What happens if there is a hung parliament?

11 December 2019

A hung parliament is when no one party has a majority of MPs in the House of Commons following an election. There are 650 seats in the House of Commons. To have an overall majority the winning party needs at least 326 MPs. However, as a few MPs do not vote (such as the Speaker, Deputy Speakers and MPs from the Republican party Sinn Féin), a party needs around 320 voting MPs to have a working majority.

In the event of a hung parliament, parties may form a coalition government or a party can form a minority government with a “confidence and supply” arrangement with another party. This is where another party agrees to back the governing one, or abstain on key votes.

Since 1945, we’ve only had three hung parliaments following an election. The first started in February 1974, the second in May 2010 (after which the Conservatives went into coalition with the Liberal Democrats) and the most recent in June 2017 (where the Conservatives had a “confidence and supply” arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party). Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, another general election can be triggered if no party or groups of parties form a government. 


This article is part of our Ask Full Fact series on the 2019 general election, answering your questions about the election, from claims the main parties are making to what happens on polling day.

You can see all the questions we’ve answered so far and we’ll keep adding to it as we get through them.

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