United Kingdom - Background
|No.||Year||Prime Minister||Party composition|
|1||1945||Clement Richard Attlee||Labour|
|2||1950||Clement Richard Attlee||Labour|
|3||1951||Winston S. Churchill||Conservative|
Election summaries, 1992-2005
Parliamentary election 1992
Date of election: 9 April
Main issues: The election campaign in 1992 was relatively calm, focusing on domestic issues. Prominent among these were the country’s economy, mired in its longest recession in years, and at the state of public services, including the National Health Service (NHS). A key item of the economic debate involved taxes, the ruling Conservatives advocating a low-tax policy and opposition Labour proposing hikes at higher incomes levels. The Conservatives moreover criticized their opponent’s plans to increase public expenditure, while Labour countered by blaming the Government for the recession and outlined plans to redress social inequalities.Also seen as important was the credibility of the leaders of the two biggest political parties.
Outcome: The Conservatives captured 336 seats to gain an overall majority of 21 in the House of Commons. Labour, for its part, reinforced its position as main opposition by picking up 42 additional seats. The Conservatives’ victory, albeit with a reduced majority, was their fourth consecutive one, a feat unmatched in the country since the early 19th century. Political observers attributed this in part to voters’ anxieties over the prospects of a socialist Government or a hung (no majority) Parliament but also to Mr. Major’s personal popularity. Given the election outcome, he continued as Prime Minister.
Parliamentary election 1997
Date of election: 1 May
Main issues: During the campaign Prime Minister John Major focused on the country's economic recovery (especially the plunging unemployment rate) under his administration since 1992, and that his party had overseen a "revolution in choice, opportunity, and living standards" and deserved the chance to continue in power. For its part The Labour Party called for a "national renewal" marked by a new Government with different values and priorities. Since being chosen as Labour head in July 1994, Mr. Blair had realigned his party nearer to the political centre, largely ridding it of its socialist past and reducing its dependency on trade union financing. Other issues debated during the campaign included foreign policy and defence, Europe, education, tax, health, law and order, and constitutional reform. Over the whole spectrum of issues, the Conservative and Labour platforms differed less than in the past given the latter's shift to the mainstream.
Outcome: On election day Labour Party swept to a historic landslide victory, capturing a total of 418 Commons seats (a gain of 147) as the Conservatives lost over half their total, retaining only 165. For their part, the Liberal Democrats strengthened their third-place standing by more than doubling their score to 46. On 2 May, Mr. Blair became, at 43, the youngest Prime Minister since the early 19th century; Mr. Major resigned as leader of the Conservatives in the wake of the polling outcome.
Parliamentary election 2001
Date of election: 7 June
Main issues: Issues during the electoral campaign included the Euro and whether Britain should sign up for this single European currency. Another major problem raised during the campaign was the foot-and-mouth epidemic, which postponed the local elections scheduled for 3 May. The traditional themes were also present during the campaign as the Labour Party assured voters that their priorities included the improvement of the schools, hospitals and other public services while the Tories offered tax cuts.
Outcome: The Labour Party won 412 seats, enough for a ruling majority in the House of Commons, against 166 for the Conservative Party and 52 for the Liberal Democrat Party. With this victory, Mr Tony Blair became the first Labour Prime Minister to win a second full term in nearly fifty years. The opposition conservative leader, Mr William Hague, announced his intention to step down after the results were announced.
Parliamentary election 2005
Date of election: 5 May
Main issues: During the campaign Mr. Blair asked voters to endorse eight years of economic growth and low unemployment, while the Conservative leader accused the Labour government of broken promises and insisted that his party would focus on the issues that mattered to hard-working Britons, promising a £4 billion tax cut. He also criticized Labour's immigration and health care policies. On its part, the Liberal Democrats promised to replace the council tax with a local income tax and to provide free personal care for the elderly. Mr. Blair was criticized by both opposition parties, and also within his own party, over Britain's role in Iraq.
Outcome of election: The final results gave Mr. Blair a historic third term in office with 355 of 645 seats, although the party lost 58 seats. It also won the lowest share of the vote for any ruling party since the Great Reform Act of 1832: 35.2 per cent. The Conservative Party increased its number of seats by 33 to a total of 197 (increased to 198 after a by-election on 23 June) by securing 32.3 per cent of the vote, a mere 2.9 percentage points lower than Labour. The Liberal Democrats won 62 seats, 11 more than in 2000. Following the election calls were renewed for a review of the electoral system and the partial introduction of nationwide proportional representation, instead of the current first-past-the-post system. After the elections, Mr. Howard said he would stand down as leader of the Conservatives. Although some Labour MPs called on Mr. Blair to take responsibility for the loss of seats by resigning as prime minister, he announced his decision to continue in office.
Colomer, J.M., ed. 2008. Comparative European Politics. New York: Routledge.
Inter-Parliamentary Union: PARLINE database on national parliaments
United Kingdom. 2010. In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved April 21, 2010, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://search.eb.com/eb/article-276899