Britain Again Faces Comparative Novelty of Minority Rule
European countries are used to hung parliaments and forming coalition governments — or being governed by minority ones. But they are more unusual in Britain, partly because of Britain’s first-past-the-post voting system.
However, several elections resulted in minority governments in the early part of the 20th century and, more recently, some governments have begun with outright majorities which then were lost because of resignations, by-elections and defections.
The Labour Party had a three-seat majority after the 1974 general election but, by 1977, it lost its majority status and remained in power because of a pact it formed with the Liberal Party.
And John Major’s Conservative government started out with a 21-seat majority in 1992 but, by the 1997 general election, it became a minority.
Here is a list:
1910-1915: Liberal minority governments under H.H. Asquith seen as among the most decisive and creative in British history, managing to pass major legislation.
1924: Labour minority under Ramsay MacDonald lasted 10 months and achieved modest success in domestic policy.
1929-1931: Labour minority government, again under Ramsay MacDonald, was blown off course by the Great Depression.
February-October 1974: Harold Wilson’s Labour Party formed a minority government for seven months until a second election gave it a three-seat majority.
1977-1979: Labour under James Callaghan governed for nearly two years as a minority administration until it lost a vote of confidence that was carried by a single vote. It was buffeted by economic crisis and strikes.
2010-2015: Labour’s Gordon Brown waived his right to form a minority government, giving way to the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats to enter into a coalition government. Arguably, it was the most successful coalition government in British modern history. It ended in 2015 when David Cameron Conservatives won enough seats to govern outright.