I know this is highly unlikely, bordering on impossible, but what would happen if the majority of seats were won by independent candidates in a general election?

Would the independents simply choose amongst themselves and would it be possible for a government to be formed?

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    This was (sort of) the case before political parties were established. There were factions, but they were not as formal or as consistent as parties. Jun 18, 2017 at 19:30
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    My local council is run by Independents. They function as a de facto party (although obviously their members have much more freedom and independence) and elect their own leader. Presumably, the same sort of thing would happen in Parliament. Jun 18, 2017 at 21:34
  • Problem is that independents often come from numerous different political alignments, so I doubt they could pick a leader. I think it would be more along the lines of what SleepingGod has said and Queen Liz would pick someone from the house of Lords. My bet would be the Baron Rothschild.
    – Charlie
    Jun 18, 2017 at 21:52
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    @Charlie The person SleepingGod suggested, Lord Buckethead, isn't in the House of Lords. I believe he ran in the last election as an independent. See politics.stackexchange.com/questions/19751/…
    – Ross Ridge
    Jun 18, 2017 at 22:10
  • Yes sorry, to clarify what I meant is that the Queen would choose a leader. There is no way Lord Buckethead would be PM, it was a harmless bit of fun :)
    – Charlie
    Jun 18, 2017 at 22:12

2 Answers 2


The Queen would select anyone who could "command the respect of the house", to be Prime Minister. Anyone who could prove to Her Majesty that they could form a government would be selected as Prime Minister. It is worth noting that "Independent" is not a party and even in a situation where the majority of seats were "Independent" there would still be a "largest political party"

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    And by anyone this means anyone. The person in question wouldn't have to be an MP (although if not, they would probably be swiftly elevated to the Lords).
    – origimbo
    Jun 18, 2017 at 17:29
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    Certainly - Page 2 of the Cabinet Manual Jun 18, 2017 at 19:36
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    That's interesting. So no Lord Buckethead for PM? :P
    – Charlie
    Jun 18, 2017 at 19:50
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    @Charlie If he could prove to Her Majesty The Queen that he was up to the job... certainly Lord Buckethead for PM Jun 18, 2017 at 19:51
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    @Charlie Feel free to ask them as new questions and I will be most glad to answer any questions you may have (if I can). Jun 18, 2017 at 19:53

I am Norwegian and answer this in a more general manner. As far as I know this applies to the UK too, as well as other Parliamentarian countries.

First, as @SleepingGod says, Independent is not a party. They are a bunch of people who do not agree on much except that the major established parties are no good. In this context, there is really no difference between an independent and a party holding a single seat.

Regardless, what matters is that the new PM "commands the respect of the house". This means that they must win a vote of the Parliament, called the investiture vote. In the UK there are 650 seats, but some are likely to abstain. The prospective PM needs more votes in favor than against.

If no party has a majority on their own, they need to form alliances. Of course, this is easiest for the largest parties, so the custom is for her Majesty to ask the leader of the largest party first. However, even they have answer whether they have a majority alliance behind them. If they don't the second largest party is asked and so on. (If anybody lies, they will be found out in the actual vote. Much embarrassment will be had)

Of course, all this is a formality, her Majesty knows very well who has the required alliance and she will not start her interviews before the necessary deals have been made.

Now, what happens if nobody is able to form such an alliance? If enough minor party members refuse to ally with anybody?

In the UK and Norway, that has never happened... yet. Negotiation continue until eventually somebody gives in. Usually after getting support for some of their pet causes. However, there is always the next election.

In Belgium, they were without a cabinet for more than a year in 2010-11.

In Norway there was an interesting case in 2001 where the Prime Minister came from the fifth largest party at the time. Various ministers came from three parties, second, fifth and seventh by number of seats. The also needed the support from the third largest to get the majority, but they got no cabinet positions. They were might pissed off about it, but accepted the result as a Lesser Evil. (There were probably some other deals made that I don't remember)

I don't know UK politics well enough to know of similar cases there.

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    They don't have to get 326 votes. Abstentions are allowed, and are in fact quite possible (pretty much certain for the seven Sinn Fein MPs who don't take up their seats). They need a majority of those who vote, not of the whole House of Commons.
    – Mike Scott
    Jun 19, 2017 at 11:16
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    Some parts of this are factually incorrect you can stand as an independent without a political party see the official guidelines Jun 19, 2017 at 11:30
  • In Norway there have been cases of no-majority governments. (-01, -81). In Norway the practice is "negative parlamentarism" - which means that while the government can exist without the explicit confidence of the parliament, it cannot exist with an explicit (vote of) no confidence.
    – Stian
    Jun 19, 2017 at 12:33
  • "They must win a vote of the Parliament" - this is called the investiture vote. It's not universal - some countries assume that a sitting PM can remain in function in the absence of a new vote. And the Netherlands doesn't have an investiture vote at all; as the PM is formally chosen by the King. (Who consults all political parties before making that choice, of course, as there's no point in choosing a PM that would immediately be defeated by a non-confidence vote)
    – MSalters
    Jun 19, 2017 at 12:55
  • Edited in response to comments. Jun 21, 2017 at 7:35

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