The 2018 Commonwealth federal election
was held on Monday 29 October to elect all 536 Members of Parliament (MPs) to the Commonwealth House of Commons. The governing Commonwealth Party won its fifth consecutive election, but suffered a small decrease in their vote and seat share.
The Commonwealth Party
went into the election having governed continuously since 2002. Party leader Bill Clouston had himself served as Prime Minister since 2011. Whilst the party had been in government for sixteen years, opinion polls suggested that they would be returned to power relatively comfortably as they had now established themselves at the Commonwealth's dominant party at a federal level. The opposition Social Democratic Labour Party
were struggling both to win over floating voters but were also facing an unprecedented threat from their left in the form of the New Republican Party
, who had rapidly grown in popularity especially amongst young voters and those in deprived areas, which traditionally formed the bedrock of the SDLP's support, since the last election.
In the end, the Commonwealth Party lost 14 seats, but still held a healthy majority in the House of Commons, and Clouston would lead the party into their fifth parliament in power. The SDLP slipped back much further, losing 53 seats of their own to both the Commonwealth Party, mainly in the Midlands, London and in southern England, and to the New Republican Party, principally in the party's heartlands in Northern England. Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru
, the Welsh separatist party which advocated further devolution of powers to the Welsh Assembly and an eventual referendum on independence, expanded further than western Wales for the first time in their history and went on to win a majority of Welsh seats in the Commons. The Conservative Party
, led into their fourth election by Eric Hitchins, fell from third place to fifth place in the Commons. The election itself was particularly nasty and was dominated by the slowing economy, increasing levels of immigration to the Commonwealth and the sexuality of the Leader of the Opposition. The Commonwealth Party and the Conservatives tried to suggest that the fact that Bryant was in a relationship with another man made him unsuitable to be Prime Minister, with Commonwealth leaflets being distributed describing Clouston and his party as "the straight choice". Whilst homosexuality had been decriminalised in the Commonwealth in the 1970s, and civil unions had been established by the last SDLP government in the late 1990s, it remained a controversial issue amongst much of the voting public. The SDLP's policy of introducing same-sex marriage was seen as far too progressive and both the Commonwealth Party and the Conservatives insisted that they remained vehemently opposed to any extension of marriage to same-sex couples, with the Conservatives pledging to scrap civil unions if elected.
In the aftermath of the election, Bryant, though publicly backed by his party, opted to resign the following day, describing his position as "untenable given the circumstances". An impassioned speech by Bryant saw him say with tears in his eyes that "sadly it appears a citizen of the Commonwealth loving another is too much for our politics, our media and our electorate to handle" and that he hoped that one day a politician's sexuality "would not prevent him or her from leading our country". Bryant himself had only narrowly held on his constituency of Cardiff East, with a majority of 397 over the Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru candidate. Eric Hitchins tried to remain leader of the Conservatives despite the result, but faced a leadership challenge in the following days, and an open revolt in his parliamentary party forced him to stand down.