7 most shocking election results - from Attlee in 1945 to Donald Trump

Election nights are full of surprises - here are seven of the most shocking.

Theresa May’s election backfire (2017)

When Theresa May called for a snap election back in April, very few commentators suggested that she would win anything other than a significant majority. As time went on, May’s ratings plummeted as Jeremy Corbyn’s sky-rocketed. While the Labour did not go on to win a majority and form a government, the fact that the Conservatives lost the only majority they had won since 1992 surprised the nation.

As well as being shocking, this election seriously undermined the prime minister’s credibility. Had she not called it, the country would have had another three years of Tory-majority rule.

Not anymore.

David Cameron’s 2015 majority

In some ways, the 2015 general election result was the mirror-image of the 2017 vote. A narrow race was expected between Labour and the Conservatives, with another hung parliament seeming inevitable. That said Labour lost ground, the Liberal Democrats were almost wiped out, and the Conservatives won a slim majority - a result that rocked the nation.

John Major’s 1992 majority

Like in 2015, a hung parliament was expected at this general election. A Labour win was even a distinct possibility. Nonetheless, the Conservatives went on to score a striking political goal, with John Major securing the highest ever number of votes cast for a political party in a British general election.


Two from abroad:


Donald Trump 2016

Perhaps the most shocking result of all was Donald Trump’s victory in November 2016. He went into the Republican primaries as an eccentric outsider, hoping to shake up the system. He did well in the primaries before eventually securing the party’s nomination for president, but even then it seemed that Donald Trump could not possibly win.

In the end, he beat Democratic opponent Hilalry Clinton in one of the most shocking nights of US electoral history.

With Trump struggling in the polls, and the president embroiled in numerous controversies since his election, a second term looks unlikely. But Trump is a man who has defied all previous odds, so anything can happen.

Justin Trudeau’s majority (2015)

In the 2011 Canadian election, the Conservatives went from a minority government to a majority government. The opposition Liberals were displaced as the country’s second party by Jack Layton’s NDP. The Liberals were in a dire state.

But then Justin Trudeau came along and won the subsequent Liberal leadership contest.

His party saw a significant bump in the polls, and went into the election full of optimism. With that positivity, they leapfrogged the NDP and the Conservatives to become the largest party on a 20-percentage point swing. Not only did they become the largest party, they won an overall majority of seats available.

Trudeau’s win was one of the most shocking and impressive wins in any democracy. Ever.

And one from the history books:

Attlee’s 1945 majority

After the 1945 election, it was expected that Winston Churchill's Conservatives would secure another term in power, riding a wave of victory from success in World War Two. To put his shocking loss into perspective, Churchill's approval rating in May 1945 stood at 83%, according to the BBC.

With that striking figure in mind, it is even more impressive that Clement Attlee’s Labour won 393 seats, leading them to form a majority government. That government went onto invest heavily in public services and create the NHS in 1948.

And one honorary result:


Brexit (2016)

The UK’s vote to leave the EU was not an election, but the referendum was a shocking vote. While polls put both Leave and Remain within a handful of percentage points of each other, and many polls put Leave ahead, the prevailing narrative ahead of the vote was that Leave would not win – that it could not win.

There was no exit poll to give an indication of victory, but as results started to trickle in, it soon became clear that the Leave-side were doing much better than expected.

Eventually, the BBC confirmed that Brexit had won, with Dimbleby’s famous words, “we’re out.”

What a shocking night.

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