2005 United Kingdom general election

The 2005 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday 5 May 2005, to elect 646 members to the House of Commons. The Labour Party, led by Tony Blair, won its third consecutive victory, with Blair becoming the only Labour leader besides Harold Wilson to form three majority governments. However, its majority fell to 66 seats compared to the 167-seat majority it had won four years before. This was the first time the Labour Party had won a third consecutive election, and remains the party's most recent general election victory.

2005 United Kingdom general election

 2001 5 May 2005 2010 

All 646 seats to the House of Commons
324 seats needed for a majority
Opinion polls
Turnout61.4% (2.0%)
  First party Second party Third party
 
Leader Tony Blair Michael Howard Charles Kennedy
Party Labour Conservative Liberal Democrats
Leader since 21 July 1994 6 November 2003 9 August 1999
Leader's seat Sedgefield Folkestone
and Hythe
Ross, Skye
and Lochaber
Last election 413 seats, 40.7% 166 seats, 31.7% 52 seats, 18.3%
Seats before 403 165 51
Seats won 355 198 62
Seat change 48* 33* 10*
Popular vote 9,552,436 8,784,915 5,985,454
Percentage 35.2% 32.4% 22.0%
Swing 5.5 pp 0.7 pp 3.7 pp

Colours denote the winning party, as shown in the main table of results.

* Indicates boundary change – so this is a nominal figure

Figure does not include the Speaker, Michael Martin

Composition of the House of Commons after the election

Prime Minister before election

Tony Blair
Labour

Prime Minister after election

Tony Blair
Labour

The Labour campaign emphasised a strong economy; however, Blair had suffered a decline in popularity, which was exacerbated by the decision to send British troops to invade Iraq in 2003. Despite this, Labour mostly retained its leads over the Conservatives in opinion polls on economic competence and leadership, and Conservative leaders Iain Duncan Smith (2001–2003) and Michael Howard (2003–2005) struggled to capitalise on Blair's unpopularity, with the party consistently trailing behind Labour in the polls throughout the 2001–2005 parliament. [citation needed]

The Conservatives campaigned on policies such as immigration limits, improving poorly managed hospitals, and reducing high crime rates. The Liberal Democrats, led by Charles Kennedy, were opposed to the Iraq War, given that there had been no second UN resolution,[1] and collected votes from disenchanted Labour voters. [citation needed]

Tony Blair was returned as Prime Minister, with Labour having 355 MPs, but with a popular vote share of 35.2%, the smallest of any majority government in UK electoral history. In terms of votes, it was only narrowly ahead of the Conservatives, but still had a comfortable lead in terms of seats. The Conservatives returned 198 MPs, with 32 more seats than they had won at the previous general election, and won the popular vote in England, while still ending up with 91 fewer MPs in England than Labour. The Liberal Democrats saw their popular vote increase by 3.7% and won the most seats of any third party since 1923, with 62 MPs. Anti-war activist and former Labour MP George Galloway was elected as the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow under the Respect – The Unity Coalition banner; Richard Taylor was re-elected for Kidderminster Health Concern in Wyre Forest; and independent candidate Peter Law was elected in Blaenau Gwent.

This would be to date the last general election to be held where the winning political party would win a majority of the seats that were contested in all of the constituent countries of Great Britain (ie England, Scotland and Wales) at the same time.

In Northern Ireland, the Ulster Unionist Party, the more moderate of the main unionist parties, which had dominated Northern Irish politics since the 1920s, was reduced from six MPs to one, with party leader David Trimble himself being unseated. The more hardline Democratic Unionist Party became the largest Northern Irish party, with nine MPs elected.

Notable MPs leaving the House of Commons at this election included UUP leader David Trimble, former SDLP leader John Hume, former Cabinet ministers Estelle Morris, Paul Boateng, Chris Smith, Gillian Shephard, Virginia Bottomley and Michael Portillo, the Father of the House of Commons Tam Dalyell, Tony Banks and Sir Teddy Taylor.

Following the election, Michael Howard conceded defeat, resigned as Conservative leader and was succeeded by future Prime Minister David Cameron. Blair resigned as both Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party in June 2007, and was replaced by then-Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown. The election results were broadcast live on the BBC and presented by Peter Snow, David Dimbleby, Tony King, Jeremy Paxman, and Andrew Marr.