The Facts Behind Claim 80% of Brits Didn’t Vote Labour in UK General Election 2024

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On July 5, 2024, numerous X users claimed 80% of Britons did not vote for the Labour Party during its landslide win in the July 4 U.K. general election. The figure was described as “barmy,” “incredible,” and “trouble” by people who appeared to disagree with the country’s electoral system.

“It seems completely barmy that we are about to be governed by a party with a substantial majority who 80% DIDN’T vote for. Make it make sense,” one X user wrote.

Labour won 411 out of 650 seats in Parliament, while the Conservative Party secured 121 seats. The rest were made up by 13 other parties, including independent candidates and the speaker of the house of commons, whose seat is traditionally not contested by other main parties and is currently represented by Labour.

Another X user said: “Roughly 80 per cent of UK citizens did not vote for this government. Incredible.”

Similar posts appeared elsewhere on the social media platform. Together, they had amassed more than 4.2 million views at the time of this writing.

Another X user, whose post had amassed more than 850,000 views at the time of this writing, made a similar, second claim that roughly 80% of the country voted against the Labour Party. Both versions of the claim spread quickly. 

(@Jk754356883 / X)

There were degrees of truth and falsity behind both claims, but, ultimately, the U.K.’s “first-past-the-post” electoral system allows parties to win seat majorities without winning high shares of the popular vote.

Degrees of Truth Behind the Claims

According to the BBCSky News and The Guardian newspaper, Labour won roughly 9.7 million votes, although the House of Commons Library said it expected to publish the official vote counts by around July 12 once it had verified local authority returns.

As of mid-2022, the U.K.’s total population — including England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — was roughly 67.6 million, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the executive office of the U.K. Statistics Authority. 

The 9.7 million votes tally out of 67.6 million people means roughly 14% of the total population voted for Labour. However, the 67.6 million figure includes children and people who were not on the electoral register.

As of December 2023, more than 49 million people were registered to vote in British elections, according to the ONS’ December 2023 edition of “Electoral statistics for the UK.”

More than 49 million Brits were registered to vote as of December 2023. (Office for National Statistics)

The 9.7 million votes out of 49 million people means that roughly 20% of the voting population voted for Labour. Therefore, according to this calculation, roughly 80% of the voting population did not vote Labour, or, as stated in the second claim, voted against Labour by voting for other parties or not voting at all.

However, according to the BBC, of the 48,214,128 registered voters, only 60% of them (roughly 28.9 million people) actually turned out to vote.

The 9.7 million Labour votes out of 28.9 million people means that more than a third of people who did vote chose Labour, whereas two-thirds chose another party.

Therefore, both versions of the claim about the Labour vote had an element of truth, depending on the context, but also highlighted how few votes are needed to win majorities.

The ‘First-Past-the-Post’ System

Due to the U.K.’s first-past-the-post electoral system, political parties can win seat majorities without winning a high percentage or share of the votes.

There are 650 constituencies in the U.K., which means there are 650 seats filled by 650 members of parliament (MPs) in the House of Commons.

During general elections, voters get a single vote to choose who they want to be their constituency MP. Whichever candidate wins the most votes becomes that constituency’s MP.

If there are 10 candidates on a ballot paper, and nine of them won 5,000 votes but the 10th candidate won 5,001 votes, that tenth candidate would become the MP. Therefore, a candidate can become an MP by achieving a low-vote share.

Whichever party wins the most seats earns the right to form the next government. Because there are 650 seats up for grabs across the country, a party must get at least 326 MPs (more than half) elected to win a majority.

In 2024, Labour won 411 of the 650 seats (or 412 including the speaker), which equated to roughly 63% of the seats, and therefore secured a majority. However, the party achieved this by acquiring roughly just 33.8% of the popular vote, according to the BBCThe Guardian and Sky News.

In the 2019 general election, the Conservatives (also known as Tories) won 365 seats by gaining a somewhat higher 43.6% of the popular vote; however, in 2015, the Tories secured 330 seats by achieving 36.8% of the popular vote, which shows that the popular vote can often vary compared to the number of seats a party wins.

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