2020s in United Kingdom political history

2020s political history refers to significant political and societal historical events in the United Kingdom in the 2020s, presented as a historical overview in narrative format.

List of years in the United Kingdom
In politics and government
In United Kingdom politics and government

Boris Johnson Premiership, 2019–presentEdit

General historyEdit

Boris Johnson won a landslide majority in the 2019 general election.[1] In late January 2020, the United Kingdom officially left the European Union.

Special events and issuesEdit

COVID-19 pandemicEdit

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic spread to the United Kingdom in late January 2020. As of 7 June 2020 there have been 286,194 confirmed cases[nb 1] and 40,542 confirmed deaths overall,[nb 2] the world's second-highest death-rate per capita.[2] There were 48,813 deaths where the death certificate mentioned COVID-19 by 22 May (see Statistics).[3] More than 90% of those dying had underlying illnesses or were over 60 years old. The infection rate is higher in care homes than in the community, which is inflating the overall infection rate. There is large regional variation in the outbreak's severity. In March, London had the highest number of infections[4] while North East England has the highest infection rate.[5] England is the country of the UK with the highest recorded death rate per capita, while Northern Ireland has the lowest. Healthcare in the UK is devolved to each country.

The Department of Health and Social Care launched a public health information campaign to help slow the virus's spread, and began posting daily updates in early February. In February, the Heath Secretary, Matt Hancock, introduced the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 for England, and hospitals set up drive-through screening. The Chief Medical Officer for England, Chris Whitty, outlined a four-pronged strategy to tackle the outbreak: contain, delay, research and mitigate.

In March, the UK government imposed a lockdown, banning all "non-essential" travel and contact with people outside one's home (including family and partners), and shutting almost all schools and other educational institutions, shops selling nonessential goods, venues, facilities, amenities and places of worship. Those with symptoms, and their household, were told to self-isolate, while the most vulnerable (the over 70s and those with certain illnesses) were told to shield themselves. People were made to keep apart in public. Police were empowered to enforce the lockdown, and the Coronavirus Act 2020 gave the government emergency powers[6] not used since the Second World War.[7][8] Panic buying was reported.

George Floyd protestsEdit

In May 2020, protests spread across the United Kingdom following the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, by police officers while under arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota on 25 May 2020. Immediately following his death, protests and riots broke out in dozens of cities across the United States. These spread internationally for the first time on 28 May, with a solidarity demonstration outside the United States Embassy in London.

Protests spread across the United Kingdom, particularly in London, Birmingham and Manchester. Many protests have been organised by the Black Lives Matter and Stand Up to Racism movements. As well as providing solidarity to protests in the United States, many of the ongoing protests in the United Kingdom are highlighting issues with racism faced from law enforcement in the United Kingdom and in daily life.

Many protests have received endorsement and support from local councils and politicians, including in Liverpool and Oxford. The majority of protests in the United Kingdom have been peaceful, although notable clashes between protesters and police have occurred on multiple occasions in central London. Confrontations between police and protesters included a group spraying "ACAB" on the memorial to Earl Haig; when soldiers from the Household Cavalry in plain clothes scrubbed the graffiti off, protesters criticised them for doing so.[9] Protesters sprayed graffiti on the plinth of the statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square calling him a racist.[10] A statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston was toppled from its pedestal in The Centre, Bristol and thrown into Bristol Harbour on 7 June.[11]

History by issueEdit


In January 2020, The United Kingdom and Gibraltar left the European Union,[12] beginning an 11-month transition period, during which they remain in the Single Market and Customs Union.[13]

Climate changeEdit

In December 2019, the World Meteorological Organization released its annual climate report revealing that climate impacts are worsening.[14] They found the global sea temperatures are rising as well as land temperatures worldwide. 2019 is the last year in a decade that is the warmest on record.[15]

Global carbon emissions hit a record high in 2019, even though the rate of increase slowed somewhat, according to a report from Global Carbon Project.[16]

History by major political partyEdit


Leadership elections for the Scottish Conservatives were held in February and August 2020. Douglas Ross is now the leader [17]


As both the Labour leader (Jeremy Corbyn) and deputy leader (Tom Watson) had resigned or announced their intention to do so in late 2019,[18][19] the party had both a leadership and deputy leadership contest in early 2020.[20] The leadership contest was won by Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Keir Starmer with 275,780 votes (56.2% of the vote share).[21] Angela Rayner became the deputy leader, achieving 192,168 first preference votes (41.7% of the vote share) and winning a majority of votes after the third round.[22]

Liberal DemocratsEdit

As their leader (Jo Swinson) lost her seat at the 2019 general election, the liberal democrats announced early in 2020 that they planned to have new leader in place by the middle of July that year.[23] The contest was delayed by six weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic with the winner being declared in late August, until then MP Sir Ed Davey and the party's president Mark Pack remained its acting leadership.[24][25][26] The contest was won by Ed Davey with 63.5% of the vote.[27]

Scottish National PartyEdit

History by devolved administrationEdit

Greater London AuthorityEdit

The London mayoral election originally due to take place in May 2020 was suspended for a year to 6 May 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[28] The 2021 London Assembly election is scheduled to take place on the same day.

Scottish governmentEdit

The 2021 Scottish Parliament election is scheduled to take place on 6 May 2021.

Welsh governmentEdit

The 2021 Senedd election is scheduled to take place on 6 May 2021. It will be the first Welsh Parliament election where 16 and 17 year olds can vote, following the enactment of Senedd and Elections (Wales) Act that lowered the voting age to 16 for Welsh Senedd elections.[29]

Northern Irish ExecutiveEdit

The Northern Irish Assembly returned to business in January 2020 after a three-year hiatus with a new power sharing agreement between Sinn Féin and the DUP.[30]


History by local governmentEdit

Local elections in England as well as police and crime commissioner elections in England and Wales were postponed from May 2020 to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[31]

See alsoEdit

Timeline articlesEdit

UK articlesEdit


  1. ^ Not including cases identified in British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, all of which test and report cases independently.
  2. ^ Death figures are those who have died after testing positive. It does not include the death of one British citizen on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship (see COVID-19 pandemic on cruise ships), or the 84 recorded deaths in the British Overseas Territories and Crown dependencies.


  1. ^ "Results of the 2019 General Election". BBC News. Retrieved 26 February 2020.
  2. ^ "Mortality in the most affected countries". Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Retrieved 2 June 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ "Deaths registered weekly in England and Wales, provisional". Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 26 May 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)"Deaths involving coronavirus (COVID-19) in Scotland". National Records of Scotland. Retrieved 26 May 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)"Weekly Deaths". NISRA. Retrieved 26 May 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ O'Carroll, Lisa (16 March 2020). "Coronavirus spreading fastest in UK in London". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 14 May 2020.
  5. ^ "Data reveals parts of the country with the highest rate of coronavirus infection". ITV News. Retrieved 14 May 2020.
  6. ^ "PM announces strict new curbs on life in UK". BBC News. 23 March 2020. Retrieved 23 March 2020.
  7. ^ "What is in the Coronavirus Bill? Key areas of the new legislation". The Telegraph, 25 March 2020.
  8. ^ "Britain Placed Under a Virtual Lockdown by Boris Johnson". The New York Times, 23 March 2020.
  9. ^ Youths cleaning graffiti are taunted
  10. ^ Winston Churchill statue desecrated
  11. ^ "Protesters tear down statue amid anti-racism demos". BBC News. 8 June 2020. Retrieved 8 June 2020.
  12. ^ "Brexit: UK leaves the European Union". BBC News. BBC. 31 January 2019.
  13. ^ Edgington, Tom (31 January 2020). "Brexit: What happens next?". BBC News. Retrieved 26 February 2020.
  14. ^ Climate Change Is Accelerating, Bringing World ‘Dangerously Close’ to Irreversible Change, By Henry Fountain, Dec. 4, 2019, NY Times.
  15. ^ 2019 Ends Warmest Decade On Record, State Of The Global Climate Report Warns, iflscience.com
  16. ^ Global carbon emissions growth slows, but hits record high, December 3, 2019, Stanford University via phys.org.
  17. ^ "Douglas Ross confirmed as new Scottish Tory leader". BBC News. 5 August 2020. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  18. ^ Stewart, Heather (6 November 2019). "Tom Watson quits as Labour deputy leader and steps down as MP". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  19. ^ Bienkov, Thomas Colson, Adam. "Jeremy Corbyn announces he will resign as Labour Party leader". Business Insider. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  20. ^ Chappell, Elliot; Rodgers, Sienna (13 January 2020). "5 leadership and 5 deputy candidates through to next stage of contests". LabourList. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  21. ^ "Keir Starmer elected as new Labour leader". BBC News. 4 April 2020. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  22. ^ "Leaderhip Elections 2020 Results". The Labour Party. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  23. ^ "New Liberal Democrat leader in place by mid-July". BBC News. 18 January 2020. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  24. ^ "Lib Dems to hold leadership contest this summer". BBC News. 20 May 2020. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  25. ^ "Election Timeline". Liberal Democrats. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  26. ^ "Evening Call: What's on the news agenda for 2020?". www.newstatesman.com. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  27. ^ "Davey wins Liberal Democrat leadership race". BBC News. 27 August 2020. Retrieved 13 September 2020.
  28. ^ "English local elections postponed over coronavirus". BBC News. 13 March 2020. Retrieved 21 March 2020.
  29. ^ "Assembly passes new law to give 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote in Welsh elections". ITV News. 27 November 2019. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  30. ^ "Northern Ireland: Devolution formally restored as power-sharing resumes at Stormont". Sky News. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  31. ^ "English local elections postponed over coronavirus". BBC News. 13 March 2020. Retrieved 21 March 2020.

Coordinates: 55°N 3°W / 55°N 3°W / 55; -3