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The life cycle of the Labour Government, 1997 - present New Labour swept into power with a landslide victory at the general election of 1 May 1997. Prime Minister Tony Blair went on to win a further two general elections, before stepping down in 2007. He was replaced by Chancellor Gordon Brown, who remains in office today. This booklet is a statistical analysis of the three elections that have kept Labour in power. It discusses the exact proportions of the popular vote, and examines trends across the period. It is intended to establish a greater understanding of our current Government life cycle.

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Percentage of popular vote in the UK

1997 Labour Conservative Other

2001 43.2% 30.7% 26.1%

This page describes the proportions of the popular vote won by the two main parties at each General Election. Data was collected from the House of Commons Library research papers 03/59, and 05/33.

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Labour Conservative Other

2005 40.7% 31.7% 27.6%

In 1997, Labour fought a successful campaign to retake power after 18 years of Conservative government. 1997 was a particularly bad year for the Conservatives, winning their lowest vote share in over a century.

Labour Conservative Other

35.3% 32.3% 32.4%

Since then, the gap has narrowed between the two parties each year. While the elections of 1997 and 2001 were considered landslide victories, this was not true of 2005.

The 35.3% share of the vote won by Labour in 2005 was the lowest ever recorded by a winning party. It is equivalent to just over 20% of the electorate as a whole.


Percentage of seats in the House of Commons

1997 Labour Conservative Other

2001 63.4% 25% 11.6%

This page describes the proportions of seats in the House of Commons won by the two main parties at each General Election. Data was collected from the House of Commons Library research papers 03/59, and 05/33.

Labour Conservative Other

2005 62.5% 25.2% 12.3%

The 418 seats Labour won in the 1997 General Election were the most the party has ever held. It was also resulted in the fewest seats for the Conservatives since 1906.

Labour Conservative Other

55.2% 30.7% 14.1%

There was little change in the composition of the House of Commons in 2001. Over 95% of seats remained unchanged, and the Conservatives gained only one seat.

In 2005, Labour lost a total of 47 seats, while the Conservatives made a net gain of 33 seats.

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Labour performance: England

1997 Labour votes Percentage of total Swing

2001 11.35m 43.5% + 9.6%

This page describes the performance of the Labour Government in England at each General Election, recorded in terms of actual ballots, percentage of the popular vote, and swing.

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Labour votes Percentage of total Swing

2005 9.06m 41.4% - 2.1%

Data was collected from the House of Commons Library research papers 03/59, and 05/33. The diagrams are calculated to represent percentages in terms of area rather than height.

Labour votes Percentage of total Swing

8.05m 35.5% - 5.9%

Labour support in England was consistently lower than in Scotland and Wales in each of these elections. This was a trend that continued from the Conservative cycle.

Although Labour won a larger share of the vote than the Conservatives in 1997 and 2001, this reversed in 2005, as the Conservatives polled almost 65, 000 more votes.


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Labour performance: Wales

1997 Labour votes Percentage of total Swing

2001 886.9k 54.7% + 5.2%

This page describes the performance of the Labour Government in Wales at each General Election, recorded in terms of actual ballots, percentage of the popular vote, and swing.

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Labour votes Percentage of total Swing

2005 667k 48.6% - 6.1%

Data was collected from the House of Commons Library research papers 03/59, and 05/33. The diagrams are calculated to represent percentages in terms of area rather than height.

Labour votes Percentage of total Swing

594.8k 42.7% - 5.9%

Labour polled higher in Wales than Scotland and England in all three elections. In 1997, the Conservatives failed to win a single Welsh seat.

Labour lost a total of five Welsh seats in 2005, but remain the largest party in Wales, in terms of both seats and votes.


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Labour performance: Scotland

1997 Labour votes Percentage of total Swing

2001 1, 283.4k 45.6% + 6.6%

This page describes the performance of the Labour Government in Scotland at each General Election, recorded in terms of actual ballots, percentage of the popular vote, and swing.

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Labour votes Percentage of total Swing

2005 1, 001.2k 43.3% - 2.3%

Data was collected from the House of Commons Library research papers 03/59, and 05/33. The diagrams are calculated to represent percentages in terms of area rather than height.

Labour votes Percentage of total Swing

907.2k 38.9% - 4.4%

In each election, Labour polled consistently higher in Scotland than in England, but lower than in Wales. In 2005, the Liberal Democrats defeated the Conservatives to become the second party in Scotland.

In 2005, Labour saw a reduction in votes across the country, but the decrease was smallest in Scotland. They still hold over two-thirds of Scottish seats.


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Turnout: Percentage of Electorate

1997 Turnout Total votes Electorate

2001 71.5% 31, 287, 702 43, 784, 559

This page measures the turnout at each General Election; the percentage of those legally permitted to vote who cast a legible ballot. Turnout can be seen as a measure of political apathy.

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Turnout Total votes Electorate

2005 59.4% 26, 368, 501 44, 377, 752

Data was gathered from the Times Guides to the House of Commons for each respective year.

Turnout Total votes Electorate

61.3% 27, 123, 652 44, 261, 545

Turnout has been lower in this cycle of Government than in any other in history. Turnout in 2001 was the lowest on record. This increased in 2005 by only 2%.

Outside of this period, the lowest turnout on record occurred in 1974, at 72%. This is 12.6% higher than turnout in 2001, and occurred at the second election of that year after a hung parliament.


Spoilt Ballots: Fraction of 1% of Electorate

1997 Spoilt ballots Percentage of total

2001 93, 408 0.3%

This page details the percentage of spoilt ballots at each General Election. This is always a small number. As such, the diagram represent fractions of 1% of the overall votes.

Spoilt ballots Percentage of total

2005 100, 105 0.38%

Ballots are defined as spoilt for one of the following reasons: want of the official mark, voting for more than one candidate, writing or mark by which the voter could be identified, or submitting an unmarked ballot paper.

Spoilt ballots Percentage of total

188, 000 0.7%

In 2005, there were more spoilt ballots than at any other election on record. 2001 and 1997 saw the third and fourth highest number of spoilt ballots respectively, after 1979.

Between 2001 and 2005, the number of spoilt ballots almost doubled.

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Labour Demographics: Percentage of male voters

1997 Lab. male voters Swing

2001 45% + 8%

This page describes the percentage of male voters at each General Election who voted Labour. The data was collected from Ipsos MORI.

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Lab. male voters Swing

2005 42% - 3%

Following the trend of the popular vote as a whole, the proportion of males voting Labour decreased over these three elections.

Lab. male voters Swing

34% - 8%

In 1997, men were more likely to vote Labour than women. By 2001, the two sexes offered an equal level of support to the party. In 2005, a 4% larger proportion of women voted for Labour than men.

In 2005, Labour votes from both sexes decreased. However, the decrease amongst males more than double that of females.


Labour Demographics: Percentage of female voters

1997 Lab. female voters Swing

2001 44% + 10%

This page describes the percentage of female voters at each General Election who voted Conservative. The data was collected from Ipsos MORI.

Lab. female voters Swing

2005 42% - 2%

The share of female votes won by labour decreased at each of these elections. However, it did so at a slightly slower rate than the equivalent decrease among males.

Lab. female voters Swing

38% - 4%

The upswing of female support for Labour in 1997 was slightly larger than that among men., but still resulted in a slightly smaller share of the total votes.

During this period, the Conservatives won a larger proportion of female votes in 1997 and 2001, but a larger share of males votes in 2005.

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Labour Demographics: Voters aged 18 - 24

1997 Lab. voters 18 - 24 Swing

2001 49% + 11%

This page describes the proportion of voters aged between 18 and 24 who voted Labour at these elections. The data was collected from Ipsos MORI.

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Lab. voters 18 - 24 Swing

2005 41% - 8%

Although voters aged 18 - 24 offered the joint highest percentage of Labour votes in 1997, in 2001 and 2005 this had sunk to the second lowest.

Lab. voters 18 - 24 Swing

38% - 3%

In 2001, Labour saw the largest decrease in support amongst young voters, roughly four times the decrease that occurred in other age brackets,

The typical Labour voter in 2001 has grown older each election. In 1997, he or she was aged between 18 and 34. By 2001 it was 25 - 34, and by 2005 he or she was aged between 35 and 54.


Labour Demographics: Voters aged 25 - 34

1997 Lab. voters 25 - 34 Swing

2001 49% + 12%

This page describes the proportion of voters aged between 25 and 34 who voted Labour at these elections. The data was collected from Ipsos MORI.

Lab. voters 25 - 34 Swing

2005 51% + 2%

In 1997, Labour support among voters aged 25 - 34 increased by the largest proportion double the increase among voters aged 55 and over.

Lab. voters 25 - 34 Swing

38% - 13%

This age bracket experienced something of an anomoly in 2001. Where all other age brackets saw a reduction in Labour support, there was an increase of 2% amongst these voters.

This increased the total proportion of Labour voters in the age bracket to over half - the only point at which this happened throughout this period in any age group.

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Labour Demographics: Voters aged 35 - 54

1997 Lab. voters 35 - 54 Swing

2001 45% + 11%

This page describes the proportion of voters aged between 25 and 34 who voted Labour at these elections. The data was collected from Ipsos MORI.

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Lab. voters 35 - 54 Swing

2005 43% - 2%

Despite showing the second lowest level of Labour support in 1997, by 2005 voters aged between 35 - 54 were the party’s strongest support base.

Lab. voters 35 - 54 Swing

41% - 1%

The general downturn of Labour support that occurred in 2005 made the least impact in this age bracket, with a decrease of 1%, compared to 13% among voters aged 25 - 34.

Today, the typical Labour voter is either male or female, aged between 35 and 54, and employed in an unskilled or semi-skilled capacity.


Labour Demographics: Voters aged 55 +

1997 Lab. voters 55+ Swing

2001 40% +6%

This page describes the proportion of voters aged 55 and over who voted Labour at these elections. The data was collected from Ipsos MORI.

Lab. voters 55+ Swing

2005 38% - 2%

The 55 + age group is the most consistent throughout this cycle of government, as it was during the previous Conservative cycle.

Lab. voters 55+ Swing

34% - 4%

Voters aged 55 and over were the smallest support base for Labour at all three elections. In 1997, at the height of Labour popularity, the proportion of Labour voters in this age bracket was almost 10% lower than that in the 18 - 34 brackets.

Inversely, this age bracket has remained the most supportive of the Conservative party throughout this period.

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Labour Demographics: Middle class and skilled working class

1983

1979 Lab. MC voters Swing

34% + 12%

1979 Lab. SWC voters Swing

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Lab. MC voters Swing

1987 34% 0%

1983 50% + 10%

Lab. SWC voters Swing

Lab. MC voters Swing

30% - 4%

1987 49% - 1%

Lab. SWC voters Swing

40% - 9%


Labour Demographics: Unskilled or semi-skilled working class

1979 Lab. U or S-S voters Swing

1983 59% + 10%

These pages detail the proportion of voters of certain classes voting Labour at these elections. Data was gathered from Ipsos MORI.

Lab. U or S-S voters Swing

1987 55% - 4%

Classes were determined using the NRS social grade system. Middle class refers to grades A, B, and C1. Skilled working class represents grade C2. Semiskilled or unskilled working class refers to grades D and E.

Lab. U or S-S voters Swing

48% - 7%

Unskilled and semi-skilled working class voters have been the largest support base for Labour in each of these elections. In 1997, Labour support in this bracket was 25% higher than that among the middle classes.

Labour also polled well among skilled working class voters, winning over half of the total share of these votes in 1997.

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The Life Cycle of the Labour Government, 1997 -