Shock Westminster polls reflect ‘long term shift’ to multi-party politics, say experts

Posted on the 13th May 2019

  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society for immediate release, 13th May 2019.

A ‘fundamental shift’ has taken place in British politics, with the UK now a multi-party democracy, electoral experts have said today.

New polling shows [1] the two main parties combined are now on just 50% support – a historic low, according to the Electoral Reform Society. However, Westminster and voters remain hampered by a binary, out-dated voting system.

It is understood that on only on one other occasion has the combined support share been lower than these latest polls, in December 1981 at the peak of the SDP/Liberal Alliance. The ‘clear, long-term trend’ is that politics is moving away from two main parties.

Since Labour became the second largest party in terms of MPs at the 1922 general election, the lowest combined Conservative and Labour vote share seen in a general election is 65% in 2010 (Con: 36%; Lab: 29%).

However, the ERS are warning that the results of the next General Election will be a ‘total lottery’ given Westminster’s voting system – with millions voting tactically to ‘second guess’ other voters, while ‘extensive vote splitting’ could result in wildly volatile results.

The democracy group argue it is time for Westminster to join Scotland, Wales and local elections in Northern Ireland and Ireland in introducing a ‘fair, proportional voting system’ where seats in Parliament accurately match how people vote.

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive, Electoral Reform Society said: 

“A fundamental political shift has taken place in Britain. This polling reflects a long-term trend: voters are not only less closely aligned to the big two parties now, they are supporting a wider range of parties than ever before.

“As support for the two main parties continues to fall, the traditional party system is being torn at the seams. We are a multi-party democracy operating under a broken, one-person-takes-all voting system.

“While voters views are shifting our elections, Westminster is stuck in a binary bind. Despite their projected voted being 30 points lower than in 2017, a general election could see the two main parties continue to dominate Parliament, while leaving smaller parties with just a handful of MPs.

“The next election is likely to be a total lottery for voters, with millions feeling forced to vote ‘tactically’ rather than for their first choice, and ‘vote-splitting’ leading to unprecedented volatility and random results. First Past the Post – far from being ‘strong and stable’ – is now an engine of uncertainty.”

“With over half of voters supporting a party other than Labour and the Conservatives, it is now in everybody’s interest to back a fairer voting system that encourages cooperation, not the adversarial politics of the past.”


Notes to Editors

[1] Analyses of three General Election polls over the past several days, which all have the combined Labour + Conservative share at 50% or lower:


  • Lab: 24%
  • Con: 24%
  • Brexit: 18%
  • LD: 16%
  • Green: 7%

ComRes [this would be the lowest combined vote share for the two ‘main’ parties ever recorded, if reflected in a GE]

  • Lab: 27%
  • Brexit: 20%
  • Con: 19%
  • LD: 14%
  • CUK: 7%
  • Green: 5%
  • Ukip: 3%


  • Lab: 28%
  • Con: 22%
  • Brexit: 21%
  • LD: 11%
  • Green: 6%
  • Ukip: 4%

Three EU polls from the same companies:


  • Brexit: 34%
  • Lab: 16%
  • LD: 15%
  • Green: 11%
  • Con: 10%
  • CUK: 5%


  • Brexit: 27%
  • Lab: 25%
  • LD: 14%
  • Con: 13%
  • Green: 8%
  • CUK: 6%
  • Ukip: 3%


  • Brexit: 34%
  • Lab: 21%
  • LD: 12%
  • Con: 11%
  • Green: 8%
  • Ukip: 4%
  • CUK: 3%

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