Percentages of the popular vote in UK elections

With the recent death of Margaret Thatcher, one of the things that got brought up was the percentage of the popular vote her party got during the elections for which she lead it: 43.9% in 1979 and 42.4%. In particular I saw these figures quoted as mentioning that while they look low they are in fact really high.

Depressingly, this turns out to be true. I looked up the data on the Wikipedia entry on UK general elections, and it turns out that the last time a UK government was elected with more than 50% of the popular vote was 1931 (it was the Conservative party).

In the course of doing this I scraped the tables on this page into a slightly more usable form. Here’s a gist with the scraper and the parsed data as a tab delimited table.

I shouldn’t really be surprised by this result. It’s well known that this sort of thing can happen under a regional system, especially under FPTP, but I confess I had somehow missed that it not only can and does happen but that it’s actually completely routine.

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