In the UK parliamentary general elections, what is the threshold where a tally would be considered unequivocally in favour of a certain party?

I.e. if the Conservative and Labour parties had the two largest shares of the vote, but the Conservatives had a mere 5% majority, would this be considered as a verbatim win? What is the threshold at which it is considered "the British people want X as their political party of choice"?

  • 6
    Welcome to Politics.SE! I don't see how the title matches the actual body of your question; could you edit it just to clear things up a bit?
    – F1Krazy
    May 31, 2019 at 12:21
  • There is no such threshold because the GE is actually hundreds of simultaneous local MP elections. The whole of the UK does not constitute a single constituency and there's no single UK-wide election. The UK is a parliamentary democracy, and the GE does not formally involve electing a single person or a party UK wide. Each voter votes to elect their local representative to send to the country's central political deliberative body, not to shape the share of support of a person or party deserved country-wide. Jun 1, 2019 at 9:43

2 Answers 2


There isn't such a threshold.

Currently the Conservative party is the party of government with fewer than 50% of the seats in the Commons, with the Queen having appointed May as Prime Minister, on the basis that she is capable of commanding the confidence of the House of Commons.

During this parliament that was questioned, put to a vote, and we saw that indeed May still does have the confidence of the Commons.

Nowhere in this procedure is the total popular vote directly involved. Ordinarily, a party with a plurality in the Commons has a plurality of the popular vote, but there are hypotheticals where this isn't the case.


The UK is a parliamentary democracy. The government is formed by the party with the largest number of seats in parliament, possibly including a junior coalition partner if no party has an absolute majority in parliament.

Each seat in parliament is decided using a first-past-the-post system within the constituency of that seat; out of multiple candidates the Member of Parliament for that seat is the one who gets the most votes.

There is no threshold; in theory a government can be formed by a party with less than 50% of the seats (although this is rare).

The "popular vote" (meaning the total cast for each party across the country) is not part of this process, although it is obviously of political interest. There have been cases where the party that won the most seats also lost the popular vote.

  • I believe the head of government to be the one that has the confidence of the house of commons. This is not, necessarily, the head of the party with most votes. This is certainly true for a parliamentary system, but I believe it applies to the UK also. And it makes sense if you think about it. There might be a bunch of left wing parties (or anything else) with little individual share of votes but holding the majority of the commons. A right wing winning party might not have the confidence of the house as opposed to a left wing candidate. This happened recently in Portugal.
    – armatita
    May 31, 2019 at 15:57
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    @armatita what you say is correct. An interesting example is en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… where the Conservative party got the most votes (but not the most seats) and the Labour party formed the Government.
    – mikado
    May 31, 2019 at 20:29

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