A lot has been made by supporters of Jeremy Corbyn regarding his “astonishing” election result on June 8th 2017. Some voices claimed it as a “victory” and there was an immediate effort to push for another election or, via street protest, to force Theresa May’s Conservative government to resign.
Yet, if we take the longer view on Corbyn’s result at the 2017 election we can see it falls well below average.
The numbers below first list Labour MP totals at each election and then tabulate them into a list from most to least.
The other numbers relate to vote share and the percentage of the electorate that voted Labour. The latter figures give a better snap-shot of actual voter numbers because, of course, the voting population of the UK has increased quite considerably since 1945.
The main basis for the claim by Corbyn supporters that the 2017 election result was a victory is based on a vote share of 40% and a vote number of 12,877,869. By my calculations - and my maths can be a little rusty so please send in any corrections - these 12,877,869 votes represented 27.5% of the entire electorate. (Of course, those who don’t vote don't have a say but the entire electorate number gives an indication of mobilisation of support). This puts a Corbyn-led Labour Party in 13th place out of the 20 elections held since/including 1945. This 27.5% was Labour’s best share of the electorate since 1997. The 40% vote share in 2017 is the 11th best Labour showing since 1945 and is the best since 2001.
However, it should be clear from this list of election results that vote and electorate share matter little in terms of electoral victory - British elections are won by securing a majority in the House of Commons, not by large turnouts.
This is borne out by the fact that out of their top ten vote share results since 1945 Labour only won a majority on 6 occasions and a proper working majority only 3 times. Even more stark is that of the top 7 Labour vote shares the party won clear cut majorities on only two occasions - both the 1950 and 1964 election wins led to new elections being called before a full term was completed.
1951 was the high point for Labour in terms of both vote share and percentage of electorate who voted for them.