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The fast rise and fall of the two-party system

The headline vote shares in the last general election masked a fractious reality. Now that reality has kicked in—with dramatic consequences for both the Conservatives and Labour 

By John Curtice  

Photo: Hannah McKay/PA Archive/PA Images

One of the most remarkable features of the last general election was how the Conservatives and Labour between them managed to dominate the electoral scene. Over four in five (82 per cent) of all votes cast were given to one or other of those two parties, a higher proportion than at any election since 1970. After years of appearing to be under threat, it seemed that the country’s two-party system had suddenly been restored to rude health.

This development was all the more surprising…

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