2001 United Kingdom general election

← 1997 7 June 2001 2005 →

All 659 seats to the House of Commons
330 seats needed for a majority
Opinion polls
Turnout59.4% (Decrease11.9%)
  First party Second party Third party
Tony Blair, 2002 (cropped).jpg
William Hague Foreign Secretary (2010).jpg
Charles Kennedy MP (cropped).jpg
Leader Tony Blair William Hague Charles Kennedy
Party Labour Conservative Liberal Democrats
Leader since 21 July 1994 19 June 1997 9 August 1999
Leader's seat Sedgefield Richmond (Yorks) Ross, Skye and
Inverness West
Last election 419 seats, 43.2% 165 seats, 30.7% 46 seats, 16.8%
Seats won 413 166 52
Seat change Decrease6 Increase1 Increase6
Popular vote 10,724,953 8,357,615 4,814,321
Percentage 40.7% 31.7% 18.3%
Swing Decrease2.5% Increase1.0% Increase1.5%

UK General Election, 2001.svg
Colours denote the winning party, as shown in the main table of results.

House of Commons elected members, 2001.svg
Composition of the House of Commons after the election

Prime Minister before election

Tony Blair

Prime Minister after election

Tony Blair

Seats won in the election (outer ring) against number of votes (inner ring).
Seats won in the election (outer ring) against number of votes (inner ring).

The 2001 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday 7 June 2001, four years after the previous election on 1 May 1997, to elect 659 members to the House of Commons. The governing Labour Party was re-elected to serve a second term in government with another landslide victory with a 167 majority, returning 413 members of Parliament versus 419 from the 1997 general election, a net loss of six seats, though with a significantly lower turnout than before—59.4%, compared to 71.3% at the previous election.[citation needed] The number of votes Labour received fell by nearly three million. Tony Blair went on to become the first Labour Prime Minister to serve two consecutive full terms in office. As Labour retained almost all of their seats won in the 1997 landslide victory, the media dubbed the 2001 election "the quiet landslide".[1]

There was little change outside Northern Ireland, with 620 out of the 641 seats in Great Britain electing candidates from the same party as they did in 1997. Factors contributing to the Labour victory included a strong economy, falling unemployment, and public perception that the Labour government had delivered on many key election pledges that it had made in 1997.[citation needed]

The opposition Conservative Party, under William Hague's leadership, was still deeply divided on the issue of Europe and the party's policy platform had drifted considerably to the right. The party put the issue of European monetary union (and in particular, the prospect of the UK joining the Eurozone) at the centre of its campaign, but it failed to resonate with the electorate. A series of publicity stunts that backfired also harmed Hague, and he immediately announced his resignation as party leader when the election result was clear, formally stepping down three months later, therefore becoming the first leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party in the House of Commons since Austen Chamberlain nearly eighty years prior not to serve as prime minister.

The election was largely a repeat of the 1997 general election, with Labour losing only six seats overall and the Conservatives making a net gain of one seat (gaining nine seats but losing eight). The Conservatives gained a seat in Scotland, which ended the party's status as an "England-only" party in the prior parliament, but failed again to win any seats in Wales. Although they did not gain many seats, three of the few new MPs elected were future Conservative Prime Ministers David Cameron and Boris Johnson and future Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne; Osborne would serve in the same Cabinet as Cameron from 2010 to 2016. The Liberal Democrats made a net gain of six seats.

The 2001 general election is the last to date in which any government has held an overall majority of more than 100 seats in the House of Commons, and the second of only two since the Second World War (the other being 1997) in which a single party won over 400 MPs. Notable departing MPs included former Prime Ministers Edward Heath (also Father of the House) and John Major, former Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine, former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown, former Cabinet ministers Tony Benn, Tom King, John Morris, Mo Mowlam, John MacGregor and Peter Brooke, Teresa Gorman, and then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone.

Change was seen in Northern Ireland, with the moderate unionist Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) losing four seats to the more hardline Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). A similar transition appeared in the nationalist community, with the moderate Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) losing votes to the more staunchly republican and abstentionist Sinn Féin.

Exceptionally low voter turnout, which fell below 60% for the first (and so far, only) time since 1918, also marked this election.[2] The election was broadcast live on BBC One and presented by David Dimbleby, Jeremy Paxman, Andrew Marr, Peter Snow, and Tony King.[3]

The 2001 general election was notable for being the first in which pictures of the party logos appeared on the ballot paper. Prior to this, the ballot paper had only displayed the candidate's name, address, and party name.[4]


The election had been expected on 3 May, to coincide with local elections, but on 2 April 2001, both were postponed to 7 June because of rural movement restrictions imposed in response to the foot-and-mouth outbreak that had started in February.

The elections were marked by voter apathy, with turnout falling to 59.4%, the lowest (and first under 70%) since the Coupon Election of 1918. Throughout the election the Labour Party had maintained a significant lead in the opinion polls and the result was deemed to be so certain that some bookmakers paid out for a Labour majority before election day. However, the opinion polls the previous autumn had shown the first Tory lead (though only by a narrow margin) in the opinion polls for eight years as they benefited from the public anger towards the government over the fuel protests which had led to a severe shortage of motor fuel.

By the end of 2000, however, the dispute had been resolved and Labour were firmly back in the lead of the opinion polls.[5] In total, a mere 29 parliamentary seats changed hands at the 2001 Election.[6]

2001 also saw the rare election of an independent. Richard Taylor of Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern (usually now known simply as "Health Concern") unseated a government MP, David Lock, in Wyre Forest. There was also a high vote for British National Party leader Nick Griffin in Oldham West and Royton, in the wake of recent race riots in the town of Oldham.

In Northern Ireland, the election was far more dramatic and marked a move by unionists away from support for the Good Friday Agreement, with the moderate unionist Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) losing to the more hardline Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). This polarisation was also seen in the nationalist community, with the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) vote losing out to more left-wing and republican Sinn Féin. It also saw a tightening of the parties as the small UK Unionist Party lost its only seat.


For Labour, the last four years had run relatively smoothly.[citation needed] The party had successfully defended all their by election seats, and many suspected a Labour win was inevitable from the start.

Many in the party, however, were afraid of voter apathy, which was epitomised in a poster of "Hague with Lady Thatcher's hair", captioned "Get out and vote. Or they get in."[7] Despite recessions in mainland Europe and the United States, due to the bursting of global tech bubbles, Britain was notably unaffected and Labour however could rely on a strong economy as unemployment continued to decline toward election day, putting to rest any fears of a Labour government putting the economic situation at risk.

For William Hague, however, the Conservative Party had still not fully recovered from the loss in 1997. The party was still divided over Europe, and talk of a referendum on joining the Eurozone was rife, and as a result "Save The Pound" was one of the key slogans deployed in the Conservatives' campaign. As Labour remained at the political centre, the Tories moved to the right. A policy gaffe by Oliver Letwin over public spending cuts left the party with an own goal that Labour soon exploited.

Margaret Thatcher also added to Hague's troubles when speaking out strongly against the Euro to applause. Hague himself, although a witty performer at Prime Minister's Questions, was dogged in the press and reminded of his speech, given at the age of 16, at the 1977 Conservative Conference. The Sun newspaper only added to the Conservatives' woes by backing Labour for a second consecutive election, calling Hague a "dead parrot" during the Conservative Party's conference in October 1998.[8][9][10]

The Tories campaigned on a strongly right-wing platform, emphasising the issues of Europe, immigration and tax, the fabled "Tebbit Trinity". They also released a poster showing a heavily pregnant Tony Blair, stating "Four years of Labour and he still hasn’t delivered".[11] However, Labour countered by asking where the proposed tax cuts were going to come from, and decried the Tory policy as "cut here, cut there, cut everywhere", in reference to the widespread belief that the Conservatives would make major cuts to public services in order to fund tax cuts. Labour also capitalised on the strong economic conditions of the time, and another major line of attack (primarily directed towards Michael Portillo, now Shadow Chancellor after returning to Parliament via a by-election) was to warn of a return to "Tory Boom and Bust" under a Conservative administration.

Charles Kennedy contested his first election as leader of the Liberal Democrats.[12]


During the election Sharron Storer, a resident of Birmingham, criticised Prime Minister Tony Blair in front of television cameras about conditions in the National Health Service. The widely televised incident happened on 16 May during a campaign visit by Blair to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. Sharron Storer's partner, Keith Sedgewick, a cancer patient with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and therefore highly susceptible to infection, was being treated at the time in the bone marrow unit, but no bed could be found for him and he was transferred to the casualty unit for his first 24 hours.[13][14][15] On the evening of the same day Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott punched a protestor after being hit by an egg on his way to an election rally in Rhyl, North Wales.[16]


Opinion polling

Main article: Opinion polling for the 2001 United Kingdom general election

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  Liberal Democrats


The election result was effectively a repeat of 1997, as the Labour Party retained an overwhelming majority, with the BBC announcing the victory at 02:58 on the early morning of 8 June. Having presided over relatively serene political, economic and social conditions, the feeling of prosperity in the United Kingdom had been maintained into the new millennium, and Labour would have a free hand to assert its ideals in the subsequent parliament. Despite the victory, voter apathy was a major issue, as turnout fell below 60%, 12 percentage points down on 1997. All three of the main parties saw their total votes fall, with Labour's total vote dropping by 2.8 million on 1997, the Conservatives 1.3 million, and the Liberal Democrats 428,000. Some suggested this dramatic fall was a sign of the general acceptance of the status quo and the likelihood of Labour's majority remaining unassailable.[19]

For the Conservatives, the huge loss they had sustained in 1997 was repeated. Despite gaining nine seats, the Tories lost seven to the Liberal Democrats, and one even to Labour. William Hague was quick to announce his resignation, doing so at 07:44 outside the Conservative Party headquarters. Some believed that Hague had been unlucky; although most considered him to be a talented orator and an intelligent statesman, he had come up against the charismatic Tony Blair in the peak of his political career, and it was no surprise that little progress was made in reducing Labour's majority after a relatively smooth parliament.

Staying at what they considered rock bottom, however, showed that the Conservatives had failed to improve their negative public image, had remained somewhat disunited over Europe, and had not regained the trust that they had lost in the 1990s. Hague's focus on the "Save The Pound" campaign narrative had failed to gain any traction; Labour's successful countertactic was to be repeatedly vague over the issue of future monetary union - and said that the UK would only consider joining the Eurozone "when conditions were right". But in Scotland, despite flipping one seat from the Scottish National Party, their vote collapse continued. They failed to retake former strongholds in Scotland as the Nationalists consolidated their grip on the Northeastern portion of the country.[20]

The Liberal Democrats could point to steady progress under their new leader, Charles Kennedy, gaining more seats than the main two parties—albeit only six overall—and maintaining the performance of a pleasing 1997 election, where the party had doubled its number of seats from 20 to 46. While they had yet to become electable as a government, they underlined their growing reputation as a worthwhile alternative to Labour and Conservative, offering plenty of debate in Parliament and representing more than a mere protest vote.[citation needed]

The SNP failed to gain any new seats and lost a seat to the Conservatives by just 79 votes. In Wales, Plaid Cymru both gained a seat from Labour and lost one to them.

In Northern Ireland the Ulster Unionists, despite gaining North Down, lost five other seats.

413 166 52 28
Labour Conservative Lib Dem O
2001 UK parliament.svg
UK General Election 2001[21]
Candidates Votes
Party Leader Stood Elected Gained Unseated Net % of total % No. Net %
  Labour Tony Blair 640 413 2 8 −6 62.5 40.7 10,724,953 −2.5
  Conservative William Hague 643 166 9 8 +1 25.2 31.6 8,357,615 +1.0
  Liberal Democrats Charles Kennedy 639 52 8 2 +6 7.9 18.3 4,814,321 +1.5
  SNP John Swinney 72 5 0 1 −1 0.8 1.8 464,314 −0.2
  UKIP Jeffrey Titford 428 0 0 0 0 0.0 1.5 390,563 1.2
  Ulster Unionist David Trimble 17 6 1 5 −4 0.9 0.8 216,839 0.0
  Plaid Cymru Ieuan Wyn Jones 40 4 1 1 0 0.6 0.7 195,893 +0.2
  DUP Ian Paisley 14 5 3 0 +3 0.8 0.7 181,999 +0.4
  Sinn Féin Gerry Adams 18 4 2 0 +2 0.6 0.7 175,933 +0.3
  SDLP John Hume 18 3 0 0 0 0.5 0.6 169,865 0.0
  Green Margaret Wright and Mike Woodin 145 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.6 166,477 +0.3
  Independent N/A 137 0 0 1 −1 0.0 0.4 98,917 +0.3
  Scottish Socialist Tommy Sheridan 72 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.3 72,516 N/A
  Socialist Alliance N/A 98 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.2 57,553 N/A
  Socialist Labour Arthur Scargill 114 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.2 57,288 0.0
  BNP Nick Griffin 33 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.2 47,129 +0.1
  Alliance Seán Neeson 10 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.1 28,999 −0.1
  Health Concern Richard Taylor 1 1 1 0 +1 0.2 0.1 28,487 N/A
  Speaker N/A 1 1 1 0 +1 0.2 0.1 16,053 N/A
  Liberal Michael Meadowcroft 13 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.1 13,685 0.0
  UK Unionist Robert McCartney 1 0 0 1 −1 0.0 0.1 13,509 +0.1
  ProLife Alliance Bruno Quintavalle 37 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 9,453 −0.1
  Legalise Cannabis Alun Buffry 13 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 8,677 N/A
  People's Justice Shaukat Ali Khan 3 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 7,443 N/A
  Monster Raving Loony Howling Laud Hope and Catmando 15 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 6,655 0.0
  PUP Hugh Smyth 2 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 4,781 0.0
  Mebyon Kernow Dick Cole 3 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 3,199 0.0
  NI Women's Coalition Monica McWilliams and Pearl Sagar 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 2,968 0.0
  Scottish Unionist Danny Houston 2 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 2,728 N/A
  Rock 'n' Roll Loony Chris Driver 7 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 2,634 N/A
  National Front Tom Holmes 5 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 2,484 0.0
  Workers' Party Seán Garland 6 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 2,352 0.0
  Neath Port Talbot Ratepayers Paul Evans 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 1,960 N/A
  NI Unionist Cedric Wilson 6 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 1,794 N/A
  Socialist Alternative Peter Taaffe 2 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 1,454 0.0
  Reform 2000 Erol Basarik 5 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 1,418 N/A
  Isle of Wight Philip Murray 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 1,164 N/A
  Muslim 4 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 1,150 N/A
  Communist Robert Griffiths 6 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 1,003 0.0
  New Britain Dennis Delderfield 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 888 0.0
  Free Party Bob Dobbs 3 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 832 N/A
  Leeds Left Alliance Mike Davies 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 770 N/A
  New Millennium Bean Party Captain Beany 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 727 N/A
  Workers Revolutionary Sheila Torrance 6 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 607 0.0
  Tatton Paul Williams 1 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 505 N/A
Government's new majority 167
Total votes cast 26,367,383
Turnout 59.4%

All parties with more than 500 votes shown.

The seat gains reflect changes on the 1997 general election result. Two seats had changed hands in by-elections in the intervening period. These were as follows:

The results of the election give a Gallagher index of dis-proportionality of 17.74.

Popular vote
Liberal Democrat
Scottish National
UK Independence
Parliamentary seats
Liberal Democrat
Ulster Unionist
Scottish National
Democratic Unionist

Results by constituent country

LAB CON LD SNP PC NI parties Others Total
England 323 165 40 - - - 1 533
Wales 34 - 2 - 4 - - 40
Scotland 56 1 10 5 - - - 72
Northern Ireland - - - - - 18 - 18
Total 413 166 52 5 4 18 1 659

Seats changing hands

Seat 1997 election Constituency result 2001 by party 2001 election
Con Lab Lib PC SNP Others
Belfast North Ulster Unionist DUP gain
Carmarthen East and Dinefwr Labour 4,912 13,540 2,815 16,130 656 Plaid Cymru gain
Castle Point Labour 17,738 16,753 3,116 1273 Conservative gain
Cheadle Conservative 18,444 6,086 18,477 599 Liberal Democrats gain
Chesterfield Labour 3,613 18,663 21,249 437 Liberal Democrats gain
Dorset Mid and Poole North Conservative 17,974 6,765 18,358 621 Liberal Democrats gain
Dorset South Conservative 18,874 19,027 6,531 913 Labour gain
Fermanagh and South Tyrone Ulster Unionist Sinn Féin gain
Galloway and Upper Nithsdale SNP 12,222 7,258 3,698 12,148 588 Conservative gain
Guildford Conservative 19,820 6,558 20,358 736 Liberal Democrats gain
Isle of Wight Liberal Democrats 25,223 9,676 22,397 2,106 Conservative gain
Londonderry East Ulster Unionist DUP gain
Ludlow Conservative 16,990 5,785 18,620 871 Liberal Democrats gain
Newark Labour 20,983 16,910 5,970 Conservative gain
Norfolk North Conservative 23,495 7,490 23,978 649 Liberal Democrats gain
Norfolk North West Labour 24,846 21,361 4,292 704 Conservative gain
North Down UK Unionist Ulster Unionist gain
Romford Labour 18,931 12,954 2,869 Conservative gain
Romsey Conservative 20,386 3,986 22,756 Liberal Democrats gain
Strangford Ulster Unionist DUP gain
Tatton Independent 19,860 11,249 7,685 Conservative gain
Taunton Liberal Democrats 23,033 8,254 22,798 1,140 Conservative gain
Teignbridge Conservative 23,332 7,366 26,343 Liberal Democrats gain
Tyrone West Ulster Unionist Sinn Féin gain
Upminster Labour 15,410 14,169 3,183 1,089 Conservative gain
Wyre Forest Labour 9,350 10,857 28,487 Independent gain
Ynys Mon Plaid Cymru 7,653 11,906 2,772 11,106 Labour gain

MPs who lost their seats

Party Name Constituency Office held whilst in power Year elected Defeated by Party
Labour Party Alan Williams Carmarthen East and Dinefwr 1987 Adam Price Plaid Cymru
Christine Butler Castle Point 1997 Dr. Bob Spink Conservative Party
Fiona Jones Newark 1997 Colonel
Patrick Mercer
Conservative Party
George Turner Norfolk North West 1997 Henry Bellingham Conservative Party
Eileen Gordon Romford 1997 Andrew Rosindell Conservative Party
Keith Darvill Upminster 1997 Angela Watkinson Conservative Party
David Lock Wyre Forest 1997 Dr. Richard Taylor Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern
Conservative Party Stephen Day Cheadle 1987 Patsy Calton Liberal Democrats
Christopher Fraser Mid Dorset and North Poole 1997 Annette Brooke Liberal Democrats
Ian Bruce Dorset South 1987 Jim Knight Labour Party
Nick St Aubyn Guildford 1997 Sue Doughty Liberal Democrats
The Hon.
David Prior
Norfolk North 1997 Norman Lamb Liberal Democrats
Patrick Nicholls Teignbridge 1983 Richard Younger-Ross Liberal Democrats
Liberal Democrats Dr. Peter Brand Isle of Wight 1997 Andrew Turner Conservative Party
Jackie Ballard Taunton 1997 Adrian Flook Conservative Party
Ulster Unionist Party Willie Ross East Londonderry 1974 Gregory Campbell Democratic Unionist Party
Cecil Walker North Belfast 1983 Nigel Dodds Democratic Unionist Party
William Thompson West Tyrone 1997 Pat Doherty Sinn Féin
Democratic Unionist Party William McCrea Antrim South 2000 David Burnside Ulster Unionist Party
UK Unionist Party Robert McCartney North Down 1995 Lady Hermon Ulster Unionist Party
Independent Martin Bell Tatton contesting Brentwood and Ongar 1997 Eric Pickles Conservative Party
The disproportionality of the house of parliament in the 2001 election was 18.03 according to the Gallagher Index, mainly between Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
The disproportionality of the house of parliament in the 2001 election was 18.03 according to the Gallagher Index, mainly between Labour and the Liberal Democrats.


See also


  1. ^ Parkinson, Justin (3 August 2010). "The rise and fall of New Labour". BBC News. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  2. ^ Audickas, Lukas; Cracknell, Richard (13 December 2018). "UK Election Statistics: 1918–2018: 100 Years of Elections" (PDF). Briefing Paper Number CBP7529. House of Commons Library. p. 25. Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 October 2022. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  3. ^ "BBC Vote 2001 Coverage". YouTube. Archived from the original on 23 November 2021.
  4. ^ Overs, Jeff (1 June 2001). "General Election 2001 postal vote ballot paper voting slip". BBC News & Current Affairs. 466659381. Retrieved 1 April 2019 – via Getty Images.
  5. ^ "Tories 'to cut fuel duty'". BBC News. 10 May 2001. Retrieved 26 October 2015.
  6. ^ "2001: Labour claims second term". BBC News. 5 April 2005. Retrieved 26 May 2010.
  7. ^ "'Get out and vote. Or they get in.' – Election 2001". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 20 April 2017.
  8. ^ "Sun newspaper front page". Archived from the original on 3 June 2021.
  9. ^ "Sun prints Tories' obituary". BBC News Online. London. 7 October 1998. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  10. ^ McElvoy, Anne (7 October 1998). "Hague's parrot is not dead, he's just resting – with the odd squawk". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 1 May 2022. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  11. ^ "Memorable Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat posters from previous election campaigns". The Daily Telegraph. 12 April 2010.
  12. ^ "2001: Labour claims second term". BBC News. 5 April 2005.
  13. ^ Duncan Watts (2006). British Government and Politics: A Comparative Guide. Edinburgh University. ISBN 978-0-7486-2323-5.
  14. ^ "BBC NEWS – VOTE2001 – Ambush upset Blair's day". 16 May 2001.
  15. ^ "BBC NEWS – VOTE2001 – Cancer patient's partner confronts Blair". 17 May 2001.
  16. ^ "2001: Prescott punches protester". BBC On This Day. 16 May 2001. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  17. ^ "The politics of UK newspapers". 30 September 2009 – via news.bbc.co.uk.
  18. ^ Stoddard, Katy (4 May 2010). "Newspaper support in UK general elections". The Guardian.
  19. ^ "The poll that never was". BBC News. 11 June 2001.
  20. ^ "Labour romps home again". BBC News. 8 June 2001.
  21. ^ Morgan, Bryn (18 June 2001). "General Election Results, 7 June 2001 [Revised Edition]" (PDF). Research Paper 01/54. House of Commons Library. p. 11. Retrieved 1 April 2019.