hold one of their two seats and gain no new ones, despite increasing their vote share to 12.9% (which was third in terms of votes.) Party leader Nigel Farage, having failed to win the constituency of South Thanet, tendered his resignation, though this was rejected by his party’s executive council and he stayed on as leader.
In Northern Ireland, the Ulster Unionist Party returned to the Commons with two MPs after a five-year absence, gaining one seat from the Democratic Unionist Party and one from Sinn Féin, while Alliance lost its only Commons seat to the DUP despite an increase in total vote share.
Voter demographics[edit source]
Polling after the election suggested the following demographic breakdown:
|The 2015 UK General Election vote in Great Britain|
|Social group||Con:||Lab:||Lib Dem:||SNP:||Plaid:||UKIP:||Green:||Other/DK:|
|Age and Gender|
|Highest Educational Level|
|GCSE or Lower||38||30||5||3||0||20||2||2|
|Daily Mirror/Daily Record||11||67||5||6||0||9||2||1|
|The Daily Telegraph||69||8||8||0||0||12||1||1|
The election led to an increase in the number of female MPs, to 191 (29% of the total, including 99 Labour; 68 Conservative; 20 SNP; 4 other) from 147 (23% of the total, including 87 Labour; 47 Conservative; 7 Liberal Democrat; 1 SNP; 5 other). As before the election, the region with the largest proportion of women MPs was North East England.
Seats changing hands and MPs who lost their seats[edit source]
111 seats changed hands compared to the result in 2010 plus three by-election gains reverted to the party that won the seat at the last general election in 2010.
The Conservatives lost 11 seats (10 to Labour and one to UKIP in Clacton) and gained 35 (27 from the Liberal Democrats and eight from Labour) making a net gain of 24 seats.
The 10 Conservative seats lost to Labour were Brentford and Isleworth, Chester, Dewsbury, Ealing Central and Acton, Enfield North, Hove, Ilford North, Lancaster and Fleetwood, Wirral West, and Wolverhampton South West.
Labour lost 48 seats (40 to the SNP and 8 to the Conservatives) and gained 22 (12 from the Liberal Democrats and 10 from the Conservatives) making a net loss of 26 seats.
The eight seats lost by Labour to the Conservatives were Bolton West, Derby North, Gower, Morley and Outwood, Plymouth Moorview, Southampton Itchen, Telford and Vale of Clywd.
The Liberal Democrats lost 49 seats (27 to the Conservatives, 12 to Labour and 10 to the SNP) leaving them with eight.
The SNP gained 50 seats (40 from Labour and 10 from the Liberal Democrats) and lost none giving them 56 out of a maximum 59. The three Scottish seats that eluded the SNP were Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale (Conservative), Edinburgh South (Labour), and Orkney and Shetland (Liberal Democrat).
The Alliance Party lost its only seat (East Belfast) to the DUP.
The DUP lost one seat (South Antrim) to the UUP leaving them with eight.
Sinn Féin lost one seat (Fermanagh and South Tyrone) to the UUP leaving them with four.
Three seats won at by-elections by Labour, UKIP and Respect, respectively, returned to the party that won in 2010: Conservative (Corby, Rochester and Strood) and Labour (Bradford West; The Respect Party).
General election records broken in 2015[edit source]
Youngest elected MP[edit source]
Largest swing[edit source]
On 8 May, three party leaders announced their resignations within an hour of each other: Ed Miliband (Labour) and Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrat) resigned due to their parties’ worse-than-expected results in the election, although both had been re-elected to their seats in Parliament. Nigel Farage (UKIP) offered his resignation because he had failed to be elected as MP for Thanet South, but said he might re-stand in the resulting leadership election. However, on 11 May, the UKIP executive rejected his resignation on the grounds that the election campaign had been “a great success”, and Farage agreed to continue as party leader.
In response to Labour’s poor performance in Scotland, Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy initially resisted calls for his resignation by other senior party members. Despite surviving a no-confidence vote by 17–14 from the party’s national executive, Murphy announced he would step down as leader on or by 16 May.
Financial markets[edit source]
Financial markets reacted positively to the result, with the pound sterling rising against the Euro and US dollar when the exit poll was published, and the FTSE 100 stock market index rising 2.3% on 8 May. The BBC reported: “Bank shares saw some of the biggest gains, on hopes that the sector will not see any further rises in levies. Shares in Lloyds Banking Group rose 5.75% while Barclays was 3.7% higher”, adding, “Energy firms also saw their share prices rise, as Labour had wanted a price freeze and more powers for the energy regulator. British Gas owner Centrica rose 8.1% and SSE shares were up 5.3%”. BBC economics editor Robert Peston noted: “To state the obvious, investors love the Tories’ general election victory. There are a few reasons. One (no surprise here) is that Labour’s threat of breaking up banks and imposing energy price caps has been lifted. Second is that investors have been discounting days and weeks of wrangling after polling day over who would form the government – and so they are semi-euphoric that we already know who’s in charge. Third, many investors tend to be economically Conservative and instinctively Conservative.”
Electoral reform[edit source]
The disparity between the numbers of votes and the number of seats obtained by the smaller parties gave rise to increased calls for replacement of the ‘first-past-the-post‘ voting system with a more proportional system. For example, UKIP had 3.9 million votes per seat, whereas SNP had just 26,000 votes per seat, about 150 times greater representation for each vote cast. It is worth noting, however, that UKIP stood in 10 times as many seats as the SNP. Noting that UKIP’s 13% share of the overall votes cast had resulted in the election of just one MP, Nigel Farage argued that the UK’s voting system needed reforming, saying, “Personally, I think the first-past-the-post system is bankrupt”.
Re-elected Green Party MP Caroline Lucas agreed, saying “The political system in this country is broken […] It’s ever clearer tonight that the time for electoral reform is long overdue, and it’s only proportional representation that will deliver a Parliament that is truly legitimate and better reflects the people it is meant to represent.”
Daily Telegraph investigation of abuse of Wikipedia[edit source]
Following the election, The Daily Telegraph detailed changes to Wikipedia pages made from computers with IP addresses inside Parliament raising suspicion that “MPs or their political parties deliberately hid information from the public online to make candidates appear more electable to voters” and a deliberate attempt to hide embarrassing information from the electorate.
Telegraph Media Group fined[edit source]
On 21 December 2015, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office fined the Telegraph Media Group £30,000 for sending ‘hundreds of thousands of emails on the day of the general election urging readers to vote Conservative … in a letter from Daily Telegraph editor Chris Evans, attached to the paper’s usual morning e-bulletin’. The ICO concluded that subscribers had not expressed their consent to receive this kind of direct marketing.
Election petition[edit source]
Four electors from Orkney and Shetland lodged an election petition on 29 May 2015 attempting to unseat Alistair Carmichael and force a by-election over what became known as ‘Frenchgate‘. The issue centred around the leaking of a memo from the Scotland Office about comments allegedly made by the French ambassador Sylvie Bermann about Nicola Sturgeon, claiming that Sturgeon had privately stated she would “rather see David Cameron remain as PM”, in contrast to her publicly stated opposition to a Conservative government. The veracity of the memo was quickly denied by the French ambassador, French consul general and Sturgeon. At the time of the leak, Carmichael denied all knowledge of the leaking of the memo in a television interview with Channel 4 News. but after the election Carmichael accepted the contents of the memo were incorrect, admitted that he had lied, and that he had authorised the leaking of the inaccurate memo to the media after a Cabinet Office enquiry identified Carmichael’s role in the leak. On 9 December, an Election Court decided that although he had told a “blatant lie” in a TV interview, it had not been proven beyond reasonable doubt that he had committed an “illegal practice” under the Representation of the People Act and he was allowed to retain his seat.
Party election spending investigation[edit source]
At national party level, the Electoral Commission fined the three largest parties for breaches of spending regulations, levying the highest fines since its foundation: £20,000 for Labour in October 2016, £20,000 for the Liberal Democrats in December 2016, and £70,000 for the Conservative Party in March 2017.
The higher fine for the Conservatives reflected both the extent of the wrongdoing (which extended to the 2014 parliamentary by-elections in Clacton, Newark and Rochester and Strood) and ‘the unreasonable uncooperative conduct by the Party’. The Commission also found that the Party Treasurer, Simon Day, may not have fulfilled his obligations under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 and referred him for investigation to the Metropolitan Police Service.
At constituency level, related alleged breaches of spending regulations led to ‘unprecedented’ police investigations for possible criminal conduct of between 20 and 30 Conservative Party MPs. However, on 9 May 2017, the Crown Prosecution service decided not to prosecute the vast majority of suspects, saying that ‘in order to bring a charge, it must be proved that a suspect knew the return was inaccurate and acted dishonestly in signing the declaration. Although there is evidence to suggest the returns may have been inaccurate, there is insufficient evidence to prove to the criminal standard that any candidate or agent was dishonest.’ However, on June 2nd 2017, charges were brought under the Representation of the People Act 1983 against Craig Mackinlay, who was elected Conservative MP for South Thanet in 2015, his agent Nathan Gray, and a party activist, Marion Little; each is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 4 July 2017.
34 English councils
The 2017 United Kingdom local elections were held on Thursday 4 May 2017. Local elections were held across Great Britain, with elections to 35 English local authorities and all councils in Scotland and Wales.
Newly created combined authority mayors were directly elected in six areas of England: Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Greater Manchester, the Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley, the West Midlands, and the West of England. In addition, Doncaster and North Tyneside re-elected local authority mayors. Local by-elections for 107 council seats also took place on 4 May.
The Conservative Party enjoyed the best local election performance in a decade, making significant gains at the expense of the Labour Party, this despite the party having been in government for nearly seven years. The UK Independence Party lost every seat they were defending, but gained just one seat at the expense of the Labour Party. The Liberal Democrats lost 41 seats, despite their vote share increasing. The Conservatives won four out of six metro-mayoral areas,including in the traditionally Labour-voting Tees Valley and West Midlands.
The local elections were followed by a general election on 8 June.
- 1Eligibility to vote
- 2Seats held prior to the election
Eligibility to vote
All registered electors (British, Irish, Commonwealth and European Union citizens) who were aged 18 or over (or aged 16 or over in Scotland) on polling day were entitled to vote in the local elections.A person who had two homes (such as a university student having a term-time address and living at home during holidays) could register to vote at both addresses as long as they were not in the same electoral area, and could vote in the local elections for the two different local councils.
Individuals had to be registered to vote by midnight twelve working days before polling day (13 April 2017 in England and Wales; 17 April 2017 in Scotland). Anyone qualifying as an anonymous elector had until midnight on 25 April 2017 to register.
Seats held prior to the election
In total, 4,851 council seats were up for election in 88 councils; additionally six new mayors were directly elected.Approximately 10,000 people were candidates for election. All 32 councils in Scotland (1,227 seats) and all 22 councils in Wales (1,254 seats) were up for election; an additional 34 councils (2,370 seats) in England were up for election. Of the 35 English councils up for election, 27 were county councils, seven were unitary authorities, and one was the Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council.
According to a BBC News estimate, taking into account boundary changes, the major political parties were effectively defending the following notional results in council seats on election day:
- Labour – 1,535 seats
- Conservatives – 1,336 seats
- Lib Dems – 484 seats
- SNP – 438 seats
- Plaid Cymru – 170 seats
- UKIP – 146 seats
- Green Party – 34 seats
There were also 687 independent councillors and 4 Mebyon Kernow councillors. The remaining 217 seats were held by residents’ associations and minor parties. A by-election for the parliamentary constituency of Manchester Gorton (caused by the death of Sir Gerald Kaufman, the sitting MP) was due to be held on the same day as the local election, but the by-election was cancelled after the general election was called for the following month.
Overall Results – Great Britain
|No overall control||44||4||n/a||n/a|
As elections were not held throughout the country, the BBC calculated a Projected National Vote Share (PNV), which aims to assess what the council results indicate the UK-wide vote would be “if the results were repeated at a general election”. The BBC’s preliminary Projected National Vote Share was 38% for the Conservatives, 27% for Labour, 18% for the Liberal Democrats and 5% for UKIP, with others on around 12%.
This is the highest vote share for the Conservatives in local elections since 2008, when they faced Labour a decade into government and suffering from the financial crisis. The Liberal Democrats have performed better than at any election since 2010, whilst Labour has not performed so badly since 2010.
Results by nation
|No overall control||5||9||n/a||n/a|
|No overall control||10||1||n/a||n/a|
Following boundary changes:
|Party||First-preference votes||Councils||+/-||2012 seats||2017 seats||Seat change|
|Seats won||Notional||Seats won||Seat %||vs 2012||vs Notional|
|Scottish National Party||610,454||32.3%||0.0||0||1||425||438||431||35.1%||6||7|
|No Overall Control||—||—||—||29||4||—||—||—||—||—||—|
There were boundary changes in many of these councils, with an increase in council seats across the country from 1,223 to 1,227, making direct comparisons with the 2012 results problematic. Notional seats and seat change are based on a notional 2012 result calculated by the BBC.
(voting areas only)
|Before elections||After elections||Before elections||After elections|
No council election on 4 May 2017
|Largest party by popular vote
(including mayoral elections)
|and its vote share||and the size of its majority|
No election on 4 May 2017
Non-metropolitan county councils
All 27 county councils for areas with a two-tier structure of local governance had all of their seats up for election. These were first-past-the-post elections in a mixture of single-member and multi-member electoral divisions.
‡ New electoral division boundaries 
† The Conservatives lost control in 2013, and were replaced by a Labour/UKIP/Lib Dem coalition with Independent/Green support. The Conservatives regained the council leadership in May 2016 after the Green Party abstained in the annual Council leadership election, and by-elections and defections later brought the Conservative total to 42 seats, giving them exactly 50% of the seats.
Seven single-tier unitary authorities held elections, with all of their seats up for election. These were first-past-the-post elections in a mixture of single-member and multi-member electoral divisions or wards.
|Cornwall||All||No overall control (Lib Dem/Independent Coalition)||No overall control (Lib Dem/Independent Coalition)  ||Details|
|Isle of Wight||All||No overall control (Conservative Minority)||Conservative||Details|
|Isles of Scilly||All||Independent||Independent||Details|
|Northumberland||All||No overall control (Labour Minority)||No overall control (Conservative Minority)||Details|
One metropolitan borough, the Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster, had all of its seats up for election, after moving to whole council elections in 2015. This was a first-past-the-post election in a mixture of two-member and three-member wards.
Six elections for directly elected regional mayors will be held. These newly established positions will lead combined authorities set up by groups of local councils, as part of devolution deals giving the combined authorities additional powers and funding.
|Combined Authority||Interim Mayor/Chair||Result||Details|
|Cambridgeshire and Peterborough||Robin Howe (Conservative)||James Palmer (Conservative)||Details|
|Greater Manchester||Tony Lloyd (Labour)||Andy Burnham (Labour)||Details|
|Liverpool City Region||Joe Anderson (Labour)||Steve Rotheram (Labour)||Details|
|Tees Valley||Sue Jeffrey (Labour)||Ben Houchen (Conservative)||Details|
|West of England||Matthew Riddle (Conservative)||Tim Bowles (Conservative)||Details|
|West Midlands||Bob Sleigh (Conservative)||Andy Street (Conservative)||Details|
Other planned mayoralties have been postponed or cancelled. The election of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority mayor was postponed in January 2017 and, following legal action, will not happen in 2017 at all; while devolution deals were also scrapped for the North East Combined Authority, Norfolk and Suffolk and Greater Lincolnshire.
Two elections for directly elected local district mayors will be held. These Mayors act as council leaders in their local authorities.
|Local Authority||Incumbent Mayor||Result||Details|
|Doncaster||Ros Jones (Labour)||Ros Jones (Labour)||Details|
|North Tyneside||Norma Redfearn (Labour)||Norma Redfearn (Labour)||Details|
† In 2014, the only Welsh Liberal Democrat cabinet member defected to Welsh Labour; thus the Liberal Democrats left the coalition.
In 2015, several Independent councillors created their own group within the council called Conwy First. This group later on went to support the council [clarification needed] instead of the remaining five independent councillors, so that the coalition was then made up of Plaid Cymru, Welsh Labour and Conwy First.
†† At the original election Plaid Cymru won exactly half the seats; they later took control of the council by winning a by-election.