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Turnout at General Election lowest for more than 20 years

06 Jul 2024 6 minute read
A polling Station in Swansea. Photo Sarah Morgan Jones

With all 650 results declared, the turnout at the General Election was confirmed as 59.9%, the lowest for more than 20 years.

This is down sharply from 67.3% at the last election in 2019.

It is also the worst turnout at a general election since 2001, when the figure slumped to 59.4%: the lowest since before the Second World War.

The highest turnout at a general election since the war was 83.9% in 1950, according to figures compiled by the House of Commons Library.

Turnout remained above 75% at every post-war general election until 1970, when it dipped to 72.0%.

It then stayed above 70% at every election until plunging to 59.4% in 2001 – since then it has never been above 70%.

Key stats

A the dust has now settled on the 2024 General Election, with the final result from Inverness, Skye & West Ross-shire declared on Saturday evening.

Here are some of the key statistics from an election that broke numerous records and saw a number of historic milestones:

– Lowest ever number of Conservative MPs

A total of 121 Conservative MPs have been elected: the lowest number in the party’s history.

The previous record low was 156, set in 1906.

The Tories have suffered a net loss of 251 MPs, down from 372 in 2019.

It is their largest ever drop in MPs from one general election to the next.

(The 2019 total is a notional figure, indicating what the party is likely to have won had that election been held using the new constituency boundaries in place this year.)

– One of Labour’s highest ever number of MPs

Labour’s total of 412 MPs is the party’s third best ever performance in terms of seats won, just behind the 413 it achieved in 2001 and a few short of the record 419 Labour MPs elected in 1997.

All of these figures include the Speaker.

Labour has made a net gain of 211 seats compared with its notional total at the last election in 2019 of 201.

This is the party’s biggest increase in MPs from one general election to the next since the end of the Second World War.

Labour’s largest ever jump in MPs came in 1945, when it made a net gain of 239 seats.

– The most Liberal MPs for more than 100 years

The election has seen the highest number of seats won by a Liberal party for more than 100 years.

With 72 MPs in the new Commons, the Liberal Democrats have won more seats than at any election since the present-day party was established in 1988.

It is also higher than any total achieved by their predecessors, the Liberals, since the general election of 1923, when the party won 158 MPs.

– SNP reduced to single figures for first time since 2010

The SNP will have only nine MPs in the new parliament: its worst performance at a general election since 2010.

The party won a clear majority of seats in Scotland at each of the 2015, 2017 and 2019 elections, and in 2015 – a year after the Scottish referendum – it came close to a clean sweep, picking up 56 out of 59.

But it has now been reduced to single figures in the House of Commons, on a par with its performance at elections in the 1990s and 2000s.

– Conservatives lose seats they had held for generations

The 2019 general election saw the Conservatives gain seats that had been held by Labour for many decades – but at this election, both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have performed the same feat on the Tories.

Among Labour’s many gains are Aldershot in Hampshire, which had previously been held by the Conservatives since 1918; Macclesfield in Cheshire, which had also been Conservative since 1918; Basingstoke in Hampshire, Tory since 1924; Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, Tory since 1924; Ashford in Kent, Tory since 1931; Cities of London & Westminster, Tory since 1950; Bournemouth West, Tory since 1950; and Hexham in Northumberland, Tory since 1951.

The Lib Dems’ gains include Dorset West, which had been held by the Conservatives since 1885; Chichester in West Sussex, Conservative since 1924; Woking, Tory since 1950; Stratford-on-Avon, Tory since 1950; and Wokingham, Tory since 1950.

– Labour’s majority is third largest for a single party since 1900

Labour’s majority of 174 is the third largest won by a single party at a general election since the start of the 20th century.

It is just behind the majority of 179 won by Labour in 1997, when Tony Blair became prime minister.

The largest ever majority for a single party at a general election since 1900 is 210, achieved by the Conservatives in 1924 under Stanley Baldwin.

– Labour has lowest ever vote share for majority-winning party

At the same time as coming close to a record majority of seats, Labour has also ended up with the lowest ever share of the vote for a party that has won a majority at a general election.

Labour took just 33.8% of the votes cast.

This is lower than the previous record of 35.2%, set by Labour when it won a majority at the 2005 election.

– Conservatives set new record for lowest ever vote share

The Tories’ share of the vote, 23.7%, is the lowest for the party at any general election in its history.

The previous low was 30.7% in 1997.

– Turnout down sharply to lowest since 2001

Turnout at the general election was 59.9%.

This is down sharply from 67.3% at the last election in 2019.

It is also the lowest turnout at a general election since 2001, when it hit 59.4%: the lowest since before the Second World War.

– Record number of female MPs

There will be more female MPs in the House of Commons than ever before.

A total of 263 women have been elected: up 43 from the previous record of 220 in 2019.

It means 40% of MPs in the new House of Commons will be female.

This is the sixth election in a row where the number of women MPs has increased.

– Dartford remains longest-running ‘bellwether’ seat

Bellwether seats are constituencies where the local result has a habit of matching the national outcome.

They are seats that have a pattern of changing hands only when the government itself changes hands.

Since 1964, whichever party wins Dartford has also gone on to form the government – a pattern that held true at this election, with the seat being gained by Labour from the Conservatives on a swing of 17.2 percentage points.

Four seats have been bellwethers at every general election since February 1974: Loughborough, Northampton North, Portsmouth North and Watford – and they have kept their status at this election, with all being won by Labour from the Tories.

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John Ellis
John Ellis
7 days ago

The result – considering the UK as a whole, but even thinking of Wales specifically – could arguably have turned out to have been worse than it actually was.

But the low overall turn-out for a general election arguably points to a general public disillusion with, and maybe cynicism about, the political process in the UK.

7 days ago

The results show that a Labour win is generally linked to low turnout. Whereby, Tory voters are the ones that don’t make the effort. Particularly this time around where Labours vote share is almost identical to that of 2019 when the Cons returned with a huge majority. I support neither of these outcomes as we are no better off with each of them. The voting system is broken in the UK.

7 days ago

We’ve had the conservatives in Westminster for 14 years and Labour in Cardiff for 25 years. The UK’s in a right state and Wales is the worst-performing region by most metrics.

John Powers
John Powers
7 days ago
Reply to  Adrian

GGP per capita is £500 lower in North East England. Child poverty is ten percent higher in the West Midlands. Waiting lists for treatment are five and a half years in Northern Ireland. We don’t know how education compares because England refuses to release PISA results for the regions.

What metrics are you using?

Last edited 7 days ago by John Powers
Sneb yn gwbod.
Sneb yn gwbod.
7 days ago
Reply to  John Powers

Does we give PISA results for regions. One thing is incontrovertible England outperforms Wales.

John Powers
John Powers
7 days ago

The voting system does not encourage engagement with democracy. If supporting who you really want helps those you really don’t want every election is a depressing experience.

Only STV gets the balance right between voter engagement and proportionality.

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