Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Corbyn’s 2017 Election “Victory” In Perspective (a bit late... but never mind)

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. 

Labour lost the 1951 election and the Tories then remained in power until 1964 


  1. Andrew I'm very curious as to what point you're trying to make here. I'm no Corbynite but it's difficult to deny that the 2017 election did totally buck everyone's expectations and represented the best result for Labour in the post-Blair era.

    Given the clearly positive effect of the manifesto and campaign on the turn out of young people and apathetic voters then I think it's safe to say that another election might well lead to a Labour victory.

    Why are you so pessimistic in the face of the data?

  2. I am pointing out that on the evidence, the facts, Corbyn's electoral "success" was actually very average.
    And that historically if you maximise vote share you don't necessarily win an election.
    Surely, if someone is serious about Corbyn becoming PM they'd want to look at what it takes to actually win a significant Labour majority in the House of Commons, no?
    As it stands, GE2017 still points towards Corbyn's biggest asset being Tory incompetence, not an election-winning strategy of his own making.

  3. I think you're very right to say that Corbyn's success was average in pure electoral terms but it must be lauded for just how unexpected it was surely? Did you watch the Labour documentary on the BBC this week? Even as someone who has never voted for Corbyn I felt much more enthused by the latter half than by the MPs in the first half.

    I've followed you on Twitter for quite a while now and I do often see a large contradiction in your views. Either Corbyn is a cultish leader with a huge devoted following of young people who are rabidly supporting a radical socialist manifesto OR Corbyn is a bumbling incompetent fool who shouts and bellows to absolutely no-one and has all the electoral nous of a Lib Dem.

    I am not a member of, and nor do I particularly like, Momentum but I know through friends in the CLPs there that it they won Canterbury and Portsmouth South for Labour. They are the kind of seats that Labour would need to win if it were ever to be in a majority government and, for all their massive flaws, Momentum actually seems able to mobilise the electoral powers to do that.

    I am genuinely interested to know what you would do that Corbyn isn't doing to win a seat like Uxbridge and South Ruislip or Hastings and Rye. I would love to have some fodder to shoot back at the Corbynites.