The May 2010 general election resulted in a hung parliament in the UK for the first time since 1974. The Conservative Party, led by David Cameron, won most seats in the House of Commons but not enough to form a majority government. The Labour Party gained the second highest number of seats while the Liberal Democrats came third out of the three leading UK political parties. In the imediate aftermath of the election there were several permutations of what might happen and they all revolved around the Liberal Democrats. To which party would they give their support and for what in return? Despite coming second, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, leader of the Labour Party, continued as Prime Minister until a new government was resolved. Technically Brown could have continued trying to lead the Commons with a minority government. In reality, this was never going to happen and after a few days of speculation it was announced that a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government had been formed with David Cameron as Prime Minister and Nick Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister. Politicians with a Liberal background sat in the Cabinet for the first time in 70 years.
2010 national election result:
Conservative: 306 seats – a gain of 97 from the 2005 general election.
Labour: 258 seats – a loss of 91 from the 2005 general election.
Liberal Democrats: 57 seats – a loss of 5 from the 2005 general election.
Liberal Democrats: 6,827,938
% national support:
Liberal Democrats: 23%
Turnout = 65% (29,653,639 voters)
Points of interest:
- The 2010 election was conducted using the ‘First-Post-The-Post’ system. On the day after the election, two senior Labour Cabinet figures, Lord Mandelson and Alan Johnson, both stated that FPTP was on its last legs. If a deal is done with the Liberal Democrats, reform of the electoral system would be on the cards and this proved to be the case. In a leaked pre-Queen’s speech document, the coalition will offer a referendum on electoral reform.
- Despite a good showing in the live television debates, the Liberal Democrats did not do anywhere near as well as the polls had predicted. In the immediate aftermath of the first tv debate where there was general consensus that Nick Clegg had won, some polls predicted that the Liberal Democrats would win just over 100 seats. As the polling neared, this figure dipped but few would have predicted that the Liberal Democrats in 2010 would actually do worse than in 2005. However, post-election, the media still referred to Nick Clegg as the ‘kingmaker’ because of the key role his party could play in forming a future government.
- The Green Party won its first seat in parliament at Brighton Pavilion where Green Party leader Caroline Lucas was elected
- Two former Labour Home Secretaries lost their seats – Charles Clarke and Jacqui Smith. Other high profile politicians who lost their seats were Lembit Opik (Lib Dems) and Peter Robinson (DUP).
- The election in Thirsk and Malton was postponed due the death of one of the candidates.
- Those potential voters who queued but were not allowed to vote because of the 22.00 closing time for polling stations may be in line for £750 compensation if it can be proved that inadequacies in the local voting set-up were to blame (lack of staff for instance). However, the law is very clear – voting ends at 22.00 on election night. It seems that most of the major English cities experienced some sort of problem related to this while in Liverpool Wavertree, there were not enough ballot papers for those who wanted to vote.
Some voters were locked out of polling booths post-22.00. However, it is alleged that some were also locked in and allowed to vote after 22.00. If this is proved to be correct, the final result for that constituency may be challenged in court.