How is the Labour Party, with 57 fewer seats, able to still be in power in government?

Did the Labour Party hang Parliament?

  • 3
    A hung parliament is one that's been strung up by the neck.
    – Mark
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 20:50
  • 1
    They're not "in power in government". Where did you get that idea from?
    – JBentley
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 11:14
  • From several articles. I don't know alot of about the government over there, but the tone was that the Labour party won the election and can now lead the country back from the brink. For example, Brexit may be rescinded. I understand that the media is often unreliable. I wanted to make sure Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 13:57

3 Answers 3


Firstly, the Labour Party didn't hang the Parliament. It's called a hung parliament because no party won a majority of seats in the House of Commons. As there are 650 seats in total, a simple majority requires half that number + 1, which makes it 326.

The expression comes from the term "hung jury," when jurors cannot decide on a verdict and a retrial is needed.

The Labour Party can form a government if they can get a working majority either through forming a coalition or through a "confidence and supply" deal.

A coalition is more formal and that the smaller party usually get some ministerial positions in the government, for example the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition agreement in 2010 formed a cabinet consisting of ministers from both parties.

A "confidence and supply" deal's less formal and the government technically remains a minority one and the smaller party agrees to support any bills necessary for the government and in return the governments helps them to enact some of their policies.

  • 1
    I like the etymology. Was wondering where the term had come from
    – Machavity
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 13:20
  • Majority means "more than 50%" and is easily confused with "half that number + 1", which is a common mistake, but it's wrong and produces incorrect results.
    – Ganymede
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 16:22

Each constituency elects a member of parliament. There are 650 seats up for grabs. To have a majority, a party needed to have at least 326 seats. Otherwise the election is hung (basically a draw for want of a better term).

Now the parties have a choice:

  • Form a coalition so that they can get a majority
  • Lead a minority government, where the biggest party tries to persuade other parties to support them bill-by-bill

Labour doesn't have the option of forming a coalition government. Its seats plus the other, non-conservative party seats together don't add up to 326.

Labour could potentially (unlikely though) form a minority government.

To answer your question of why labour has a lot of power in parliament now, is that the conservatives can't pass bills on their own any more, and labour can influence individual bills by working with other parties.

  • 8
    "Its seats plus the other, non-conservative party seats together don't add up to 326." This statement is impossible. If it were correct the conservatives would have a majority (or exactly half). The real issue is DUP of NI would never work with Labor and have enough seats to keep them out.
    – Vality
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 22:18
  • 1
    If Labor had more seats than the conservatives, but still not enough to form a government, there's no reason to assume that the DUP or SF would not happily go into government with them. But the Cons had the maths to do it with just the DUP so they can make a deal easily - Labor can't. Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 23:42
  • 1
    @Vality, you're assuming that "non-conservative party seats" means "seats belonging to anyone other than the Conservative party". In context, I think it means "seats belonging to a party that is not politically conservative". In other words, the DUP, being conservative, would not prefer to form a coalition with Labour over the Conservatives. Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 0:45
  • @StephenG Jeremy Corybyn is perceived as having been friendly towards Sinn Fein and the IRA. That's a pretty big obstacle to doing a deal with the DUP.
    – JBentley
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 11:19
  • @JBentley In politics "prefer" is not the same as "only". Since the Good Friday agreement politics in the North has become a lot more pragmatic. The DUP had been working with Sinn Fein in the Executive (NI's government) for quite some time. They'd certainly find Labor less objectionable (and Labor are not the socialist party they once were). Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 11:37

A hung parliament is a result of no majority. There are 650 constituencies (geographical area that each individually vote for an MP) in the UK. In parliament, a majority is achieved when the largest party has more seats than all other parties put together, which requires 326 seats. The reason for this is that there are many more liberal parties in the UK Parliament than Conservative, and chances are that during motions that have to carry in parliament that need a majority conservatives will have a hard time passing laws if the Liberal Democrats, Green Party, SNP and Labour all vote against the Tories' motions. This is why it is important that to properly win an election a majority is needed.

  • 1
    There some errors in terminology here: (1) counties and constituencies are quite separate things; typically, one county contains multiple constituencies. (2) I don't think that "liberal" is the correct word for the non-Conservative parties (apart from the Liberal Democrats, obviously!). Left-wing or left-of-centre could be applied to Labour, LibDems and Greens, and possibly SNP and Plaid Cymru (which are also nationalist). The Northern Ireland parties are more complicated. Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 14:03
  • My bad, counties and constituencies are different
    – Charlie
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 14:28
  • "has as many seats as" should be "has more seats than" Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 15:28
  • Just changed it
    – Charlie
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 18:15
  • And I would characterise labour as liberal, don't know why you would say they aren't.
    – Charlie
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 18:16

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