In a result few had expected, the Conservative Party secured a slim majority in the 2015 General Election.
Both Labour and the Conservatives benefited from the collapse in support for the Liberal Democrats; but with Labour losing all but one of its 40 seats in Scotland, and failing to make headway against the Conservatives in England, the hung parliament predicted by the pollsters and pundits did not materialise.
Chart 1: Seats changing hands by seat winner
Constituencies are all shown equally sized
Small changes, big differences
The Conservatives won 36.9% of the vote, up by 0.8 percentage points (630,000 votes) from the previous election. They lost vote share and seats to Labour in many London constituencies, but the change in their support in other parts of England and Wales was smaller. They gained 35 seats: 8 from Labour and 27 from the Liberal Democrats.
Labour won 30.4% of the vote, up by 1.5 percentage points (740,000 votes) from the previous election. A gain of 22 seats in England and Wales (12 of which were taken from the Liberal Democrats) was more than offset by a collapse of support in Scotland, where the party lost 40 out if its 41 seats to the SNP, who attracted three times as many votes, and won more than nine times as many seats, as they did in 2010.
Chart 2: Percentage swing in seats changing hands
The Conservatives and Labour traded marginal seats on small swings; the Liberal Democrats saw large swings against them and heavy losses; the SNP swept Scotland with record-breaking swings in their favour.
The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile saw a collapse in support across Great Britain, losing 86% of their seats and gaining just a third of the votes they achieved in 2010 election.
At 66.1%, turnout was higher than at any election since 1997, but only a percentage point higher than in 2010. Turnout was highest in Scotland (71.7%) and lowest in Northern Ireland (58.1%).
Chart 3: share of votes vs share of seats
Keeping things in proportion: share of votes vs share of seats, General Election 2015
Concentrations of power
The decline of a third parliamentary force in England has left the proportion of seats held by the two main parties there (98.5%) higher than at any time since 1979.
At the same time, the proportion of votes for other parties in England (besides the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats) was the highest in modern political history. That five million votes for UKIP and the Green Party translated into just two Commons seats may heighten pressure for electoral reform.
In Scotland too, the election left political representation more concentrated, albeit in the hands of the SNP. Their 50% vote share translated into a 95% share of Scottish seats. In Wales, the nationalist success was less dramatic: Plaid Cymru increased its vote share slightly, but not its number of seats. The Conservatives in Wales took two seats from the Liberal Democrats and one from Labour.
The election has transformed the UK’s political landscape, leaving a country that many perceive to be more divided. Debate over how the union should be governed and its people represented will be a critical question for the 2015 Parliament.