The Election of 2015

Cameron Promised a Referendum

The Conservative manifesto committed to "a straight in-out referendum on our membership of the European Union by the end of 2017". Labour did not support this, but did commit to an EU membership referendum if any further powers were transferred to the European Union. The Lib Dems also supported the Labour position, but explicitly supported the UK's continuing membership of the EU.  With a small overall majority the nothing stood in the way of a referendum on EU membership. Referendums and how they are used 


 Some evidence against the idea of a Participation crisis 

Nearly 30.7 million valid votes were cast, making the overall turnout across the UK 66.2%. This is one million more votes than in 2010, but only a 1.1 percentage point higher turnout. 

The ‘ballot box’ turnout which includes votes rejected at the count was 30.8 million or 66.4% of the registered electorate. 

Turnout rose in each country, but jumped particularly sharply in Scotland from 63.9% in 2010 to 71.1%. 

More Evidence of an unfair Electoral System

Electoral Reform 

At this election, nearly three-quarters of votes were wasted in this way (74.4%, compared to 71.1% in the last General Election); that’s 22 million people who voted yet had numerically no influence on the outcome. Half of all votes (50% exactly) went to losing candidates, representing some 15 million people who did not see their choice reflected in the outcome. This is a similar figure to 2010, when 52.8% of votes went to losing candidates.

The fragmentation of party support has led to an increase in MPs elected on small minorities, but even in the context of a multi-party contest, seats are being won on low percentages of the vote.

The number of MPs elected on less than 40% of votes doubled between 2005 and 2010 (55 to 111). This election that trend went into reverse with only 50 candidates elected on less than 40% of the vote. Yet some 331 of 650 MPs were elected without an absolute majority. Eight MPs won on less than 35% of votes cast, and one broke the record for the lowest winning share of the vote in UK electoral history, with 24.5%.

In England the Conservatives secured the most votes and seats. They did not, however, secure the majority of votes, achieving just 41% overall (Labour got 31.6%).

The rise in votes for smaller parties is stark in England. UKIP overtook the Liberal Democrats in vote share, gaining 14.1% of the vote. The Liberal Democrats’ vote share fell to just 8.2% (from 24.2% in England in 2010), and votes for the Green Party rose from 1% to 4.2%. The combined total of votes for parties other than Labour, the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats in England hit an all-time high of 19.2%.

Whilst denting the two larger parties’ vote share, the support for other parties was predictably not translated into seats. Despite drawing a combined total of over 18% of votes across England, UKIP and the Green Party have now just one representative each in Parliament. That’s nearly a fifth of all English votes represented by just two MPs.


UkIP did mobilise nearly four million votes or 12.6 per cent of the vote, compared to 3.1 per cent in 2010, replacing the Liberal Democrats as the third most popular party and delivering the most impressive general election performance by an independent new party since the rise of Labour. But in the aftermath of the electoral battle it was still left with only one seat. ‘It was’, observed Sir David Butler, ‘the harshest treatment that our capricious electoral system has ever inflicted on a nationwide party’. The only Ukip candidate who was successful was the former Conservative MP, Douglas Carswell, who secured re-election in the seaside and blue-collar seat of Clacton