UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


United Kingdom - 2015 General Election

The British parliament was formally dissolved on 30 March 2015 signalling the official start of the country's five-week election campaign, which will see incumbent Conservative David Cameron fight Labour's Ed Miliband in what is expected to be the most unpredictable leadership race in decades.

In a ritual steeped in tradition, PM David Cameron travelled from 10 Downing Street to Buckingham Palace on 30 March 2015 for an audience with Queen Elizabeth II to ask her to call the next parliament. As Parliament was dissolved ahead of the election, the Conservatives had 302 MPs. Labour had 256, the Lib Dems 56 and the Democratic Unionist Party eight. The Scottish National Party had six MPs, Sinn Fein five, Plaid Cymru three, the Social Democratic and Labour Party three and UKIP two. Respect, the Alliance Party and the Greens had one apiece. Five MPs were independents. The Speaker, who does not take part in Commons votes, is another one.

Speaking in front of his official residence at Downing Street, Prime Minister David Cameron, also leader of the Conservatives, said his government is "turning the country around" and urged the voters to let him "see this through." He added that the election takes place at a time when the world is "dangerous and uncertain," warning that voting for his Labor Party opponent Ed Miliband could lead to "economic chaos." Cameron had pledged to hold an "in or out" referendum on whether Britain should withdraw from the European Union by 2017, if his Conservative Party wins the 2015 general election.

Outlining the Labour Party's business manifesto in London, Miliband said Cameron's promised referendum on Britain's European Union (EU) membership is a "clear and present danger" to the economy. "It threatens to shut UK businesses out of a market that gives them access to the world's largest trading bloc. It's simply the wrong direction for our country," he warned. "The job of the next Prime Minister is to open new markets for business, not close them off," the Labour Party leader added.

Foreign policy and Britain's place in the international community have largely been ignored in the general election campaign, except for the relationship with the European Union (EU). If the Conservative Party won, it promised a referendum on continued membership. The anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) pledged to leave the EU.

Conservatives pledged that the second new aircraft carrier will be brought into active service; to replace Trident with four submarines to maintain continuous at sea nuclear deterrent; to work for peace in Syria and Iraq and pursue a comprehensive strategy to defeat Islamic State; and to create new award for service in the reserve forces.

Labour pledged a "minimum, credible, independent nuclear deterrent" based on continuous patrols, a Strategic Security and Defence Review; to make it illegal to discriminate against or abuse members of the Armed Forces; and to establish an International LGBT Rights Envoy and a Global Envoy for Religious Freedom.

The Lib Dems pledged to end continuous at sea nuclear deterrent, enabling a cut in the number of submarines; to ban arms exports to countries flagged up by the FCO’s human rights report; to help service personnel and veterans with mental health problems; and to integrate defence and security spending.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has a non-binding target for members to spend 2% of their economic output (GDP) on defence. Member states agreed the target in 2006 in order to address the increasing gap in defence spending between the US and European members. UKIP's manifesto pledged to keep spending 2% of GDP [ and look to increase it “substantially”], which the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats declined to do.

UKIP pledged to create a Veterans Department to look after the interests of ex-service men and women; to keep Britain’s nuclear deterrent, and to cut foreign aid from 0.7% to 0.2% of national income.

The campaign has been mainly about the economy. The Conservatives accuse Labor of borrowing and spending too much when it was in power and contributing to the recession of 2008. Labor says Conservative policies during the past five years have cut too many public services.

If re-elected, Cameron promised to hold a referendum on whether Britain should stay in the 28-nation European Union. The question of Scottish independence from Britain also remains a key issue. Scottish nationalists lost a plebiscite in 2014, but could emerge with the third biggest bloc of seats and form a coalition with the Labor Party.

The bold challenge from Britain's smaller parties to the Labour and Conservative-led establishment at Westminster made the 2015 UK general election campaign one of the most fiercely contested and bad-tempered in recent British history.

The fractured electoral landscape meant that minor parties, the Scottish and Welsh nationalists, the Greens and euro-skeptics like the far-right UKIP could hold the balance of power. The SNP was predicted to win 43 seats, against Scottish Labor's 16 in the upcoming British general election. The last general election in 2010 was similarly fraught, resulting in a coalition government of Cameron's Conservatives and the center-left Liberal Democrats.

One of the polls, conducted by research and consulting service ComRes for ITV News and the Daily Mail, put the Conservatives four points ahead on 36 percent to the Labor Party's 32 percent, the biggest advantage since September 2010. However, the other poll run by market search company YouGove for the Sunday Times showed the exact opposite result, putting the Labor Party four points ahead on 36 percent.

Both of the surveys were conducted after a live televised question and answer session, the first major election event, in which neither Cameron nor Miliband had apparent advantages over each other. The two leading candidates were scheduled to hold their first rallies both focusing on business and the economy.

Cameron warned voters that they faced "a stark choice" between economic competence and chaos. He has said that Labour would hit voters with a "tax bombshell," something it vehemently denies. Ed Miliband charged in turn that Cameron's somewhat combative stance towards Europe poses a "clear and present danger" to the British economy.

Both major parties hired former strategists for US President Barack Obama to give their campaigns an edge. Miliband hired David Axelrod, the brain behind the famous "Yes We Can!" slogan from 2008. Cameron secured the services of Jim Messina, who led Obama's successful re-election campaign in 2012. UKIP party leader Nigel Farage blamed the "most negative, nasty and personal" campaign he had ever seen on the influence of the American advisors.

Publicly, both parties expressed confidence that they would secure an outright win and that speculation of possible coalitions was completely unnecessary. Privately, however, things seemed less certain. One Labour lawmaker who spoke to news agency Reuters on the condition of anonymity said, "It's tough to call, but I think the Conservatives will just about emerge as the largest party… But they won't win an outright majority and their government might not last, meaning that before long we might be faced with a second election."

By early May many observers were predicting that the Tories would win the most seats but won’t be able to put together a majority - so Ed Miliband would become prime minister with the support of the SNP.

On 07 May 2015, David Cameron won another five-year term as his party surged to an outright majority of seats in parliament in the election, far more than opinion polls had predicted. It was a stunning victory for Cameron and his Conservative Party, as it became the first British ruling party in decades to increase its seats in parliament in an election.

The Liberal Democratic Party, which lost nearly 50 seats, will have fewer than ten. The party leader and deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, resigned. The leader of the main opposition Labor Party, Ed Miliband, also resigned after the party won fewer seats than it had five years ago. UKIP lost one of its two parliamentary seats and its leader Nigel Farage quit after failing in his seventh attempt to become an MP.

A party needs to win at least 326 of all 650 seats in the House of Commons, the parliament's lower house, to form a majority government. Surviving a confidence vote, given Sinn Fein's policy of abstention, requires fewer than 326 votes.

Much of the uncertainty in predictions comes from the fact that even immediately before election day general election polls in the UK have not been very accurate. Whereas the average of all the polls taken in US presidential elections has been highly accurate in recent elections, in the UK the election day polls have recently missed party vote shares by as much as 4 percentage points.

Polls tend to ask a generic question about support for different parties, rather than asking about the specific candidates in a survey respondent's constituency. Of the 650 constituencies, as many as 200 are competitive, where the personality of the incumbent or other candidates, rather than national prefreences, may be decisive.

British electoral constituencies are small by Americn standards. With a total population of 320,000,000 [including those too young to vote], the United States House of Reprsentatives has 435 members, yielding an average population per distict of about 735,000 constituents. The total population of the United Kingdom - a bit less than 64,000,000 - is divided between 650 constituencies, yielding an average population per constituent of about 98,000 constituents.

Northern Ireland is allocated 18 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons. Northern Ireland has a different party system than the rest of the UK, and none of the major UK parties have recently won seats there. Political polls of the "UK" are nearly always polls of Great Britain: they exclude Northern Ireland from the sampling frame. There is very little dedicated Northern Irish polling by comparison to the rest of the UK.

The parties face a pervasive cynicism about politicians as a whole, given the public view that the political class of Westminster lives in a bubble. In 2013 Ipsos Mori polling showed 45% of the electorate didn't know what the Conservatives stand for (and even more, 51% and 65% in the case of Labour and the Lib Dems).

Seats (UK)

Party Lo Seats Hi Swing Seats Seats
Conservatives 247 278 311 -28 279 331
Labour 239 271 304 13 270 232
SNP 40 50 56 44 47 56
Liberal Democrats 19 26 33 -31 27 8
UKIP 0 1 3 1 4 1
Plaid Cymru 2 4 6 1 3 3
Greens 0 1 1 0 1 1
Democratic Unionist Party 7 9 10 1 8
SDLP 1 2 3 -1 3
Sinn Fein 4
Ulster Unionist Party 2
Other 7 8 10 0 1
SOURCE: electionforecast.co SOURCE: The Independent ACTUAL

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 08-05-2015 12:43:26 ZULU