ScienceBlogs
Home

UK Election results explained by Marcus Nicolson

1
1
UK Election results explained by Marcus Nicolson
Uk flags and Churchill statue with Westminster in the background - © Unsplash Kristina Gadeikyte

The recent UK general election vote on the 4 July 2024 marked a historic 'landslide' victory for the Labour party and signals the end of 14-years of successive Conservative party government. But what do the results really tell us, and where were the most significant changes? Institute for Minority Rights researcher Marcus Nicolson analyses the recent results.

A Conservative loss or a Labour win?

Many political commentators have described the result as a defeat for the Conservative party, rather than a win for Keir Starmer’s Labour party. This is largely because there has been a dramatic decline in electoral support for the Cohttps://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-8749/nservative party across the UK since the last general election in 2019.

In recent months Starmer has been campaigning hard to win over centre-right Conservative voters. Among manifesto promises, he has pledged to take a tough stance on immigration and return politics to the people. While lacking the charisma of Tony Blair, who won an historic victory for Labour in 1997, Starmer appears to have won over a large section of the British public, including many former Conservative voters, with his campaign. The third largest vote share went to the Liberal Democrats, who enjoyed the best electoral performance in the party’s history.

First past the post electoral system

The general election result has also highlighted the disproportionate nature of the “first-past-the-post” electoral system which is used in the UK. The disparity between the share of votes won, and the share of Parliamentary seats allocated is the largest ever recorded. For example, while Labour won 34% of votes, they were given 63% out of the total 650 seats in parliament. The second largest party, The Conservatives, received 24% of the vote and 19% of seats. Following the vote, smaller political parties have called for a transformation of the electoral system due to this discrepancy.

Nigel Farage’s far-right Reform UK party won over four million votes in many formerly Conservative stronghold constituencies. However, this translated to just 1% of the total seats. The Green party won 7% of votes but just five seats in the parliament (equivalent to 1% of seats). Both parties have demonstrated that they are able to gain significant public support and have the potential to be powerful contenders in future elections.

While calls for reform of the electoral system are now growing, it is important to remember that this issue has been the subject of recurring political debate in the UK. A national referendum on replacing first-past-the-post with an “Alternative Vote” system was rejected by the British public in 2011. This could mean that the British public prefer the majority governments that the current system delivers, over the coalitions that would likely be formed through a more proportional system. In any case, last week’s result raises serious concerns over the disproportionate nature of the current system.

Independent candidates also did well in garnering support among minority groups. Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was recently ousted from the party for speaking out about the war in Gaza, won his local constituency seat in Islington North. Independent candidates in areas with a high Muslim population were also able to mobilize support around Gaza, and the Labour party’s staunch alliance with Israel. It is estimated that Labour lost four seats where independent candidates were able to mobilize around public support for Gaza.

Changes in Scotland and Wales

In Scotland the Labour party made significant gains at the expense of a huge drop in support for the Scottish National Party (SNP). The SNP lost 39 seats in the parliament. Recent scandals within the SNP party, following the resignation of former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last year, and the subsequent police investigation into the mishandling of party finances appear to have damaged public opinion. After 20-years of dominance in Scottish politics, this is a huge shift political swing. These results also cast doubt on the future of the independence movement in Scotland, and it will be interesting to see if the shift towards Labour and the Liberal Democrats is replicated at the next Scottish parliamentary election.

Nationalist parties did not lose out in all areas. In Wales, the Plaid Cymru party won an additional two seats in parliament, doubling their representation. The Conservatives lost 14 of the seats they had previously held. This can be seen to reflect a growing dissatisfaction with the Conservatives, in many of the areas which had voted strongly in favor of leaving the EU in 2016.

The missing B-Word

Debates around Brexit were noticeably lacking in the run up to the election. In fact, the only party who took a strong Brexit-stance was Reform UK, who were successful in getting support in Leave-voting constituencies where the Conservatives had fallen out of favor. Recent polling suggests that the majority of the British public would be in favor of rejoining the European Union. However, no party seems to have a clear plan for how to move forward with the Brexit issue, and continuing negotiations with Europe. Starmer has recently admitted that he doesn’t envision the UK rejoining the EU within the next his lifetime. Nonetheless, it is now his responsibility to continue the long process of formalizing the relations between the UK and Europe in the post-Brexit landscape.

These are just some of the main take-away points from the recent UK election result. It remains to be seen for how long Keir Starmer, and the Labour party, are able to remain in the favor of the British public and media. After this so-called landslide victory, it will be a hard battle to maintain this popularity.

Marcus Nicolson

Marcus Nicolson

Marcus Nicolson works in the Institute for Minority Rights as a Post-Doctoral Researcher in the Horizon 2020-funded B-Shapes project exploring how borders shape perceptions of European societies. His PhD project used an ontological security theoretical framework to examine the lived experiences of young adult migrants in Glasgow, UK. This research has foregrounded individual perceptions of security, transnational identity negotiation, and the role of (im)migration narratives in sub-state contexts. Marcus has published research in journals including Comparative Migration Studies, Social Inclusion, and International Migration.

Tags

Citation

https://doi.org/10.57708/bsonmq1pqsaqcjxbabrb39w
Nicolson, M. UK Election results explained by Marcus Nicolson. https://doi.org/10.57708/BSONMQ1PQSAQCJXBABRB39W

Related Post

Reforming the EU and the EA: responsibility v. solidarity
ScienceBlogs
eureka

Reforming the EU and the EA: responsibility v. solidarity

Andrea FracassoAndrea Fracasso
A green European commissioner?
ScienceBlogs
eureka

A green European commissioner?

Régis DandoyRégis Dandoy
Voting rights of mobile EU citizens in European Parliament elections
ScienceBlogs
eureka

Voting rights of mobile EU citizens in European Parliament elections

Lorenzo PiccoliLorenzo Piccoli