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2015 United Kingdom general election

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A guide to
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God Save the Queen?

The 2015 general election took place in the United Kingdom on 7 May, where Parliament took a full three months off before the actual election to focus, not on governing, but campaigning, because priorities.

This was the most unpredictable election in decades; the three biggest parties were loathed and several voters branched towards other groups who certainly tipped the balance of power.

So, what caused all this relative instability in the political consciousness? Simple: everyone was shit. The Conservatives were really the same as ever under Prime Minister David Cameron; Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats had lost much of their credibility after turning into lapdogs for the Conservatives; and Opposition Leader Ed Miliband had become likely the most unpopular and ineffectual leader in the history of the Labour Party.[1]

Their general malaise caused several otherwise-sensible people to consider protest votes for UKIP under Nigel Farage, whose nasty anti-immigration rhetoric went over well in areas with low immigration rates.[2] Finally, the SNP under Nicola Sturgeon increased its membership after the failed independence referendum, and ended up devouring almost all of Scotland'.

All the parties that put up candidates in 2010 ran again, although the British National Party, which followed up its best ever election in 2010 by tearing itself apart, had only eight candidates,[3] seven fewer than the Official Monster Raving Loony Party.[4]

Contenders[edit]

The big two-and-a-half[edit]

  • Conservative Party — Seats won: 331; Vote share: 36.9% — Change from 2010: +24 seats / +0.8% [5]
    • Leader: David Cameron, the incumbent Prime Minister. He had been the leader since 2005, and was the Leader of the Opposition from 2005 through 2010.
    • Status pre-election: The largest party in Parliament, but short of a majority, so they formed a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats.
    • Pros: Their 303 seats provided a very big cushion for whatever losses they would receive. All they needed is an extra 23 seats for a full majority. Attempts to appeal to the base began with a pledge to overturn the ban on fox hunting with dogs. Plus, their opposition was Ed Miliband.
    • Cons: Slashing popular programs and cutting benefits, while increasing illegal surveillance on citizens, passing brazenly anti-immigrant, anti-women and anti-student bills, and trying to take advantage of the War on Terror by antagonizing whistleblowers and apprehending suspected dissidents. In short, every bit the Tory party you knew them to be. Oh, and David Cameron.
    • Results: Surprised almost everybody by starting the night with an exit poll suggesting a near majority[6], and went on to take many Labour targets AND Lib Dem seats, assuming a small majority in Parliament.[7] It turns out the "shy Tory"Wikipedia's W.svg effect is actually a thing. Cameron has thus demonstrated that it's still possible to muster an absolute majority in the Commons based on a third of the votes cast, suggesting that any further talk about electoral reform is effectively dead.
  • Labour Party — Seats won: 232; Vote share: 30.4% — Change from 2010: -26 seats / +1.5% [5]
    • Leader: Ed Miliband, the Leader of the Opposition and head of the party since 2010.
    • Status pre-election: The second largest party in Parliament, with 257 seats on hold and needing an extra 69 in order to reach a government threshold.
    • Pros: Uhm, less awful than the Conservatives?
    • Cons: Still awful in their own right, thanks to the vestiges of New Labour permeating the mindset of the party. Can the opposition sweep back into power with the same bunch who got thrown out five years ago? Oh, and Ed Miliband. Really, it cannot be overstated - Ed Fucking Miliband.
    • Results: Another defeat, going DOWN in seats when everybody had expected them to rise and even possibly win. Lost almost the entirety of Scotland to the SNP, including what should have been safe seats. Leader Milliband has joined the chorus of resignations.[8] This makes Tony Blair the only Labour leader to win an election in forty years.
  • Scottish National Party — Seats won: 56; Vote share: 4.7% — Change from 2010: +50 / +3.1% [5]
    • Leader: Nicola Sturgeon, the incumbent First Minister of Scotland, who became the party chief after Alex Salmond's resignation in 2014 (following the failed referendum on Scottish independence).
    • Status: With their enormous presence in Edinburgh, they run Scotland almost wholly unchecked, and they're pushing for more autonomous rule.
    • Pros: Anti-austerity and slightly more left-leaning than Labour or the coalition. Losing 2014's independence referendum has only fired them up more.
    • Cons: Their predicted large increase in votes wasn't at Conservatives expense.
    • Results: In a much stronger showing than most expected, have won all but three of Scotland's 59 seats[9] and have placed the awkward (though not nearly as much as Sinn Fein) situation that the third party of Parliament wants to take Scotland out of the Union.

The rest[edit]

  • Liberal Democrats — Seats won: 8; Vote share: 7.9% — Change from 2010: -49 seats / -15.2% [5]
    • Leader: Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, who had led the party since 2007.
    • Status pre-election: In a coalition government with the Conservatives, with several of their MPs serving as ministers in Cameron's cabinet. With their 56 seats, they needed a grand total of 270 more in order to reach a government threshold.
    • Pros: Experience of watching power at close quarters without actually having any. Individual MPs are quite nice on a personal level, which somewhat helped their survival as a party.
    • Cons: Being "not the other two" doesn't work out when you're in the government, it turns out, especially when you're run by the Liberal Democratic equivalent to New Labour and David Cameron. They threw away three quarters of (what used to be) their policies by colluding with the Tories on austerity and capitulating on their promises while in government. The good track record in local government never managed to translate into general election support.
    • Results: A complete wipeout as they went from third party at 56 seats to tied with the Democratic Unionist Party (a Northern Irish party who only ran sixteen candidates) for fourth at 8 seats. After the disaster of the night, party leader Clegg resigned.[10]
  • United Kingdom Independence Party — Seats won: 1; Vote share: 12.6% — Change from 2010: +1 seats [11] / +9.5% [5]
    • Leader: Nigel Farage, who had two stints as party chief - first from 2006–2009, then from 2010-2015.
    • Status pre-election: Surging popularity due to their racist peddling, anti-immigration ideas, anti-EU sentiment, and hatred of welfare, which led to two former Conservatives (Carswell and Reckless) switching to UKIP and surviving by-elections that were triggered by their leaving the Tories.
    • Pros: Will take votes from the Tories. Despite having elevated the gaffe to an art form, gaffes don't seem to put a dent in their support.
    • Cons: Take the Tea Party, superimpose English accents over their voices, and voila!. Also influenced the national discourse on immigration and the EU, having prompted Labour and the coalition to adopt anti-immigrant policies as a knee-jerk reaction. Their emphasis on populist immigration issues also masks some truly awful social and economic policies - straight up GOP levels of atrocity, really.
    • Results: Took many second and third place "victories" (aka defeats, under the first past the post UK electoral system) throughout the night and had a vote share increase from minuscule fringe to something similar to what the LibDems used to have, but only managed to win one seat in the whole country. Leader Farage resigned after not even winning his own constituency.[12] Sort of.[13]
  • Green Party of England and Wales (and Green Party of Scotland) — Seats won: 1; Vote share: 3.8% — Change from 2010: 0 / +2.8% [5]
    • Leader: Natalie Bennett
    • Status pre-election: One seat, and it isn't held by their leader.
    • Pros: Pro-welfare, pro-NHS, anti-cuts, anti-tuition fees. Their only MP, Caroline Lucas, is popular.
    • Cons: Will have to defend their less-than-wonderful record at Brighton, the only large place they control (most notoriously, being one of the worst-performing local authorities for, of all things, recycling). Natalie Bennett has terrible debating skills. The party is routinely ignored by the media, leaving the public largely unaware of their policies (other than, you know, the environment or something). Despite their appealing social and economics policies, they are unlikely to overcome their reputation as (1) a one-issue party, and (2) a complete non-contender any time soon.
    • Results: Caroline Lucas continues to remain alone, the green revolution achieving as much as UKIP's did.
  • Plaid Cymru — Seats won: 3; Vote share: 0.6% — Change from 2010: 0 / 0% [5]
    • Leader: Leanne Wood
    • Pros: Social democratic and eco-friendly, which is more than can be said for Labour or the coalition.
    • Cons: Having failed to capitalize on rampant nationalism elsewhere, the Party of Wales has its work cut out.
    • Results: No change, still three MP's, "will be a strong voice" says party leader. Good luck with that.[14]

In Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein lost a seat for the first time in over twenty years, but then a majority of 4 made it the least safe constituency; the Ulster Unionist Party once the dominant force in the province for decades, crawled back from oblivion and returned two MPs; The Alliance (AKA the Northern Ireland reasonably sane party) lost its one seat. In Britain the Respect Party's George Galloway lost their sole seat (but no doubt he'll be back); the British National Party, or what's left of it, scored fewer votes than several parties nobody has ever heard of, such as Cannabis Is Safer Than AlcoholWikipedia's W.svg and even the one town Poole People's Party, who are too small even to have a Wikipedia article.

The debates[edit]

After months of endless haggling about whether to have debates, and what form they should take, things finally got underway with an initial not-really-a-debate: Cameron and Miliband being interviewed by the same two journalists. Nothing much was cleared up except that Miliband turned out to be a human being rather than the hopeless wonk he'd been painted as. The first week of April saw the first main debate, with seven party leaders all talking at once. Despite this being Cameron's idea, it ended up working against him, but for nobody in particular: four different opinion polls declared four different winners.[15] The party leaders mostly acted in character: Nigel Farage was the odious, smooth-talking xenophobe, Nick Clegg the hapless Mr Reasonable, etc. Ed Miliband resurrected Ronald Reagan's "there you go again" quote from 1980, which was a bit of a strange moment. If anyone came out on top, it was Nicola Sturgeon; such a pity that a) her party is only running in one part of the country and b) she isn't even a candidate. Nick Griifin, former leader of the BNP, sat watching at home, drinking cheap gin and wailing "I coulda been a contender!"[16]

Next up was the one David Cameron wasn't invited to didn't want to go to. Much the same as the previous one, it was worth a look for the part where Nigel Farage complained about the audience and getting booed for it. And the three female party leaders had a group hug. You wouldn't have got Margaret Thatcher and Barbara Castle doing that.

See also[edit]

References[edit]