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House of Commons

Compare data for parliamentary chambers in the Last elections module

A historical Archive of past election results for this chamber can be found on a separate page

Parliament name Parliament
Structure of parliament Bicameral
Chamber name House of Commons
Related chamber (for bicameral parliaments) House of Lords
Dates of election / renewal (from/to) 6 May 2010
Purpose of elections Elections were held for all the seats in the House of Commons on the normal expiry of the members' term of office.
On 6 April 2010, Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that elections would be held on 6 May. The elections followed a revision of the constituency boundaries (see note 1), which increased the statutory number of members of the House of Commons from 646 to 650.

In the previous elections held in May 2005, the Labour Party, led by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair, won 355 of the 646 seats at stake, with 35.19 per cent of the votes. The Conservative Party (commonly referred to as the Tories) came in a distant second with 198 seats, although it won 32.35 per cent of the votes - a result of the first-past-the post electoral system. The Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems) took 62 seats, with 22.05 per cent of the votes. The remaining seats were taken by nine other parties.

In December 2005, Mr. David Cameron was elected as the new leader of the Conservative Party. In June 2007, Mr. Blair - who had served as Prime Minister since Labour had taken power from the Conservatives in 1997 - resigned and was succeeded by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister), Mr. Brown. Under the latter's government, the country was hit by the global economic crisis in 2008, followed by a parliamentary expenses scandal in 2009, which led Speaker Michael Martin to resign in May 2009. He became the first Commons Speaker to be forced out of office since 1695.

In February 2010, the House of Commons approved government plans to hold a nationwide referendum on changing the electoral system from "first-past-the-post" to "alternative votes" (see note 2). The Labour Party, which had pledged electoral reform in its 1997 election manifesto, argued that the new voting system was needed to restore trust in politics. The Liberal Democrats led by Mr. Nick Clegg, which have historically been a strong proponent of electoral reform, supported the plan. On the contrary, the Conservative Party argued that the current system had ensured a stable government and kept out extremists. It pledged to abolish the referendum plan if it won the general elections. Finally, the outgoing House of Commons was dissolved before the Bill could become law.

In the 2010 elections, three parties - Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats remained major contenders. In all, 4,150 candidates were vying for seats. Owing to the death of one candidate, the election in one constituency in North Yorkshire was postponed to 27 May.

The media focused on whether the Conservatives - in opposition since 1997 - would return to power. The main issues included addressing the budget deficit in the aftermath of the financial crisis, British troops in Afghanistan and the country's relationship with the European Union (EU).

Prime Minister Brown urged voters to give his Labour Party a clear mandate to consolidate the economic recovery. He promised to continue to invest in schools, childcare and the National Health Service (NHS), while applying a 50 per-cent income tax on high-income earners.

Conservative leader Cameron said his party would give the country a fresh start. He pledged immediate spending cuts of £ 6 billion in his first year in office, while protecting the NHS and foreign aid. He also promised corporate tax cuts.

The Liberal Democrats leader, Mr. Clegg, argued that only his party would bring about real change in UK politics, pledging to play a major role in any new government. He promised to cut public spending by £ 15 billion a year.

The Labour Party pledged to begin pulling out the British troops in Afghanistan in the last quarter of 2011 while the Conservatives aimed at a full withdrawal within five years. The latter further pledged to double the operational bonus for troops serving in Afghanistan in the meantime. The Liberal Democrats promised to come up with a successful strategy that would stabilize Afghanistan enough to allow British troops' withdrawal during the next Parliament.

On the relationship with the EU, the Conservative Party pledged to change the law so that a referendum would be required on any new treaty that would transfer more power from the UK to the EU. The Labour Party pledged to push for an outward-facing European Union that delivers jobs, prosperity and global influence. The Liberal Democrats promised to bring Britain to the heart of Europe, so as to "achieve prosperity, security and opportunity for Britain".

Pre-election opinion polls predicted that no party would secure a majority, and indicated the likelihood of a "hung parliament". The Liberal Democratic Party, which ranked third in the polls, was expected to be a king maker in the new House of Commons. Its leader Clegg - a former member of the European Parliament known for his pro-EU policies - did not reveal which party he would align with if none won a clear majority.

On 6 May, 65.1 per cent of the 45 million registered voters turned out at the polls. Due to the high turnout (up from 61.79 in the 2005 polls), voters waiting in line in several polling stations could not cast their ballots before the official deadline of 10 p.m.

The 2010 elections resulted in the first hung parliament since 1974, when fresh elections had been called in the same year. The Conservatives came in first with 306 seats. Labour and the Liberal Democrats followed with 258 and 57 seats respectively. The remainder went to small parties. In all, 143 women were elected.

A period of uncertainty about which party would form a government followed the elections. On 10 May, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democratic Party announced a coalition government headed by Mr. Cameron, with Mr. Clegg as his deputy. Mr. Brown announced that he would resign both as leader of the Labour Party and as Prime Minister. The following day, Queen Elisabeth officially confirmed 43 year-old Mr. Cameron as the new Prime Minister. He became the youngest Prime Minister since Lord Liverpool took office in 1812 at age 42.

On 18 May, the newly elected House of Commons held its first session and re-elected Mr. John Bercow as its Speaker (see note 3).

Note 1:
In all, 478 of 533 constituencies in England, 22 of 40 constituencies in Wales, and all 18 seats in Northern Ireland have had their boundaries changed since 2005. In Scotland, changes to the constituency boundaries had already been introduced for the 2005 elections.

Note 2:
In the alternative votes system, voters rank candidates in order of preference. A candidate obtaining more than 50 per cent of the first choice votes is declared elected. If no candidate secures more than 50 per cent of the votes, the candidate with the fewest number of votes is eliminated and voters' second choices are allocated to the remaining candidates. This process continues until a winner emerges.

Note 3:
Mr. Bercow had sat as a member of the Conservative Party before being elected as Speaker in June 2009. In the House of Commons, the Speaker ceases to be involved in party politics upon election.
Voter turnout
Round no 16 May 2010
Number of registered electors
Blank or invalid ballot papers
Valid votes

Distribution of seats
Round no 1
Political Group Total
Conservative Party 306
Labour Party 258
Liberal Democrats 57
Democratic Unionist Party 8
Scottish National Party 6
Sinn Fein 5
Plaid Cymru 3
Social Democratic and Labour Party 3
Greens 1
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland 1
The Speaker 1
Independents 1
Distribution of seats according to sex
Percent of women
Distribution of seats according to age
21 to 30 years
31 to 40 years
41 to 50 years
51 to 60 years
61 to 70 years
Over 70 years
Distribution of seats according to profession
Finance, management or business 243
Others 119
Legal profession 86
Education profession 49
Journalism, broadcasting, media 38
Trade union official 27
Civil society activity 18
Civil service and local authority administration 18
Armed services/Police 17
Architect, surveyor, engineer 13
Agriculture/farming 10
Physician, dentist 9
Research/sciences 3
House of Commons (12.05.2010, 28.05.2010, 25.03.2011, 04.01.2012, 05.12.2012, 01.01.2014, 01.01.2015)

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