I live in Canada and both UK and Canada have what we call a ''first past the post voting system''. It means that, in order to win a seat, you just need to have the most vote in one specific area. I think you call them constituencies in the UK ? In Canada, it an electoral district.
1- problem number 1: You can win a seat with only 25% of support if the vote is really divided. It's rare to go that low, but possible.
Now imagine a situation where you have several seats. The conservatives get more support across the country but that does not mean they will win the election. They could, for example, lose a large number of seats with 49% of the votes. The labor party wining with only 51%. This 49% of votes is wasted since no one got elected.
Demonstration with only 3 seats
L=labor C= conservative
- L=51% C=49%
- L=51% C=49%
- L=37% C=63%
The labor party is forming the new government with 2 seats despite having only 46% of the votes. It's a little extreme with just 3 sets but the principle stays the same with more seats unless you had a mechanism to be more representative of the vote.
2- problem number two: not all seats are equal. I do not know how bad is it in the UK but here, we have some electoral district that are protected to guaranty that a region will not loose it's political power. Normally, each electoral district represent a certain number of voters. The number is not the same for all districts since the demography is always changing. Most district are modified to fit this demographic criteria. However, cities always end up unrepresented, even if the regions do not have a specific protection.Protected district can have 3 or 4 times less people in it than the most populous district. Yet each of them elect only 1 person.
This mean that if a party is popular in the regions but not in the cities, he can win the majority of seats with a minority of votes.
In conclusion: this system is not good to represent the overall population but it's useful to create stable governments. Third parties can rarely elect more than 2 or 3 people even with 10% of the votes and the winner often wins with less than 50% of the votes.