2001 United Kingdom general election

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2001 United Kingdom general election
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg
  1997 7 June 2001 2005  

All 659 seats to the House of Commons
330 seats needed for a majority
Opinion polls
Turnout59.4% (Decrease2.svg11.9%)
 First partySecond partyThird party
  Tony Blair, 2002 (cropped).jpg William Hague Foreign Secretary (2010).jpg Charles Kennedy MP (cropped).jpg
Leader Tony Blair William Hague Charles Kennedy
Party Labour Conservative Liberal Democrats
Leader since 21 July 1994 19 June 1997 9 August 1999
Leader's seat Sedgefield Richmond (Yorks) Ross, Skye and
Inverness West
Last election418 seats, 43.2%165 seats, 30.7%46 seats, 16.8%
Seats won41216652
Seat changeDecrease2.svg6Increase2.svg1Increase2.svg6
Popular vote10,724,9538,357,6154,814,321

UK General Election, 2001.svg
Colours denote the winning party, as shown in the main table of results.

House of Commons elected members, 2001.svg
Composition of the House of Commons after the election

Prime Minister before election

Tony Blair

Prime Minister after election

Tony Blair

Seats won in the election (outer ring) against number of votes (inner ring). Results of the UK General Election, 2001.svg
Seats won in the election (outer ring) against number of votes (inner ring).

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 412 members of Parliament versus 418 from the 1997 general election, a net loss of six seats, though with a significantly lower turnout than before—59.4%, compared to 71.6% at the previous election. [1] 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". [2]

There was little change outside Northern Ireland, with 620 out of the 641 seats in Great Britain electing candidates from the same party as they did in 1997. Factors contributing to the Labour victory included a strong economy, falling unemployment, and public perception that the Labour government had delivered on many key election pledges that it had made in 1997.[ citation needed ]

The opposition Conservative Party, under William Hague's leadership, was still deeply divided on the issue of Europe and the party's policy platform had drifted considerably to the right. The party put the issue of European monetary union (and in particular, the prospect of the UK joining the Eurozone) at the centre of its campaign, but it failed to resonate with the electorate. A series of publicity stunts that backfired also harmed Hague, and he immediately announced his resignation as party leader when the election result was clear, formally stepping down three months later, therefore becoming the first leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party in the House of Commons since Austen Chamberlain nearly eighty years prior not to serve as prime minister.

The election was largely a repeat of the 1997 general election, with Labour losing only six seats overall and the Conservatives making a net gain of one seat (gaining nine seats but losing eight). The Conservatives gained a seat in Scotland, which ended the party's status as an "England-only" party in the prior parliament, but failed again to win any seats in Wales. Although they did not gain many seats, three of the few new MPs elected were future Conservative Prime Ministers David Cameron and Boris Johnson and future Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne; Osborne would serve in the same Cabinet as Cameron from 2010 to 2016. The Liberal Democrats made a net gain of six seats.

The 2001 general election is the last to date in which any government has held an overall majority of more than 100 seats in the House of Commons, and the second of only two since the Second World War (the other being 1997) in which a single party won over 400 MPs. Notable departing MPs included former Prime Ministers Edward Heath (also Father of the House) and John Major, former Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine, former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown, former Cabinet ministers Tony Benn, Tom King, John Morris, Mo Mowlam, John MacGregor and Peter Brooke, Teresa Gorman, and then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone.

Change was seen in Northern Ireland, with the moderate unionist Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) losing four seats to the more hardline Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). A similar transition appeared in the nationalist community, with the moderate Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) losing votes to the more staunchly republican and abstentionist Sinn Féin.

Exceptionally low voter turnout, which fell below 60% for the first (and so far, only) time since 1918, also marked this election. [3] The election was broadcast live on BBC One and presented by David Dimbleby, Jeremy Paxman, Andrew Marr, Peter Snow, and Tony King. [4]

The 2001 general election was notable for being the first in which pictures of the party logos appeared on the ballot paper. Prior to this, the ballot paper had only displayed the candidate's name, address, and party name. [5]


The election had been expected on 3 May, to coincide with local elections, but on 2 April 2001, both were postponed to 7 June because of rural movement restrictions imposed in response to the foot-and-mouth outbreak that had started in February.

The elections were marked by voter apathy, with turnout falling to 59.4%, the lowest (and first under 70%) since the Coupon Election of 1918. Throughout the election the Labour Party had maintained a significant lead in the opinion polls and the result was deemed to be so certain that some bookmakers paid out for a Labour majority before election day. However, the opinion polls the previous autumn had shown the first Tory lead (though only by a narrow margin) in the opinion polls for eight years as they benefited from the public anger towards the government over the fuel protests which had led to a severe shortage of motor fuel.

By the end of 2000, however, the dispute had been resolved and Labour were firmly back in the lead of the opinion polls. [6] In total, a mere 29 parliamentary seats changed hands at the 2001 Election. [7]

2001 also saw the rare election of an independent. Richard Taylor of Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern (usually now known simply as "Health Concern") unseated a government MP, David Lock, in Wyre Forest. There was also a high vote for British National Party leader Nick Griffin in Oldham West and Royton, in the wake of recent race riots in the town of Oldham.

In Northern Ireland, the election was far more dramatic and marked a move by unionists away from support for the Good Friday Agreement, with the moderate unionist Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) losing to the more hardline Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). This polarisation was also seen in the nationalist community, with the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) vote losing out to more left-wing and republican Sinn Féin. It also saw a tightening of the parties as the small UK Unionist Party lost its only seat.


For Labour, the last four years had run relatively smoothly. [8] The party had successfully defended all their by election seats, and many suspected a Labour win was inevitable from the start.

Many in the party, however, were afraid of voter apathy, which was epitomised in a poster of "Hague with Margaret Thatcher's hair", captioned "Get out and vote. Or they get in." [9] Despite recessions in mainland Europe and the United States, due to the bursting of global tech bubbles, Britain was notably unaffected and Labour however could rely on a strong economy as unemployment continued to decline toward election day, putting to rest any fears of a Labour government putting the economic situation at risk.

For William Hague, however, the Conservative Party had still not fully recovered from the loss in 1997. The party was still divided over Europe, and talk of a referendum on joining the Eurozone was rife, and as a result "Save The Pound" was one of the key slogans deployed in the Conservatives' campaign. As Labour remained at the political centre, the Tories moved to the right. A policy gaffe by Oliver Letwin over public spending cuts left the party with an own goal that Labour soon exploited.

Thatcher gave a speech to the Conservative Election Rally in Plymouth on May 22nd 2001, calling New Labour "rootless, empty, and artificial." She also added to Hague's troubles when speaking out strongly against the Euro to applause. Hague himself, although a witty performer at Prime Minister's Questions, was dogged in the press and reminded of his speech, given at the age of 16, at the 1977 Conservative Conference. The Sun newspaper only added to the Conservatives' woes by backing Labour for a second consecutive election, calling Hague a "dead parrot" during the Conservative Party's conference in October 1998. [10] [11] [12]

The Tories campaigned on a strongly right-wing platform, emphasising the issues of Europe, immigration and tax, the fabled "Tebbit Trinity". They also released a poster showing a heavily pregnant Tony Blair, stating "Four years of Labour and he still hasn’t delivered". [13] However, Labour countered by asking where the proposed tax cuts were going to come from, and decried the Tory policy as "cut here, cut there, cut everywhere", in reference to the widespread belief that the Conservatives would make major cuts to public services in order to fund tax cuts. Labour also capitalised on the strong economic conditions of the time, and another major line of attack (primarily directed towards Michael Portillo, now Shadow Chancellor after returning to Parliament via a by-election) was to warn of a return to "Tory Boom and Bust" under a Conservative administration.

Charles Kennedy contested his first election as leader of the Liberal Democrats. [14]


During the election Sharron Storer, a resident of Birmingham, criticised Prime Minister Tony Blair in front of television cameras about conditions in the National Health Service. The widely televised incident happened on 16 May during a campaign visit by Blair to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. Sharron Storer's partner, Keith Sedgewick, a cancer patient with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and therefore highly susceptible to infection, was being treated at the time in the bone marrow unit, but no bed could be found for him and he was transferred to the casualty unit for his first 24 hours. [15] [16] [17] On the evening of the same day Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott punched a protestor after being hit by an egg on his way to an election rally in Rhyl, North Wales. [18]


Opinion polling

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Liberal Democrats Opinion polling for the 2001 United Kingdom general election.png
  Liberal Democrats


The election result was effectively a repeat of 1997, as the Labour Party retained an overwhelming majority, with the BBC announcing the victory at 02:58 on the early morning of 8 June. Having presided over relatively serene political, economic and social conditions, the feeling of prosperity in the United Kingdom had been maintained into the new millennium, and Labour would have a free hand to assert its ideals in the subsequent parliament. Despite the victory, voter apathy was a major issue, as turnout fell below 60%, 12 percentage points down on 1997. All three of the main parties saw their total votes fall, with Labour's total vote dropping by 2.8 million on 1997, the Conservatives 1.3 million, and the Liberal Democrats 428,000. Some suggested this dramatic fall was a sign of the general acceptance of the status quo and the likelihood of Labour's majority remaining unassailable. [21]

For the Conservatives, the huge loss they had sustained in 1997 was repeated. Despite gaining nine seats, the Tories lost seven to the Liberal Democrats, and one even to Labour. William Hague was quick to announce his resignation, doing so at 07:44 outside the Conservative Party headquarters. Some believed that Hague had been unlucky; although most considered him to be a talented orator and an intelligent statesman, he had come up against the charismatic Tony Blair in the peak of his political career, and it was no surprise that little progress was made in reducing Labour's majority after a relatively smooth parliament.

Staying at what they considered rock bottom, however, showed that the Conservatives had failed to improve their negative public image, had remained somewhat disunited over Europe, and had not regained the trust that they had lost in the 1990s. Hague's focus on the "Save The Pound" campaign narrative had failed to gain any traction; Labour's successful countertactic was to be repeatedly vague over the issue of future monetary union - and said that the UK would only consider joining the Eurozone "when conditions were right". But in Scotland, despite flipping one seat from the Scottish National Party, their vote collapse continued. They failed to retake former strongholds in Scotland as the Nationalists consolidated their grip on the Northeastern portion of the country. [22]

The Liberal Democrats could point to steady progress under their new leader, Charles Kennedy, gaining more seats than the main two parties—albeit only six overall—and maintaining the performance of a pleasing 1997 election, where the party had doubled its number of seats from 20 to 46. While they had yet to become electable as a government, they underlined their growing reputation as a worthwhile alternative to Labour and Conservative, offering plenty of debate in Parliament and representing more than a mere protest vote.[ citation needed ]

The SNP failed to gain any new seats and lost a seat to the Conservatives by just 79 votes. In Wales, Plaid Cymru both gained a seat from Labour and lost one to them.

In Northern Ireland the Ulster Unionists, despite gaining North Down, lost five other seats.

LabourConservativeLib DemO
2001 UK parliament.svg

UK General Election 2001 [23]
PartyLeaderStoodElectedGainedUnseatedNet % of total %No.Net %
  Labour Tony Blair 64041328662.540.710,724,9532.5
  Conservative William Hague 64316698+125.231.68,357,615+1.0
  Liberal Democrats Charles Kennedy 6395282+67.918.34,814,321+1.5
  SNP John Swinney 7250 1 10.81.8464,3140.2
  UKIP Jeffrey Titford 42800000.01.5390,563+1.2
  Ulster Unionist David Trimble 176 1 540.90.8216,8390.0
  Plaid Cymru Ieuan Wyn Jones 404 1 1 00.60.7195,893+0.2
  DUP Ian Paisley 14530+30.80.7181,999+0.4
  Sinn Féin Gerry Adams 18420+20.60.7175,933+0.3
  SDLP John Hume 1830000.50.6169,8650.0
  Green Margaret Wright and Mike Woodin 14500000.00.6166,477+0.3
  Independent N/A13700 1 10.00.498,917+0.3
  Scottish Socialist Tommy Sheridan 7200000.00.372,516N/A
  Socialist Alliance N/A9800000.00.257,553N/A
  Socialist Labour Arthur Scargill 11400000.00.257,2880.0
  BNP Nick Griffin 3300000.00.247,129+0.1
  Alliance Seán Neeson 1000000.00.128,9990.1
  Health Concern Richard Taylor 1 1 1 0+10.20.128,487N/A
  Speaker N/A 1 1 1 0+10.20.116,053N/A
  Liberal Michael Meadowcroft 1300000.00.113,6850.0
  UK Unionist Robert McCartney 1 00 1 10.00.113,509+0.1
  ProLife Alliance Bruno Quintavalle3700000.00.09,4530.1
  Legalise Cannabis Alun Buffry1300000.00.08,677N/A
  People's Justice Shaukat Ali Khan300000.00.07,443N/A
  Monster Raving Loony Howling Laud Hope and Catmando 1500000.00.06,6550.0
  PUP Hugh Smyth 200000.00.04,7810.0
  Mebyon Kernow Dick Cole 300000.00.03,1990.0
  NI Women's Coalition Monica McWilliams and Pearl Sagar 1 00000.00.02,9680.0
  Scottish Unionist Danny Houston200000.00.02,728N/A
  Rock 'n' Roll Loony Chris Driver700000.00.02,634N/A
  National Front Tom Holmes 500000.00.02,4840.0
  Workers' Party Seán Garland 600000.00.02,3520.0
  Neath Port Talbot Ratepayers Paul Evans 1 00000.00.01,960N/A
  NI Unionist Cedric Wilson 600000.00.01,794N/A
  Socialist Alternative Peter Taaffe 200000.00.01,4540.0
  Reform 2000 Erol Basarik500000.00.01,418N/A
  Isle of Wight Philip Murray 1 00000.00.01,164N/A
  Muslim 400000.00.01,150N/A
  Communist Robert Griffiths 600000.00.01,0030.0
  New Britain Dennis Delderfield 1 00000.00.08880.0
  Free Party Bob Dobbs300000.00.0832N/A
  Leeds Left Alliance Mike Davies 1 00000.00.0770N/A
  New Millennium Bean Party Captain Beany 1 00000.00.0727N/A
  Workers Revolutionary Sheila Torrance600000.00.06070.0
  Tatton Paul Williams 1 00000.00.0505N/A
Government's new majority167
Total votes cast26,367,383

All parties with more than 500 votes shown.

The seat gains reflect changes on the 1997 general election result. Two seats had changed hands in by-elections in the intervening period. These were as follows:

The results of the election give a Gallagher index of dis-proportionality of 17.74.

Popular vote
Liberal Democrat
Scottish National
UK Independence
Parliamentary seats
Liberal Democrat
Ulster Unionist
Scottish National
Democratic Unionist

Results by constituent country

LABCONLDSNPPCNI partiesOthersTotal
Northern Ireland-----18-18

Seats changing hands

Seat 1997 election Constituency result 2001 by party2001 election
Belfast North Ulster Unionist DUP gain
Carmarthen East and Dinefwr Labour 4,91213,5402,81516,130656 Plaid Cymru gain
Castle Point Labour 17,73816,7533,1161273 Conservative gain
Cheadle Conservative 18,4446,08618,477599 Liberal Democrats gain
Chesterfield Labour 3,61318,66321,249437 Liberal Democrats gain
Dorset Mid and Poole North Conservative 17,9746,76518,358621 Liberal Democrats gain
Dorset South Conservative 18,87419,0276,531913 Labour gain
Fermanagh and South Tyrone Ulster Unionist Sinn Féin gain
Galloway and Upper Nithsdale SNP 12,2227,2583,69812,148588 Conservative gain
Guildford Conservative 19,8206,55820,358736 Liberal Democrats gain
Isle of Wight Liberal Democrats 25,2239,67622,3972,106 Conservative gain
Londonderry East Ulster Unionist DUP gain
Ludlow Conservative 16,9905,78518,620871 Liberal Democrats gain
Newark Labour 20,98316,9105,970 Conservative gain
Norfolk North Conservative 23,4957,49023,978649 Liberal Democrats gain
Norfolk North West Labour 24,84621,3614,292704 Conservative gain
North Down UK Unionist Ulster Unionist gain
Romford Labour 18,93112,9542,869 Conservative gain
Romsey Conservative 20,3863,98622,756 Liberal Democrats gain
Strangford Ulster Unionist DUP gain
Tatton Independent 19,86011,2497,685 Conservative gain
Taunton Liberal Democrats 23,0338,25422,7981,140 Conservative gain
Teignbridge Conservative 23,3327,36626,343 Liberal Democrats gain
Tyrone West Ulster Unionist Sinn Féin gain
Upminster Labour 15,41014,1693,1831,089 Conservative gain
Wyre Forest Labour 9,35010,85728,487 Independent gain
Ynys Mon Plaid Cymru 7,65311,9062,77211,106 Labour gain

MPs who lost their seats

PartyNameConstituencyOffice held whilst in powerYear electedDefeated byParty
Labour Party Alan Williams Carmarthen East and Dinefwr 1987 Adam Price Plaid Cymru
Christine Butler Castle Point 1997 Dr. Bob Spink Conservative Party
Fiona Jones Newark 1997 Colonel
Patrick Mercer
Conservative Party
George Turner Norfolk North West 1997 Henry Bellingham Conservative Party
Eileen Gordon Romford 1997 Andrew Rosindell Conservative Party
Keith Darvill Upminster 1997 Angela Watkinson Conservative Party
David Lock Wyre Forest 1997 Dr. Richard Taylor Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern
Conservative Party Stephen Day Cheadle 1987 Patsy Calton Liberal Democrats
Christopher Fraser Mid Dorset and North Poole 1997 Annette Brooke Liberal Democrats
Ian Bruce Dorset South 1987 Jim Knight Labour Party
Nick St Aubyn Guildford 1997 Sue Doughty Liberal Democrats
The Hon.
David Prior
Norfolk North 1997 Norman Lamb Liberal Democrats
Patrick Nicholls Teignbridge 1983 Richard Younger-Ross Liberal Democrats
Liberal Democrats Dr. Peter Brand Isle of Wight 1997 Andrew Turner Conservative Party
Jackie Ballard Taunton 1997 Adrian Flook Conservative Party
Ulster Unionist Party Willie Ross East Londonderry 1974 Gregory Campbell Democratic Unionist Party
Cecil Walker North Belfast 1983 Nigel Dodds Democratic Unionist Party
William Thompson West Tyrone 1997 Pat Doherty Sinn Féin
Democratic Unionist Party William McCrea Antrim South 2000 David Burnside Ulster Unionist Party
UK Unionist Party Robert McCartney North Down 1995 Lady Hermon Ulster Unionist Party
Independent Martin Bell Tatton contesting Brentwood and Ongar 1997 Eric Pickles Conservative Party

Voter Demographics

MORI interviewed 18,657 adults in Great Britain after the election which suggested the following demographic breakdown... [24]

The 2001 UK general election vote in Great Britain (in percent)
Social GroupLabConLib DemOthersLeadTurnout
Social class
Work status
Full time43302071357
Part time43292171456
Not working4136185563
Housing tenure
Private rent40282571246
Men by age
Men by social class
Women by age
Women by social class
Daily Express33431951063
Daily Mail24551743165
The Mirror71111355862
Daily Record59810233657
Daily Telegraph16651454971
Financial Times30482111864
The Guardian5263481868
The Independent3812446669
Daily Star56211763548
The Sun52291182350
The Times28402661266
No daily paper45272261856
Evening Standard42292181351
Sunday Readership
News of World55271262852
Sunday Express29472041867
Sunday Mail531413203359
Sunday Mirror7216935662
Sunday Post432218172164
Sunday Telegraph17631374671
Mail on Sunday25531752865
The Observer5343491971
Sunday People65191334660
Sunday Times29402471167
Independent on Sunday47103761070
No Sunday paper42302261255
The disproportionality of the house of parliament in the 2001 election was 18.03 according to the Gallagher Index, mainly between Labour and the Liberal Democrats. 2001 UK General Election Gallagher Index.png
The disproportionality of the house of parliament in the 2001 election was 18.03 according to the Gallagher Index, mainly between Labour and the Liberal Democrats.


See also

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