A guide to tomorrow’s UK election

Thursday’s UK Election: Everything you need to know


On Thursday, the entire United Kingdom will vote to select representatives for the next parliament. Those representatives will then get to elect a Prime Minister who will then decide what direction the country goes in. For the past five years, Prime Minister David Cameron has presided over sharp budget cuts to tackle the deficit, but this could dramatically change if the Labour Party under Ed Miliband comes to power. Unlike most elections for the past 80 years this election is likely to result in a hung parliament, where no single party holds a majority. Consequently this could be the most chaotic election in years.

  • Who’s running?
    1. The Conservative Party – basically the UK equivalent of the Republicans but more socially liberal on issues such as abortion and same sex marriage. Led by Prime Minister David Cameron.
    2. The Labour Party – Historically a socialist party, but today basically the UK equivalent of the Democratic Party. Led by Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband.
    3. The Liberal Democrats – traditionally the representatives of the progressive center, the Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems) have moved rightwards allying themselves with Conservatives in the current government, but alienating many of their former supporters. Led by Deputy PM Nick Clegg.
    4. UKIP – An anti immigrant, anti European Union party of the far right. Comparable to the Tea Party if they ever broke away from the Republicans. Led by Member of the European Parliament Nigel Farage.
    5. The Scottish National Party – A left wing party advocating Scottish independence from the United Kingdom. Led by First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon.
    6. Others – In addition to other large parties, the UK election will also feature many other parties that will receive a smaller share of the national vote. These include, the Greens a left wing environmentalist party, Plaid Cymru a left wing party advocating Welsh Independence, The Democratic Unionist Party a right wing party advocating Northern Irish Unionism, and Sinn Fein a left wing party advocating for Irish Nationalism.
  • How did it come to this? In 2010, no single party won a majority of seats. After long discussions, the Liberal Democrats agreed to support a Conservative Government with David Cameron as Prime Minister and Nick Clegg as his deputy. During their term in Government, the Cameron coalition enacted severe budget cuts and raised tuition fees for students. This severely alienated many Liberal Democrat Voters who have since switched allegiance to Labour. At the same time, many conservative voters became angered over the Conservative led coalition’s support of equal marriage and immigration, began to switch to the far right UKIP. UKIP has since managed to win over both traditional conservatives and some working class Labour supporters with their populist message. Another major factor has been the rise of the SNP. Although they lost the referendum on Independence, they managed to win over many left wing Labour supporters angered at Labour’s willingness to work with the Conservatives against Independence. Although their percent of the national vote is small, their heavily concentrated support in Scotland should make them the third biggest party in Parliament by taking away almost all of Labour’s Scottish seats.
  • Why does it matter? The future of the United Kingdom is probably more at stake than any other election in a generation. If the Conservatives win, they have pledged to hold a referendum on the UK’s membership in the European Union. Should the UK then vote to leave the EU, Britain’s power would be dramatically reduced and ironically their ability to change EU policy would be drastically curtailed. Furthermore if the UK does leave the EU, this would give the Scottish Nationalist Party an excuse to hold another referendum on Independence. While Independence lost last time, if Britain were to be ruled for another five years by right wing parties outside the EU, then the generally left wing pro EU Scotland would likely vote to leave. Such a result would essentially destroy Britain’s international power and influence.

A UK run by Labour with the support of the SNP would be able to enact several left leaning policies, including tuition cuts and ending foreign tax breaks. On the other hand, if Labour comes in second in number of seats and has to rely on the support of the SNP, the Conservatives will charge that the government is illegitimate.

  • Who do the Polls predict will win? Probably no party will win a majority, but Ed Miliband is the slight favorite to become Prime Minister. To win the election a party needs 323 seats in Parliament. The problem is no party is projected to get that on their own. Consequently some form of coalition or support agreement is likely. The Conservatives will probably win the most seats, but have fewer allies then Labour. If the Conservatives manage to get the Liberal Democrats to agree to another Coalition they would likely still fall several seats short. Even if they got the additional support of Ukip or the northern Irish right wing Democratic Unionist Party, they would likely still fall short. Not to mention the fact that a deal involving the Lib Dems and Ukip working together seems unlikely as the parties are at complete opposites on the European Union and Immigration. Consequently although Labour, may get a few seats less than the Conservatives they are still the favorites. The combined seats of Labour, the SNP, the Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SDLP are likely to be enough for a majority. Although Labour has ruled out a formal coalition with the SNP, it is unlikely that any of the previously mentioned parties would ever vote to uphold a Conservative government. To do so would be electoral suicide for any of those parties. Thus the most likely situation is a minority Labour government upheld by the SNP, possibly with the help of any of the previously mentioned parties.

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