Blog Type, IPT Blog | May 2017

Class of 2015-2017

IPT Blog series: General Election 2017

This blog post provides a summary of the outgoing Parliament including insight into the gender, age, ethnicity and occupational backgrounds of the Members of Parliament (MPs) elected at the 2015 General Election.

2015 General Election

The former Parliament was elected on Thursday 7 May 2015 and saw turnout across the UK of 66.2%. This was a slight increase compared to 65.1% in 2010 and was the highest General Election turnout since 1997.

There are currently 650 Westminster parliamentary constituencies and each constituency elects a member to represent them. The 2015 General Election was the first election to be held at the end of the Fixed-Term Parliament. The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011 received Royal assent in September 2011. Under the provisions of the Act, parliamentary General Elections must be held every five years, beginning in 2015. However, a vote of no confidence in the Government, or a two-thirds majority vote in the House of Commons, can still trigger a General Election at any time and therefore lead to a snap election.

In 2015, the Conservatives polled 11.3 million, 36.8% of the vote. This compares with 36.1% in the 2010 General Election. Labour polled 9.3 million votes, 30.4% of the vote, compared to 29% in 2010. The Scottish National Party (SNP) won 4.7% of the vote (up from 1.7% in 2010), winning 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats, this was the Party’s highest ever number of votes at a General Election. The number of votes cast for parties other than the Conservatives, Labour or Liberal Democrats was at a record high of 24.9%. 

Composition of the House of Commons

The 2015 election saw the Conservatives win an overall majority of 11 seats in the House of Commons, not including the Speaker. This has since risen to a working government majority of 17[i] due to a number of by- election wins. The Conservatives won 330 seats, Labour won 232 and the SNP became the third largest in Parliament with 56 MPs. The number of Liberal Democrat MPs decreased from 57 elected in 2010 to eight in 2015. This has since increased to nine MPs as a result of a by-election win in Richmond Park in 2016.

The rise of the SNP as the third largest party conveys the biggest change from the previous election and is the first time since 1945 that this position has been held by a party other than the Liberal Democrats. It is also worth noting that there was an increase in support for candidates other than the four largest parties (those with eight or more MPs). Alongside the Liberal Democrat’s nine MPs, the Democratic Unionist Party has eight MPs, Sinn Fein four, Social Democratic & Labour Party three, Plaid Cymru three and Green Party one. The UK Independence Party had one MP elected in Clacton during the 2015 election but Douglas Carswell resigned from the Party to sit as an independent.

Characteristics of MPs

Gender

After the 2015 General Election there were 459 male MPs. As a result of a number of by-elections and the recent death of Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) there are currently 453 male MPs. If we compare this to the number of female MPs, 191 women were elected at the 2015 General Election (29% of all MPs); five further women have been elected in by-elections since and therefore there are currently 196 female MPs (30.3% of all MPs). There is still a significant difference between the parties with 41% of MPs being female in Labour, followed by 36%of SNP MPs and then the Conservatives with 20%. Although no females were elected at the 2015 election, the Liberal Democrats now have one female MP as a result of the Richmond Park by-election.

Age

The average age of MPs elected in the 2015 election was 50 years old, with 343 (53%) of those elected in 2015 aged over 50. In the current Parliament the proportion of MPs aged 70 and over increased to 24 (nearly 4%) whereas the number of MPs aged 30 and under declined to 13 (2%).



Ethnicity

There are 41 non-white MPs sitting in the House of Commons, equating to 6.3% of all MPs. Out of the 650 MPs, there are currently 21 (3.2%) ethnic minority females. This is more than double when comparing this to the 2010 election, as the number was only 11 out of 650 (1.5%).

New MPs

The 2015 election did not witness the same influx of new MPs as it did in 2010, with new MPs only forming 25% of those elected as opposed to 35% in 2010. 192 of the 650 MPs were first elected in 2015. The SNP had the largest intake of new MPs at 90%, then Labour with 21% and the Conservatives with 19%. The Liberal Democrats did not have any.  

Occupational backgrounds

Around 25% of all MPs have an occupational background in politics. This was the largest of any occupational group as among the 192 newly elected MPs in 2015, 177 had no previous parliamentary experience. Additionally, there are significant disparities between the parties and their professional backgrounds, for example 25% of Conservative MPs have at some point worked in finance as opposed to the 4% of Labour and 9% of SNP MPs. The second largest occupation is business with 22% of all MPs having worked in that sector.

*Base: 627 (element of double counting as some MPs have had more than one type of job)

By-elections

There have been 10 by-elections since the 2015 General Election; Copeland, Stoke-on-Trent Central, Sleaford and North Hykeham, Richmond Park, Witney, Batley and Spen, Tooting, Ogmore, Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough, Oldham West and Royston. Most of these seats were held by the party elected in 2015, except for Copeland which the Conservatives gained from Labour with a majority of 2,147 and Richmond Park, where the Liberal Democrats overturned a 23,000 Conservative majority.


Summary

Overall the 2015-2017 Parliament saw the Conservatives win an absolute majority in the House of Commons for the first time since 1992. The election also saw the highest number of votes cast for parties other than the Conservatives, Labour or Liberal Democrats. In comparison to the 2010 election the 2015-2017 Parliament did not see the same influx of new MPs. However, there was an increase in the number of ethnic minority MPs elected and a record high number of female MPs. We will have to wait and see what the 57th Parliament entails after the election on Thursday 8 June 2017.


Sources:



[i] Government majority calculated as Conservative MPs less all other parties. This calculation excludes the Speaker, Deputy Speakers (one Labour, one Conservative), and Sinn Fein.