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General Election 2015 explained: Parties

Continuing our daily miscellany celebrating the facts and folklore of elections

Wednesday 06 May 2015 18:15 BST


According to the Electoral Commission, “A political party is an organisation that seeks to influence, or control government policy, usually by nominating candidates and trying to win elections and hold public office. Parties choose candidates to represent them at elections.”

There were 428 registered political parties in Great Britain in 2015, plus a further 36 in Northern Ireland. (Some parties have entities on both sides of the Irish Sea.) Not all of these are fielding candidates in the election.


Since November 1998, all political parties have been required to register their namES, in order to prevent deliberate attempts to confuse the electorate on ballot papers.

It costs £150 to register a political party.


Of the 138 parties who stood candidates in the 2010 general election, 11 had candidates elected to the UK Parliament. One of those parties was the Co-operative Party, which stands joint candidates with the Labour Party and had 30 MPs elected to Parliament in 2010. The other 10 won seats as follows:

Conservative: 306

Labour: 258

Liberal Democrat: 57

Democratic Unionist: 8

Scottish National Party: 6

Sinn Fein: 5

Plaid Cymru: 3

Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3

Alliance Party: 1

Green: 1

One seat was won by an independent candidate and one by the Speaker standing for re-election, John Bercow.

By the time Parliament was dissolved, on 30 March, the distribution of seats was slightly different:

Conservative: 302

Labour: 256

Liberal Democrat: 56

Democratic Unionist: 8

Scottish National Party: 6

Sinn Fein: 5

Plaid Cymru: 3

Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3

UK Independence Party: 2

Alliance Party: 1

Green: 1

Respect: 1

(The number of independent MPs was now five.)


In 1983, 3.8 per cent of the UK population belonged to one of the “big three” political parties (ie, the Conservatives, Labour and, at the point, the SDP-Liberal Alliance). Today, membership of the three main parties is at a historic low of less than 1 per cent.

None the less, 30 per cent of people consider themselves strong supporters of a political party, according to the Hansard Society.

Are you undecided about who to vote for on 7 May? Are you confused about what the parties stand for and what they are offering? Take this interactive quiz to help you decide who to vote for...

Click here to launch


Parties other than those represented in the last parliament that received more than 1,000 votes in the 2010 general election included:

English Democrats (64,826 votes), Respect Party (33,251), Traditional Unionist Voice (26,300), Christian Party (18,622), Independent Community and Health Concern (16,150), Independent Save Our Green Belt (12,174), Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (11,913), National Front (10,784), Buckinghamshire Campaign For Democracy 10,331 Monster Raving Loony Party (7,510), Socialist Labour Party (7,196), Liberal (6,781), Blaenau Gwent People’s Voice (6,458), Christian Peoples Alliance (6,276), Mebyon Kernow (5,379), Lincolnshire Independents (5,311), Mansfield Independent Forum (4,339), Socialist Alternative Party (3,298), Trust (3,233), Scottish Socialist Party (3,157), People Before Profit (2,936), The Macclesfield Independent (2,590), Bromsgrove Independent Conservative (2,182 ), Local Liberals People Before Politics Party (1,964), Alliance for Green Socialism (1,581), Social Democratic Party (1,551), Bushra Irfan of Blackburn (1,424), Pirate Party UK (1,348), Staffordshire Independent Group (1,208), Common Sense Party (1,173), Tendring First (1,078)

Percentage of vote secured by parties other than the “big three” in recent general elections (including independents):

June 1970 ................ 3 per cent

February 1974 5.6 per cent

October 1974 8.7 per cent

May 1979 5.4 per cent

June 1983 4.6 per cent

June 1987 4.3 per cent

April 1992 5.9 per cent

May 1997 9.3 per cent

June 2001 9.3 per cent

May 2005 10.4 per cent

May 2010 9.7 per cent


A study by the magazine Intelligence in 2008 listed the average IQs of voters for different parties as follows:

Green 108.3

Liberal Democrat 108.2

Conservative 103.7

Labour 103.0

Plaid Cymru 102.5

SNP 102.2

Ukip 101.1

BNP 98.4

Vital Statistics

Seven parties were considered significant enough for their leaders to take part in the televised debate of 2 April. Selected details of each...

Conservatives MPs at end of last parliament: 302. Peers in House of Lords: 224. MEPs: 26. MSPs: 15. Welsh Assembly members: 14. London Assembly members: 9.

Labour MPs at end of last parliament: 256. Peers: 215. MEPs: 20. MSPs: 38. Welsh Assembly members: 30. London Assembly members: 12.

Lib Dems MPs at end of last parliament: 56. Peers: 103. MEPs: 1. MSPs: 5. Welsh Assembly members: 5. London Assembly members: 2.

UKIP MPs at end of last parliament: 2. Peers: 3. MEPs: 24. MSPs: 0. Welsh Assembly members: 0. London Assembly members: 0.

Green Party MPs at end of last parliament: 1. Peers in House of Lords: 1. MEPs: 3. MSPs: 2. Welsh Assembly members: 0. London Assembly members: 2.

Plaid Cymru MPs at end of last parliament: 3. Peers: 2. MEPs: 1. MSPs: 0. Welsh Assembly members: 11. London Assembly members: 0.

SNP MPs at end of last parliament: 6. Peers: 0. MEPs: 2. MSPs: 64. Welsh Assembly members: 0. London Assembly members: 0.

Tomorrow: Polling Day

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