United Kingdom general election, 2001

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United Kingdom general election, 2001
United Kingdom
1997 ←
members
7 June 2001
Members elected
→ 2005
members

All 659 seats to the House of Commons
330 seats needed for a majority
Turnout 59.4%
  First party Second party Third party
  TonyBlairBasra.JPG William Hague 2010 cropped flipped.jpg Charles Kennedy.jpg
Leader Tony Blair William Hague Charles Kennedy
Party Labour Conservative Liberal Democrat
Leader since 21 July 1994 19 June 1997 9 August 1999
Leader's seat Sedgefield Richmond (Yorks) Ross, Skye and Inverness West
Last election 418 seats, 43.2% 165 seats, 30.7% 46 seats, 16.8%
Seats won 413 166 52
Seat change Decrease5 Increase1 Increase6
Popular vote 10,724,953 8,357,615 4,814,321
Percentage 40.7% 31.7% 18.3%
Swing Decrease2.5% Increase1% Increase1.5%

BBC Vote 2001 Election results map

The linked map's colours denote the winning party,
as shown in the main table of results.

PM before election

Tony Blair
Labour

Subsequent PM

Tony Blair
Labour

1992 election MPs
1997 election MPs
2001 election MPs
2005 election MPs
2010 election MPs
Ring charts of the election results showing popular vote against seats won, coloured in party colours
Seats won in the election (outer ring) against number of votes (inner ring).

The United Kingdom general election, 2001 was held on Thursday 7 June 2001 to elect 659 members to the British House of Commons. It was dubbed "the quiet landslide" by the media, as the Labour Party was re-elected with another landslide result and only suffered a net loss of 5 seats, with lower turnout of 59.4%, compared to 71.3% in the previous election. Tony Blair went on to become the first Labour Prime Minister to serve a second consecutive full term in office.

There was little change outside Northern Ireland, with 620 out of the 641 seats electing candidates from the same party as they did in 1997. Factors contributing to the Labour victory were a strong economy and falling unemployment, as well as the fact that Labour delivered on many key election pledges that it had made in 1997. The Conservative Party, under William Hague's leadership, was still deeply divided on the issue of Europe and the party's policy platform was considered to have shifted to a right-wing focus. Hague was also hindered by a series of embarrassing publicity stunts, and resigned as party leader three months later, becoming the first Conservative leader since Austen Chamberlain to leave office without becoming Prime Minister.

The election was essentially a repeat of the 1997 election, with Labour losing only 6 seats overall and the Conservatives making a net gain of 1 seat (gaining 9 seats, but losing 8). The Conservatives did manage to gain a seat in Scotland, which ended the party's status as an 'England-only' party in the prior parliament. Although they did not gain many seats, one of the new MPs elected was future Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron. The Liberal Democrats gained 6 seats.

Change was seen in Northern Ireland, with the moderately unionist Ulster Unionist Party losing 4 seats to the more hardline Democratic Unionist Party. This transition was mirrored in the republican community with the moderate SDLP losing votes to the more staunchly republican and abstentionist Sinn Féin.

The election was also marked with exceptionally low voter turnout, falling below 60% for the first time since 1918.[1] The election was broadcast live on the BBC, and presented by Jeremy Paxman, Andrew Marr, Peter Snow and David Dimbleby.[2]

Overview

The election had been expected on 3 May, to coincide with local elections, but both were postponed because of rural movement restrictions imposed in response to the foot and mouth outbreak.

The elections were marked by voter apathy, with turnout falling to 59.4%, the lowest since the Coupon Election of 1918. Throughout the election the Labour Party had maintained a significant lead in the opinion polls and the result was deemed to be so certain that some bookmakers paid out for a Labour majority before the election day. However, the opinion polls the previous autumn had shown the first Tory lead (though only by a narrow margin) in the opinion polls for eight years as they benefited from the public anger towards the government over the fuel protests which had led to a severe shortage of motor fuel. By the end of 2000, however, the dispute had been solved and Labour were firmly back in the lead of the opinion polls.

In total, a mere 29 parliamentary seats changed hands at the 2001 election.[3]

One of the more noted events of a quiet campaign was when countryside protester Craig Evans threw an egg at Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott in Rhyl; Prescott then punched him and a struggle ensued, in front of television cameras. 2001 also saw the rare election of an independent. Dr. Richard Taylor of Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern (usually now known simply as "Health Concern") unseated a government minister. There was also a high vote for British National Party leader Nick Griffin in Oldham, in the wake of recent race riots in the town.

In Northern Ireland, the election was far more dramatic and marked a move by unionists away from support for the Good Friday Agreement, with the moderate unionist Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) losing to the more hardline Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). This polarisation was also seen in the nationalist community, with the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) vote losing out to more left-wing and republican Sinn Féin. It also saw a tightening of the parties as the small UK Unionist Party lost its only seat.

Campaign

For Labour the last 4 years had run relatively smoothly. The party had successfully defended all their by-election seats, and many suspected a Labour win was inevitable from the start. Many in the party however were afraid of voter apathy, which was epitomised in the iconic "Hague with Lady Thatcher's hair" poster.[4] Despite Recessions in Mainland Europe and the US due to the bursting of global tech bubbles. Britain was notably unaffected and Labour however could rely on a strong economy as unemployment continued to decline toward election day, putting to rest any fears of a Labour government putting the economic situation at risk.

For William Hague, however, the Conservative Party had still not fully recovered from the loss in 1997. The party was still divided over Europe, and talk of a referendum on the Euro was rife. As Labour remained at the political centre the Tories inevitably moved to the right. A policy gaffe by Oliver Letwin over public spending cuts left the party with an own goal that Labour soon took advantage of. Margaret Thatcher also added to Hague's troubles when speaking out strongly against the Euro to applause. Hague himself, although a witty performer at PMQs, was dogged in the press and reminded of his speech at Conservative conference at the age of 16. The Sun newspaper only added to the Conservatives woes by backing Labour once again, calling Hague a "dead parrot"[5]

The Tories campaigned on a strongly right-wing platform, emphasising the issues of Europe, immigration and tax, the fabled "Tebbit Trinity". However, Labour countered by asking where the proposed tax cuts were going to come from, and decried the Tory policy as "cut here, cut there, cut everywhere", in reference to the widespread belief that the Conservatives would make major cuts to public services in order to fund tax cuts.

For the Liberal Democrats this was the first election for leader Charles Kennedy, who received a good amount of coverage and ultimately left the campaign for the better.[6]

Controversy

During the election Sharron Storer, a resident of Birmingham, criticised Prime Minister Tony Blair in front of television cameras about conditions in the National Health Service. The widely-televised incident happened on 16 May during a campaign visit by Blair to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. Sharron Storer's partner, Keith Sedgewick, a cancer patient with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and therefore highly susceptible to infection, was being treated at the time in the bone marrow unit, but no bed could be found for him and he was transferred to the casualty unit for his first 24 hours.[7][8][9]

Results

The election was effectively a repeat of 1997, as the Labour party vindicated the faith placed in it 4 years ago, and thus retained an overwhelming majority. Having presided over relatively serene political, economic and social conditions, the feeling of prosperity in the UK had been maintained into the new millennium, and Labour would have a free hand to assert its ideals in the subsequent parliament. Despite the victory, voter apathy was a major issue, as turnout fell below 60% for the first time in history, 12% down on 1997. All of the 3 main parties saw their total votes fall, with Labour's total vote dropping by 2.8 million on 1997, the Conservatives 1.3 million, and the Liberal Democrats 428,000. Some suggested this dramatic fall was a sign of the general acceptance of the status quo and the likelihood of Labour's majority remaining unassailable.[10]

For the Conservatives' the huge loss they had sustained in 1997 was repeated. Despite gaining 9 seats the Tories lost 8 behind them to the Liberal Democrats and one even to Labour. The inevitable result was the speedy resignation of William Hague in the election aftermath. Some believed that Hague had been unlucky, although most considered him to be a talented orator and an intelligent statesman, he had come up against the charismatic Tony Blair in the pomp of his political career, and it was no surprise that little progress was made in reducing Labour's majority after a relatively smooth parliament. Staying at what they considered rock-bottom however showed that the Conservatives had failed to improve their negative public image, had remained somewhat disunited over Europe and had not regained the trust that they had lost in the 1990s.[11]

The Liberal Democrats could point to steady progress under Charles Kennedy, gaining more seats than the main two parties – albeit only six overall – and maintaining the performance of a pleasing 1997 election, where the party had doubled its number of seats from 20 to 46. While they had yet to become electable as a government, they underlined their growing reputation as a worthwhile alternative to Labour and Conservative, offering plenty of debate in parliament and not just representing a protest vote.[citation needed]

The SNP failed to gain any seats and lost a seat to the Conservatives by just 79 votes. Plaid Cymru gained and lost a seat to Labour respectively.

In Northern Ireland the Ulster Unionists, despite gaining North Down, lost 5 seats behind them.

413 166 52 28
Labour Conservative Lib Dem O
UK General Election 2001
Candidates Votes
Party Standing Elected Gained Unseated Net  % of total  % No. Net %
  Labour 640 413 2 8 −6 62.5 40.7 10,724,953 −2.5
  Conservative 643 166 9 8 +1 25.2 31.7 8,357,615 +1.0
  Liberal Democrat 639 52 8 2 +6 7.9 18.3 4,814,321 +1.5
  SNP 72 5 0 1 −1 0.8 1.8 464,314 −0.2
  UKIP 428 0 0 0 0 0.0 1.5 390,563 1.2
  UUP 17 6 1 5 −4 0.9 0.8 216,839 0.0
  Plaid Cymru 40 4 1 1 0 0.6 0.7 195,893 +0.2
  DUP 14 5 3 0 +3 0.8 0.7 181,999 +0.4
  Sinn Féin 18 4 2 0 +2 0.6 0.7 175,933 +0.3
  SDLP 18 3 0 0 0 0.5 0.6 169,865 0.0
  Green 145 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.6 166,477 +0.3
  Independent 136 0 0 1 −1 0.0 0.4 97,070 +0.3
  Scottish Socialist 72 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.3 72,516 N/A
  Socialist Alliance 98 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.2 57,553 N/A
  Socialist Labour 114 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.2 57,288 0.0
  BNP 33 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.2 47,129 +0.1
  Alliance 10 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.1 28,999 −0.1
  Health Concern 1 1 1 0 +1 0.2 0.1 28,487 N/A
  Liberal 13 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.1 13,685 0.0
  UK Unionist 1 0 0 1 −1 0.0 0.1 13,509 +0.1
  ProLife Alliance 37 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 9,453 −0.1
  Legalise Cannabis 13 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 8,677 N/A
  People's Justice 3 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 7,443 N/A
  Monster Raving Loony 15 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 6,655 0.0
  PUP 2 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 4,781 0.0
  Mebyon Kernow 3 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 3,199 0.0
  NI Women's Coalition 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 2,968 0.0
  Scottish Unionist 2 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 2,728 N/A
  Rock 'n' Roll Loony 7 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 2,634 N/A
  National Front 5 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 2,484 0.0
  Workers' Party 6 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 2,352 0.0
  Neath Port Talbot Ratepayers 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 1,960 N/A
  NI Unionist 6 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 1,794 N/A
  Socialist Alternative 2 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 1,454 0.0
  Reform 2000 5 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 1,418 N/A
  Isle of Wight 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 1,164 N/A
  Muslim 4 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 1,150 N/A
  Communist 6 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 1,003 0.0
  New Britain 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 888 0.0
  Free Party 3 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 832 N/A
  Leeds Left Alliance 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 770 N/A
  New Millennium Bean Party 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 727 N/A
  Workers Revolutionary 6 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 607 0.0
  Tatton 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 505 N/A
Government's new majority 167
Total votes cast 26,368,204
Turnout 59.4%

All parties with more than 500 votes shown.

The seat gains reflect changes on the 1997 general election result. Two seats had changed hands in by-elections in the intervening period. These were as follows:

The results of the election give a Gallagher index of dis-proportionality of 17.74.

Popular vote
Labour
  
40.7%
Conservative
  
31.7%
Liberal Democrat
  
18.3%
Scottish National
  
1.8%
UK Independence
  
1.5%
Others
  
6.1%
Parliamentary seats
Labour
  
62.7%
Conservative
  
25.2%
Liberal Democrat
  
7.9%
Ulster Unionist
  
0.9%
Scottish National
  
0.8%
Democratic Unionist
  
0.8%
Others
  
1.8%

Seats changing hands

Seat 1997 election Constituency result 2001 by party 2001 election
Con Lab Lib PC SNP Others
Belfast North UUP DUP gain
Carmarthen East and Dinefwr Labour 4,912 13,540 2,815 16,130 656 Plaid Cymru gain
Castle Point Labour 17,738 16,753 3,116 1273 Conservative gain
Cheadle Conservative 18,444 6,086 18,477 599 Liberal Democrat gain
Chesterfield Labour 3,613 18,663 21,249 437 Liberal Democrat gain
Dorset Mid and Poole North Conservative 17,974 6,765 18,358 621 Liberal Democrat gain
Dorset South Conservative 18,874 19,027 6,531 913 Labour gain
Fermanagh and South Tyrone UUP Sinn Féin gain
Galloway and Upper Nithsdale SNP 12,222 7,258 3,698 12,148 588 Conservative gain
Guildford Conservative 19,820 6,558 20,358 736 Liberal Democrat gain
Isle of Wight Liberal Democrat 25,223 9,676 22,397 2,106 Conservative gain
Londonderry East UUP DUP gain
Ludlow Conservative 16,990 5,785 18,620 871 Liberal Democrat gain
Newark Labour 20,983 16,910 5,970 Conservative gain
Norfolk North Conservative 23,495 7,490 23,978 649 Liberal Democrat gain
Norfolk North West Labour 24,846 21,361 4,292 704 Conservative gain
North Down UK Unionist UUP gain
Romford Labour 18,931 12,954 2,869 Conservative gain
Romsey Conservative 20,386 3,986 22,756 Liberal Democrat gain
Strangford UUP DUP gain
Tatton Independent 19,860 11,249 7,685 Conservative gain
Taunton Liberal Democrat 23,033 8,254 22,798 1,140 Conservative gain
Teignbridge Conservative 23,332 7,366 26,343 Liberal Democrat gain
Tyrone West UUP Sinn Féin gain
Upminster Labour 15,410 14,169 3,183 1,089 Conservative gain
Wyre Forest Labour 9,350 10,857 28,487 Independent gain
Ynys Mon Plaid Cymru 7,653 11,906 2,772 11,106 Labour gain

MPs who lost their seats

Party Name Constituency Office held whilst in power Year elected
Labour Party Alan Wynne Williams Carmarthen East and Dinefwr 1987
Christine Butler Castle Point 1997
Fiona Jones Newark 1997
George Turner Norfolk North West 1997
Eileen Gordon Romford 1997
Keith Darvill Upminster 1997
David Lock Wyre Forest 1997
Conservative Party Stephen Day Cheadle 1987
Christopher Frazer Mid Dorset and North Poole 1997
Ian Bruce Dorset South 1987
Nick St Aubyn Guildford 1997
David Prior Norfolk North 1997
Patrick Nicholls Teignbridge 1983
Liberal Democrats Peter Brand Isle of Wight 1997
Jackie Ballard Taunton 1997
Ulster Unionist Party Willie Ross East Londonderry 1974
Cecil Walker North Belfast 1983
William Thompson West Tyrone 1997
Independent Martin Bell Tatton contesting Brentwood and Ongar 1997

See also

Manifestos

References

Bibliography

  • Butler, David and Dennis Kavanagh. The British General Election of 2001 (2002), the standard scholarly study
  • General Election results, 7 June 2001 (Research Party 01/54), House of Commons Library

External links