2005 General Election Results

Doug Cowan, Head of Digital

Posted on the 30th May 2005

Labour’s control of the 2005 parliament is somewhat less lopsided than its dominance in the parliaments elected in 1997 and 2001. But parliament is still a grossly distorted version of what Britain’s voters chose in 2005.

Labour (and, in Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionists) were the most successful at translating votes into seats – the First Past the Post (FPTP) electoral system gave a large ‘winner’s bonus’ to the largest single party. Once again, the principal victims of the system were smaller parties with evenly spread support, namely the Liberal Democrats, UKIP and Ulster Unionists.

The Conservatives were slightly under-represented, in that if they had won seats exactly in proportion to their vote they would have won 208.The Liberal Democrats had many fewer seats than their share of the vote among the electorate justified – an exactly proportional distribution would have given them 142. Labour were massively overrepresented: a proportional allocation would have given them 227 seats rather than 355.

Party Votes Votes % Seats % Seats Votes per MP Percentage point change in vote
Labour 9,567,589 35.2 55.1 355 26,895 -5.5
Conservative 8,784,915 32.4 30.7 198 44,368 0.7
Liberal Democrat 5,985,454 22 9.6 62 96,487 3.8
UKIP 605,973 2.1 0 0 N/A 0.8
SNP 412,267 1.4 0.9 6 68,711 -0.2
Green 257,758 1 0 0 N/A 0.4
DUP 241,856 0.8 1.4 9 26,872 0.2
BNP 192,745 0.7 0 0 N/A 0.5
Plaid Cymru 174,838 0.6 0.5 3 58,279 -0.1
Sinn Fein 174,530 0.6 0.8 5 34,906 -0.1
UUP 127,414 0.4 0.2 1 127,414 -0.3
SDLP 125,626 0.4 0.5 3 41,709 -0.1
Respect/SSP 111608 0.4 0.2 1 111,608 n/a
Veritas 40,607 0.1 0 0 N/A n/a

Small parties with relatively evenly spread support are penalised under FPTP. UKIP was clearly the fourth party in terms of votes, but it failed to win or even come close in a single seat. Seven parties with fewer votes than UKIP, and two Independents, elected members of parliament.

The Green Party stood many fewer candidates, conscious that the system was unfair to them, and many voters were deprived of the chance of choosing them. Small parties with concentrated support, like the SNP and Plaid Cymru, did better. The failure to represent small but significant points of view contrasts the Westminster Parliament with the more proportional bodies in Northern Ireland and Scotland where minorities have a voice.

BNP support, as in the European election, was probably too small to elect a candidate under all but the most proportional list forms of PR, with very large regional seats, had another system been used in the general election. In no single area would they have gained enough votes to elect a candidate under the Single Transferable Vote, nor under the Jenkins Report’s system of AV+, in 2005.

Read our full report on the 2005 General Election

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