All 659 seats to the House of Commons
330 seats needed for a majority
Colours denote the winning party, as shown in the main table of results.
* Indicates boundary change, so this is a nominal figure.
† Notional 1992 results on new boundaries.
Composition of the House of Commons after the election
The 1997 United Kingdom general election was held on 1 May 1997. The governing Conservative Party led by Prime Minister John Major was defeated in a landslide by the Labour Party led by Tony Blair, achieving a 179 seat majority.
The political backdrop of campaigning focused on public opinion towards a change in government. Blair, as Labour Leader, focused on transforming his party through a more centrist policy platform, entitled 'New Labour', with promises of devolution referendums for Scotland and Wales, fiscal responsibility, and a decision to nominate more female politicians for election through the use of all-women shortlists from which to choose candidates. Major sought to rebuild public trust in the Conservatives following a series of scandals, including the events of Black Wednesday in 1992,through campaigning on the strength of the economic recovery following the early 1990s recession, but faced divisions within the party over the UK's membership of the European Union.
Opinion polls during campaigning showed strong support for Labour due to Blair's personal popularity,and Blair won a personal public endorsement from The Sun newspaper two months before the vote. The final result of the election on 2 May 1997 revealed that Labour had won a landslide majority, making a net gain of 146 seats and winning 43.2% of the vote. 133 Members of Parliament lost their seats. The Conservatives, meanwhile, suffered defeat with a net loss of 178 seats, winning 30.7% of the vote. The Liberal Democrats, under the leadership of Paddy Ashdown, made a net gain of 28 seats, winning 16.8% of the vote.
The election ended 18 years of Conservative government, its result the party's worst defeat since 1906; it was left devoid of any MPs outside England, with only 17 MPs north of the Midlands, and with less than 20% of MPs in London.Immediately following the election Major resigned both as Prime Minister and as party leader. Labour's victory, the largest achieved in its history and by any political party in British politics since the Second World War, brought about the party's first of three consecutive terms in power (lasting a total of 13 years), with Blair as the newly appointed Prime Minister. The Liberal Democrats' success in the election, in part due to anti-Conservative tactical voting, both strengthened Ashdown's leadership and the party's position as a strong third party, having won the highest number of seats by any third party since 1929.
Although the Conservatives lost many ministers such as Michael Portillo, Tony Newton, Malcolm Rifkind, Ian Lang and William Waldegrave and controversial MPs such as Neil Hamilton and Jonathan Aitken,some of the Conservative newcomers in this election were future Prime Minister Theresa May, future Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, future Leader of the House Andrew Lansley, as well as future Speaker John Bercow. Meanwhile, Labour newcomers included future Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet members Hazel Blears, Ben Bradshaw, Yvette Cooper, Caroline Flint, Barry Gardiner, Alan Johnson, Ruth Kelly, John McDonnell, Stephen Twigg and Rosie Winterton, as well as future Scottish Labour Leader Jim Murphy and future Speaker Lindsay Hoyle. The election of 120 women, including 101 to the Labour benches, came to be seen as a watershed moment in female political representation in the UK.
The British economy had been in recession at the time of the 1992 election, which the Conservatives had won, and although the recession had ended within a year, events such as Black Wednesday had tarnished the Conservative government's reputation for economic management. Labour had elected John Smith as its party leader in 1992, but his death from a heart attack in 1994 paved the way for Tony Blair to become Labour leader.
Blair brought the party closer to the political centre and abolished the party's Clause IV in their constitution, which had committed them to mass nationalisation of industry. Labour also reversed its policy on unilateral nuclear disarmament and the events of Black Wednesday allowed Labour to promise better economic management under the Chancellorship of Gordon Brown. A manifesto, entitled New Labour, New Life for Britain was released in 1996 and outlined five key pledges:
Disputes within the Conservative government over European Union issues, and a variety of "sleaze" allegations, had severely affected the government's popularity. Despite the strong economic recovery and substantial fall in unemployment in the four years leading up to the election, the rise in Conservative support was only marginal, with all of the major opinion polls having shown Labour in a comfortable lead since late 1992.
Following the 1992 general election, the Conservatives remained in government with 336 of the 651 House of Commons seats. Through a series of defections and by-election defeats, the government gradually lost its absolute majority in the House of Commons. By 1997, the Conservatives held only 324 House of Commons seats (and had not won a by-election since Richmond in 1989).
The previous Parliament first sat on 29 April 1992. The Parliament Act 1911 required at the time for each Parliament to be dissolved before the fifth anniversary of its first sitting; therefore, the latest date the dissolution and the summoning of the next parliament could have been held on was 28 April 1997.
The 1985 amendment of the Representation of the People Act 1983 required that the election must take place on the eleventh working day after the deadline for nomination papers, which in turn must be no more than six working days after the next parliament was summoned.
Therefore, the latest date the election could have been held on was 22 May 1997 (which happened to be a Thursday). British elections (and referendums) have been held on Thursdays by convention since the 1930s, but can be held on other working days.
Prime Minister John Major called the election on Monday 17 March 1997, ensuring the formal campaign would be unusually long, at six weeks (Parliament was dissolved on 8 April).The election was scheduled for 1 May, to coincide with the local elections on the same day. This set a precedent, as the three subsequent general elections were also held alongside the May local elections.
The Conservatives argued that a long campaign would expose Labour and allow the Conservative message to be heard. However, Major was accused of arranging an early dissolution to protect Neil Hamilton from a pending parliamentary report into his conduct: a report that Major had earlier guaranteed would be published before the election.
In March 1997, soon after the election was called, Asda introduced a range of election-themed beers, these being 'Major's Mild', 'Tony's Tipple' and 'Ashdown's Ale'.
Major hoped that a long campaign would expose Labour's "hollowness" and the Conservative campaign emphasised stability, as did its manifesto title 'You can only be sure with the Conservatives'.However, the campaign was beset by deep-set problems, such as the rise of James Goldsmith's Referendum Party which advocated a referendum on continued membership of the European Union. The party threatened to take away many right-leaning voters from the Conservatives. Furthermore, about 200 candidates broke with official Conservative policy to oppose British membership of the single European currency. Major fought back, saying: "Whether you agree with me or disagree with me; like me or loathe me, don't bind my hands when I am negotiating on behalf of the British nation." The moment is remembered as one of the defining, and most surreal, moments of the election.
Meanwhile, there was also division amongst the Conservative cabinet, with Chancellor Kenneth Clarke describing the views of Home Secretary Michael Howard on Europe as "paranoid and xenophobic nonsense". The Conservatives also struggled to come up with a definitive theme to attack Labour, with some strategists arguing for an approach which castigated Labour for "stealing Tory clothes" (copying their positions), with others making the case for a more confrontational approach, stating that "New Labour" was just a façade for "old Labour".
The New Labour, New Danger poster, which depicted Tony Blair with demon eyes, was an example of the latter strategy. Major veered between the two approaches, which left Conservative Central Office staff frustrated. As Andrew Cooper explained: "We repeatedly tried and failed to get him to understand that you couldn't say that they were dangerous and copying you at the same time."In any case, the campaign failed to gain much traction, and the Conservatives went down to a landslide defeat at the polls.
Labour ran a slick campaign that emphasised the splits within the Conservative government and argued that the country needed a more centrist administration. It thus successfully picked up dissatisfied Conservative voters, particularly moderate and suburban ones. Tony Blair, who was personally highly popular, was very much the centrepiece of the campaign and proved a highly effective campaigner.
The Labour campaign was reminiscent of those of Bill Clinton for the US Presidency, focusing on centrist themes as well as adopting policies more commonly associated with the right, such as cracking down on crime and fiscal responsibility. The influence of political "spin" came into great effect for Labour at this point, as media centric figures such as Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson provided a clear cut campaign, and establishing a relatively new political brand "New Labour" with enviable success.
The Liberal Democrats had suffered a disappointing performance in 1992, but they were very much strengthened in 1997 due in part to potential tactical voting between Labour and Lib Dem supporters in Conservative marginal constituencies, particularly in the south - which explains why while given their share of the vote decreased, their number of seats nearly doubled.The Lib Dems promised to increase education funding paid for by a 1p increase in income tax.
|Opinion polling for UK general elections|
The election was fought under new boundaries, with a net increase of eight seats compared to the 1992 election (651 to 659). Changes listed here are from the notional 1992 result, had it been fought on the boundaries established in 1997. These notional results were calculated by Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher and were used by all media organisations at the time.
|Party||Seats||Gains||Losses||Net gain/loss||Seats %||Votes %||Votes||+/−|
Labour won a landslide victory with its largest parliamentary majority (179) to date. On the BBC's election night programme Professor Anthony King described the result of the exit poll, which accurately predicted a Labour landslide, as being akin to "an asteroid hitting the planet and destroying practically all life on Earth". After years of trying, Labour had convinced the electorate that they would usher in a new age of prosperity—their policies, organisation and tone of optimism slotting perfectly into place.
Labour's victory was largely credited to the charisma of Tony Blair,as well as a Labour public relations machine managed by Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson. Between the 1992 election and the 1997 election there had also been major steps to "modernise" the party, including scrapping Clause IV that had committed the party to extending public ownership of industry. Labour had suddenly seized the middle ground of the political spectrum, attracting voters much further to the right than their traditional working class or left wing support. In the early hours of 2 May 1997 a party was held at the Royal Festival Hall, in which Blair stated that "a new dawn has broken, has it not?"
The election was a crushing defeat for the Conservative Party, with the party having its lowest percentage share of the popular vote since 1832 under the Duke of Wellington's leadership, being wiped out in Scotland and Wales. A number of prominent Conservative MPs lost their seats in the election, including Michael Portillo, Malcolm Rifkind, Edwina Currie, David Mellor, Neil Hamilton and Norman Lamont. Such was the extent of Conservative losses at the election that Cecil Parkinson, speaking on the BBC's election night programme, joked upon the Conservatives winning their second seat that he was pleased that the subsequent election for the leadership would be contested.
The Liberal Democrats stood on a more left-wing manifesto than Labour,and more than doubled their number of seats thanks to the use of tactical voting against the Conservatives. Although their share of the vote fell slightly, their total of 46 MPs was the highest for any UK Liberal party since David Lloyd George led the party to 59 seats in 1929.
The Referendum Party, which sought a referendum on the United Kingdom's relationship with the European Union, came fourth in terms of votes with 800,000 votes mainly from former Conservative voters,[ citation needed ] but won no seats in parliament. The six parties with the next highest votes stood only in either Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales; in order, they were the Scottish National Party, the Ulster Unionist Party, the Social Democratic and Labour Party, Plaid Cymru, Sinn Féin, and the Democratic Unionist Party.
In the previously safe seat of Tatton, where incumbent Conservative MP Neil Hamilton was facing charges of having taken cash for questions, the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties decided not to field candidates in order that an independent candidate, Martin Bell, would have a better chance of winning the seat, which he did with a comfortable margin.
The result declared for the constituency of Winchester showed a margin of victory of just two votes for the Liberal Democrats. The defeated Conservative candidate mounted a successful legal challenge to the result on the grounds that errors by election officials (failures to stamp certain votes) had changed the result; the court ruled the result invalid and ordered a by-election on 20 November which was won by the Liberal Democrats with a much larger majority, causing much recrimination in the Conservative Party about the decision to challenge the original result in the first place.
This election saw a doubling of the number of women in parliament, from 60 elected in 1992 to 120 elected in 1997.101 of them (controversially described as Blair Babes) were on the Labour benches, a number driven by the Labour Party’s 1993 policy (ruled illegally discriminatory in 1996) of all-women shortlists. This election has therefore been widely seen as a watershed moment for representation of women in the UK.
This election marked the start of Labour government for the next 13 years, lasting until the formation of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in 2010.
|Party||Leader||Stood||Elected||Gained||Unseated||Net||% of total||%||No.||Net %|
|Liberal Democrats||Paddy Ashdown||639||46||30||2||+28||7.0||16.8||5,242,947||–1.0|
|Ulster Unionist||David Trimble||16||10||1||0||+1||1.5||0.8||258,349||0.0|
|Plaid Cymru||Dafydd Wigley||40||4||0||0||0||0.6||0.5||161,030||0.0|
|Sinn Féin||Gerry Adams||17||2||2||0||+2||0.3||0.4||126,921||0.0|
|Green||Peg Alexander and David Taylor||89||0||0||0||0||0.2||61,731||–0.2|
|Socialist Labour||Arthur Scargill||64||0||0||0||0||0.2||52,109||N/A|
|Natural Law||Geoffrey Clements||197||0||0||0||0||0.1||30,604||–0.1|
|ProLife Alliance||Bruno Quintavalle||56||0||0||0||0||0.1||19,332||N/A|
|UK Unionist||Robert McCartney||1||1||1||0||+1||0.2||0.0||12,817||N/A|
|National Democrats||Ian Anderson||21||0||0||0||0||0.0||10,829||N/A|
|Socialist Alternative||Peter Taaffe||0||0||0||0||0.0||9,906||N/A|
|Scottish Socialist||Tommy Sheridan||16||0||0||0||0||0.0||9,740||N/A|
|Monster Raving Loony||Screaming Lord Sutch||24||0||0||0||0||0.0||7,906||–0.1|
|Make Politicians History||Rainbow George Weiss||29||0||0||0||0||0.0||3,745||N/A|
|NI Women's Coalition||Monica McWilliams and Pearl Sagar||3||0||0||0||0||0.0||3,024||N/A|
|Workers' Party||Tom French||8||0||0||0||0||0.0||2,766||–0.1|
|National Front||John McAuley||6||0||0||0||0||0.0||2,716||N/A|
|Cannabis Law Reform||Howard Marks||4||0||0||0||0||0.0||2,085||N/A|
|Socialist People's Party||Jim Hamezian||1||0||0||0||0||0.0||1,995||N/A|
|Mebyon Kernow||Loveday Jenkin||4||0||0||0||0||0.0||1,906||N/A|
|Conservative Anti-Euro||Christopher Story||1||0||0||0||0||0.0||1,434||N/A|
|Community Representative||Ralph Knight||1||0||0||0||0||0.0||1,290||N/A|
|Workers Revolutionary||Sheila Torrance||9||0||0||0||0||0.0||1,178||N/A|
|Socialist Equality||Davy Hyland||3||0||0||0||0||0.0||505|
The Popular Unionist MP elected in 1992 died in 1995, and the party folded shortly afterwards.There was no incumbent Speaker in the 1992 election.
|Government's new majority||179|
|Total votes cast||31,286,284|
|Total||418||165||46||6||4||18||2 (inc Speaker)||659|
The poor results for the Conservative Party led to infighting, with the One Nation group, Tory Reform Group, and right-wing Maastricht Rebels blaming each other for the defeat. Party chairman Brian Mawhinney said on the night of the election that defeat was due to disillusionment with 18 years of Conservative rule. John Major resigned as party leader, saying "When the curtain falls, it is time to leave the stage".
Following the defeat, the Conservatives began their longest continuous spell in opposition in the history of the present day (post–Tamworth Manifesto) Conservative Party - and indeed the longest such spell for any incarnation of the Tories/Conservatives since the 1760s and the end of the Whig Supremacy under Kings George I and George II - lasting 13 years, including the whole of the 2000s.Throughout this period, their representation in the Commons remained consistently below 200 MPs.
Meanwhile, Paddy Ashdown's continued leadership of the Liberal Democrats was assured, and they were felt to be in a position to build positively as a strong third party into the new millennium,culminating in their sharing power in the 2010 coalition with the Conservatives.
With the huge rise in internet use since the previous general election, BBC News created a special website - BBC Politics 97 - covering the election.This site was an experiment for the efficiency of an online news service which was due for launch later in the year.
The 2001 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday 7 June 2001, four years after the previous election on 1 May 1997, to elect 659 members to the House of Commons. The governing Labour Party was re-elected to serve a second term in government with another landslide victory with a 167 majority, returning 413 members of Parliament versus 419 from the 1997 general election, a net loss of six seats, though with a significantly lower turnout than before—59.4%, compared to 71.3% at the previous election. The number of votes Labour received fell by nearly three million. Tony Blair went on to become the only Labour Prime Minister to serve two consecutive full terms in office. As Labour retained almost all of their seats won in the 1997 landslide victory, the media dubbed the 2001 election "the quiet landslide".
The United Kingdom is a unitary state with devolution that is governed within the framework of a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy in which the monarch, currently Charles III, King of the United Kingdom, is the head of state while the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Rishi Sunak, is the head of government. Executive power is exercised by the British government, on behalf of and by the consent of the monarch, and the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Legislative power is vested in the two chambers of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the House of Commons and the House of Lords, as well as in the Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh parliaments. The British political system is a two party system. Since the 1920s, the two dominant parties have been the Conservative Party and the Labour Party. Before the Labour Party rose in British politics, the Liberal Party was the other major political party, along with the Conservatives. While coalition and minority governments have been an occasional feature of parliamentary politics, the first-past-the-post electoral system used for general elections tends to maintain the dominance of these two parties, though each has in the past century relied upon a third party, such as the Liberal Democrats, to deliver a working majority in Parliament. A Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition government held office from 2010 until 2015, the first coalition since 1945. The coalition ended following parliamentary elections on 7 May 2015, in which the Conservative Party won an outright majority of seats, 330 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons, while their coalition partners lost all but eight seats.
The 1983 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday 9 June 1983. It gave the Conservative Party under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher the most decisive election victory since that of the Labour Party in 1945, with a majority of 144 seats.
The 1992 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday 9 April 1992, to elect 651 members to the House of Commons. The election resulted in the fourth consecutive victory for the Conservative Party since 1979 and would be the last time that the Conservatives would win an overall majority at a general election until 2015. It was also the last general election to be held on a day which did not coincide with any local elections until 2017. This election result took many by surprise, as opinion polling leading up to the election day had shown the Labour Party, under leader Neil Kinnock, consistently, if narrowly, ahead.
The 1950 United Kingdom general election was the first ever to be held after a full term of Labour government. The election was held on Thursday 23 February 1950, and was the first held following the abolition of plural voting and university constituencies. The government's 1945 lead over the Conservative Party shrank dramatically, and Labour was returned to power but with an overall majority reduced from 146 to just 5. There was a 2.8% national swing towards the Conservatives, who gained 90 seats. Labour called another general election in 1951, which the Conservative Party won.
The Welsh devolution referendum of 1997 was a pre-legislative referendum held in Wales on 18 September 1997 over whether there was support for the creation of a National Assembly for Wales, and therefore a degree of self-government. The referendum was a Labour manifesto commitment and was held in their first term after the 1997 election under the provisions of the Referendums Act 1997. This was the second referendum held in Wales over the question of devolution: the first referendum was held in 1979 and was defeated by a large majority.
The 2005 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday 5 May 2005, to elect 646 members to the House of Commons. The Labour Party, led by Tony Blair, won its third consecutive victory, with Blair becoming the second Labour leader after Harold Wilson to form three majority governments. However, its majority fell to 66 seats compared to the 167-seat majority it had won four years before. This was the first time the Labour Party had won a third consecutive election, and remains the party's most recent general election victory.
The 2010 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday 6 May 2010, with 45,597,461 registered voters entitled to vote to elect members to the House of Commons. The election took place in 650 constituencies across the United Kingdom under the first-past-the-post system.
Local government elections took place in England (only) on Thursday 4 May 2006. Polling stations were open between 7:00 and 22:00.
The Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party, often known simply as the Scottish Conservatives and colloquially as the Scottish Tories, is a centre-right political party in Scotland. It is the second-largest party in the Scottish Parliament and the third-largest in Scottish local government. The party has the second-largest number of Scottish MPs in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom and the seventh overall.
The modern political history of the United Kingdom (1979-present) began when Margaret Thatcher gained power in 1979 and began 18 years of Conservative government. Victory in the Falklands War (1982) and the government's strong opposition to trade unions helped lead the Conservative Party to another three terms in government. Thatcher initially pursued monetarist policies and went on to privatise many of Britain's nationalised companies such as British Telecom, British Gas Corporation, British Airways and British Steel Corporation. She kept the National Health Service. The controversial Community Charge, used to fund local government was unpopular and the Conservatives removed Thatcher as Prime Minister in 1990, although Michael Heseltine, the man who did much to undermine her, did not personally benefit from taking her out.
The Liberal Democrats are a liberal political party in the United Kingdom. Since the 1992 general election, with the exception of the 2015 general election, they have been the third-largest UK political party by the number of votes cast. They have 14 Members of Parliament in the House of Commons, 83 members of the House of Lords, four Members of the Scottish Parliament and one member in the Welsh Senedd. The party has over 2,500 local council seats. The party holds a twice-per-year Liberal Democrat Conference, at which party policy is formulated, with all party members eligible to vote, under a one member, one vote system. The party served as the junior party in a coalition government with the Conservative Party between 2010 and 2015; with Scottish Labour in the Scottish Executive from 1999 to 2007, and with Welsh Labour in the Welsh Government from 2000 to 2003 and from 2016 to 2021.
The events surrounding the formation of the United Kingdom's government in 2010 took place between 7 May and 12 May 2010, following the 2010 general election, which failed to produce an overall majority for any of the country's two main political parties. The election, held on 6 May, resulted in the first hung parliament in the UK in 36 years, sparking a series of negotiations which would form the second coalition government since the Second World War.
The 2015 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday, 7 May 2015 to elect 650 members to the House of Commons. It was the first and only general election held at the end of a Parliament under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. Local elections took place in most areas on the same day.
A general election was held in the United Kingdom on 7 May 2015 and all 59 seats in Scotland were contested under the first-past-the-post, single-member district electoral system. Unlike the 2010 general election, where no seats changed party, the Scottish National Party (SNP) won all but three seats in Scotland in an unprecedented landslide victory, gaining a total of 56 seats and taking the largest share of the Scottish vote in sixty years, at approximately 50 per cent. The Labour Party suffered its worst ever election defeat in Scotland, losing 40 of the 41 seats it was defending, including the seats of Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy and the then Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander. The Liberal Democrats lost ten of the eleven seats they were defending, with the then Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and former leader Charles Kennedy losing their seats. The election also saw the worst performance by the Scottish Conservative Party, which received its lowest share of the vote since its creation in 1965, although it retained the one seat that it previously held. In all, 50 of the 59 seats changed party, 49 of them being won by first-time MPs.
The 2017 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday 8 June 2017, two years after the previous general election in 2015; it was the first since 1992 to be held on a day that did not coincide with any local elections. The governing Conservative Party remained the largest single party in the House of Commons but lost its small overall majority, resulting in the formation of a Conservative minority government with a Confidence and supply agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland.
The 2019 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday, 12 December 2019. It resulted in the Conservative Party receiving a landslide majority of 80 seats. The Conservatives made a net gain of 48 seats and won 43.6% of the popular vote – the highest percentage for any party since 1979.
The 2019 European Parliament election was the United Kingdom's component of the 2019 European Parliament election, held on Thursday 23 May 2019 and the results were announced on Sunday 26 and Monday 27 May 2019, after all the other EU countries had voted. This was the United Kingdom's final participation in a European Parliament election before leaving the European Union on 31 January 2020, and was also the last election to be held under the provisions of the European Parliamentary Elections Act 2002 before its repeal under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.
A general election was held in the United Kingdom on Thursday 8 June 2017; all 59 seats in Scotland were contested under the first-past-the-post electoral system.
We suggest that 1997 was significant because it helped normalise a large female presence at Westminster which absolved women MPs of the obligation to act as 'token women' and thus as spokeswomen for their sex.
The research suggests that women MPs consider that women’s presence has the potential to transform the parliamentary political agenda and style.