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2017 United Kingdom general election

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A general election to select Members of Parliament in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom took place on 8th June 2017. It resulted in a hung parliament with the Conservatives returned as a minority government.

Less than two years after the previous nationwide poll, May made a surprise announcement on 18th April to seek an election, having previously stated that this would not be in the interests of the nation in the run up to British exit from the European Union.[1] The election resulted in the cancellation of a by-election - the first time this has happened since 1924.

In April 2017, MPs voted in favour of a motion by the Prime Minister, Theresa May, by 522 to 13 to call an election,[2] in accordance with the requirement of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011 for a vote by MPs representing two-thirds of constituencies. Parliament was dissolved on 3rd May 2017 by royal proclamation, which also formally called the election, with 650 seats to be filled.

Unusually, local elections took place in much of the country in the middle of the election campaign, giving an alternative predictor to opinion polls. They agreed on bad results for Labour, which were mainly attributed to its far left leader Jeremy Corbyn. The other major feature of the local elections was the collapse in the votes for UKIP, which lost all the seats it was defending and gained just a single seat (though it still has local councillors who were not up for reelection this year) ([1]). This was assumed to be largely because it has achieved its main objective, departure from the European Union, and was expected to benefit mainly the Conservatives; however, early analysis of the election result suggested that many former UKIP voters had backed Labour.

By the deadline on 11 May, about 3300 valid nominations had been received for the 650 seats, from about 73 parties and 187 independents ([2]). Five parties had candidates in a majority of seats: Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green[3] and UKIP. ([3])

Campaigning was suspended for a few days after a deadly terrorist attack in Manchester, and briefly again after another attack in London.

Projected results based on early opinion polls regularly gave large Conservative majorities. At least one predicted Labour's worst result since 1935, and some predicted more Conservative MPs than in any election since 1931. Later in the campaign, opinion polls moved substantially Labour's way. By the end of May, one predicted no overall majority in the new House of Commons. In the final week of the campaign, that polling organization continued to predict no overall majority, while all other major polls continued to predict an increased Conservative majority. The average prediction was for a new House much like the old. An exit poll conducted on election day correctly predicted that no party would achieve a majority in the House of Commons.

Final seat counts were as follows:

  • 317 Conservative
  • 262 Labour
  • 35 Scottish National
  • 12 Liberal Democrat
  • 10 Democratic Unionist
  • 7 Sinn Fein
  • 4 Plaid Cymru
  • 1 Green
  • 1 Independent
  • [1] the Speaker

The Conservatives actually substantially increased their vote, but Labour did so a good deal more. This combination of changes is partially accounted for by increased turnout, particularly among younger voters, for which Jeremy Corbyn is generally credited, but a larger proportion of the change was due to a squeeze on third parties. All the other major parties in Great Britain lost votes, though the Liberal Democrats managed to convert this into an increase in seats. This was not enough to restore them to third place in the Commons, which is still held by the Scottish National Party, who still hold the majority of seats for Scotland.

In Northern Ireland there was a polarization towards the two more hard-line parties, with all others disappearing from the House (though the Independent Lady Hermon retained her seat).

After taking into account that the Speaker, his three deputies (2 Labour and 1 Conservative) and the 7 Sinn Fein members do not vote, it turns out that the Conservatives are only 4 votes short of a majority. They reached an agreement with the Democratic Unionists, and it is thought likely that they will manage to remain in office.

From Electoral Commission figures it would seem that about six or seven million people theoretically entitled to vote had nor registered and were therefore unable to vote. The Commission is investigating claims that some people voted twice, and that some postal votes were lost.

Research with a representative panel of 30,000 voters concluded that many former Conservative voters who had voted to remain in the EU switched to Labour, while many former Labour voters who had voted to leave switched to the Conservatives. It seems that class as such had little effect on voting, in contrast with the traditional pattern. Instead, educational level was a major influence, with more educated voters more likely to support Labour. However, the biggest factor seems to be age, with younger voters much more likely to have voted Labour ([4]).


  1. Independent: 'Theresa May rules out snap election as Tories warn waiting until 2020 could ‘open the door to Labour’'. 1st October 2016.
  2. BBC News: 'General election 2017: MPs back plans for 8 June poll'. 19th April 2017.
  3. Strictly, the Green Party of England and Wales, those for Scotland and Northern Ireland being independent.