Last modified on 26 April 2015, at 07:25

United Kingdom general election, 2015

United Kingdom general election, 2015
United Kingdom
2010 ←
members
7 May 2015[1] → 2020

All 650 seats to the House of Commons
326 seats are needed for a majority.
Opinion polls
  David Cameron Ed Miliband Nick Clegg
Leader David Cameron Ed Miliband Nick Clegg
Party Conservative Labour Liberal Democrat
Leader since 6 December 2005 25 September 2010 18 December 2007
Leader's seat Witney Doncaster North Sheffield Hallam
Last election 306 seats, 36.1% 258 seats, 29% 57 seats, 23%
Current seats 302 256 56
Seats needed Increase24 Increase70 Increase270

Incumbent Prime Minister

David Cameron
Conservative

2001 election MPs
2005 election MPs
2010 election MPs

The United Kingdom general election of 2015 will be held on 7 May 2015, to elect the 56th Parliament of the United Kingdom.

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 (as amended by the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013) led to the mandated dissolution of the 55th Parliament on 30 March 2015 and the scheduling of the election on 7 May, the House of Commons not having voted for an earlier date.[2] There are local elections scheduled to take place on the same day across most of England, with the exception of Greater London. There are no additional elections scheduled to take place in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, apart from any local by-elections.

In UK general elections, voting takes place in all parliamentary constituencies of the United Kingdom to elect Members of Parliament (MPs) to seats in the House of Commons, the lower house of the Parliament.

How the election is heldEdit

Each parliamentary constituency of the United Kingdom elects one MP to the House of Commons using the 'first past the post' system. If one party obtains a majority of seats, then that party is entitled to form the Government. If the election results in no single party having a majority, then there is a hung parliament. In this case, the options for forming the Government are either a minority government or a coalition government.[3]

Although the Conservative Party planned the number of parliamentary seats to be reduced from 650 to 600, through the Sixth Periodic Review of Westminster constituencies under the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011, the review of constituencies and reduction in seats was delayed by the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 amending the 2011 Act.[4][5][6][7] The next boundary review is now set to take place in 2018; thus the 2015 general election will be contested using the same constituencies and boundaries as in 2010. Of the 650 constituencies, 533 are in England, 59 in Scotland, 40 in Wales and 18 in Northern Ireland.

In addition, the 2011 Act mandated a referendum in 2011 on changing from the current 'first past the post' system system to an Alternative Vote system for elections to the Commons. The Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition agreement committed the coalition government to such a referendum.[8] The referendum was held in May 2011 and resulted in the retention of the existing voting system. Before the previous general election, the Liberal Democrats had pledged to change the voting system, and the Labour Party pledged to have a referendum about any such change.[9] The Conservatives, however, promised to keep the first past the post system, but to reduce the number of constituencies by 10%. Liberal Democrat plans were to reduce the number of MPs to 500 elected using a proportional system.[10][11]

Ministers have increased the amount of money that parties and candidates are allowed to spend on the election by 23%, a move decided against Electoral Commission advice.[12] The election sees the first cap on spending by parties in individual constituencies during the 100 days before Parliament's dissolution on 30 March: £30,700, plus a per-voter allowance of 9p in county constituencies and 6p in borough seats. An additional voter allowance of more than £8,700 is available after the dissolution of Parliament. UK political parties spent £31.1m in the 2010 general election, of which Conservatives spent 53%, the Labour Party spent 25% and the Liberal Democrats 15%.[13]

This will be the first UK general election using individual rather than household voter registration. The change in registration system has been accompanied by a drop of almost 1 million in the number of registered voters.[14]

Date of the electionEdit

Previous lawEdit

An election is called following the dissolution of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The power to dissolve Parliament has been a Royal Prerogative, exercised by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Sovereign has not refused a request for dissolution since the beginning of the 20th century;[15] the guidelines under which this might theoretically occur are known as the Lascelles Principles after the King's private secretary who set them out. As a result, incumbent Prime Ministers have often chosen to call a general election at a time when they believed they enjoyed a temporary tactical advantage.

Under the provisions of the Septennial Act 1716, as amended by the Parliament Act 1911, an election had to be announced on or before the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the previous parliament, barring exceptional circumstances. Since the enactment of the 1715 Act, Parliament has never been allowed to expire. The previous general election, held on 6 May 2010, elected MPs to the 55th Parliament which began on 18 May 2010; thus this Parliament would expire on 17 May 2015. Since the last day that a proclamation summoning a new Parliament could be issued is this day of expiration, the election timetable dictated that the latest possible date for the election was 11 June 2015.[16]

Fixed-term Parliaments ActEdit

Prior to the 2010 general election, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats pledged to introduce fixed-term elections.[9] As part of the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition agreement, the Cameron ministry agreed to support legislation for fixed-term Parliaments, with the date of the next general election being 7 May 2015.[17] This would have coincided with general elections for the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales and Northern Ireland Assembly, which were scheduled to be held on a four-year, fixed-term basis. In response to cross-party criticism of this, the Fixed-term Parliaments Act moved the dates of the next elections to the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales to 2016 (in sections 4 and 5 of the Act, respectively), whilst the next Northern Ireland Assembly election was moved to 2016 by the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014 (which specifies that elections will be held in the fifth (rather than fourth, as previously) calendar year following that in which its predecessor was elected).[18]

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 removed the Royal Prerogative to dissolve Parliament. As a result, a Prime Minister no longer has the power to advise the monarch to call an early election. The Bill originally only permitted early dissolution if Parliament voted for one by a supermajority of 55%. A government could still lose a vote of no confidence by a majority of just over 50%, requiring it to resign. Later, the Government amended the Bill to increase the required supermajority to two-thirds, as applies to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. When doing so, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg clarified that Parliament would be dissolved if no new government could be formed within 14 days of a no-confidence vote.[19] The Bill was enacted in this amended form.

The Prime Minister has the power, by order made by Statutory Instrument under section 1(5) of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, to provide that the polling day is to be held up to two months later than 7 May 2015. Such a Statutory Instrument must be approved by each House of Parliament.

Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013Edit

Section 14 of the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 amended the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 by extending the period between the dissolution of Parliament and the following general election polling day from 17 to 25 working days. This has had the effect of moving forward the date of the dissolution of the present Parliament to 30 March 2015.[2]

DelayEdit

Occasionally, a constituency is forced to delay its polling day. In each of the two preceding general elections, one constituency delayed its poll due to the death of a candidate.[20]

Political partiesEdit

As of 18 April 2015, the Electoral Commission's Register of Political Parties includes 428 political parties registered in Great Britain,[21] and 36 in Northern Ireland.[22][needs update] Candidates who do not belong to a registered party can use an "independent" label, or no label at all. Great Britain and Northern Ireland have distinct political cultures, with few parties standing candidates in both areas (although some, including the Conservatives and UKIP, do). This section is accordingly split into two.

Great BritainEdit

The two biggest parties in Great Britain (with 632 constituencies) are:

The Conservatives and Labour have been the two biggest parties since 1922, and have supplied all UK prime ministers since that date. It is expected that either Cameron or Miliband will be the prime minister after the election: either with an overall majority, or heading a minority government or a coalition.

The Liberal Democrats have been the third party in the UK for many years; but as described by various commentators, other parties have risen relative to the Liberal Democrats since the 2010 election.[23][24] The Economist described a "familiar two-and-a-half-party system" (Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats in third place) that "appears to be breaking down" with the rise of UKIP, the Greens and the SNP.[25] Newsnight[26] and The Economist[27] have described the country as moving into a six-party system, with the Liberal Democrats, SNP, UKIP and Greens all being significant. Ofcom, in their role regulating election coverage in the UK, have ruled that for the general election and local elections in May 2015, the major parties in Great Britain are the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats, with UKIP a major party in England and Wales, the SNP a major party in Scotland, and Plaid Cymru in Wales, and that the Greens are not a major party.[28] The BBC's guidelines for coverage [29] differ from Ofcom's. They exclude UKIP from the category of "larger parties" in Great Britain and instead state that UKIP should be given "appropriate levels of coverage in output to which the largest parties contribute and, on some occasions, similar levels of coverage".[30] Seven parties (Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, UKIP, SNP, PC and Green) participated in the election leadership debates.[31]

  • Liberal Democrats: led by Nick Clegg, the current deputy prime minister. The Liberal Democrats were the junior member of the 2010–15 Coalition Government. The Liberal Democrats and predecessor parties have been the third party of British politics since 1922. However, they have generally been fourth in polling since 2013 and sometimes fifth since late 2014. They have likewise been fourth in national projected vote share in local elections in 2013 and 2014 (although third in terms of councillors elected) and were fifth in votes (sixth in seats) in the 2014 European elections.
  • Scottish National Party: led by Nicola Sturgeon, who is an MSP and not standing in the general election. The SNP only contest seats in Scotland. The party got the second most votes in Scotland in 2010, but won the third most seats, which was also the fourth most seats in Great Britain and the fifth in the Commons overall. They won the 2011 election to the Scottish Parliament and have had a surge of support since the Scottish independence referendum in September 2014.[32] Some commentators predict that they could be the third largest party overall after the 2015 election, in terms of seats won, overtaking the Liberal Democrats.[26]
  • UK Independence Party: led by Nigel Farage MEP, who has not previously been elected to Westminster, but is standing in the general election. UKIP won the fourth most votes at the 2010 election, but failed to win any seats. They have since won two seats at by-elections following defections in 2014. They have usually been third in opinion polling since 2013 and were third in national projected vote share in local elections in 2013 and 2014 (although fourth in councillors elected). They were first in the 2014 European elections, the first time a political party other than Labour or the Conservatives had won the popular vote in a national election since the 1906 general election.[33][34]
  • Greens: there are three distinct Green parties in the UK, who cooperate with each other: the Green Party of England and Wales, the Scottish Green Party and the Green Party in Northern Ireland. Opinion polling in Great Britain generally makes no distinction between the Green Party of England and Wales and the Scottish Greens. The Green Party of England and Wales is led by Natalie Bennett, who has not previously been elected to Westminster, but is standing in the general election. The Green Party of England and Wales won their first MP at the 2010 General Election and were seventh overall in votes (sixth in England & Wales), while the Scottish Greens were sixth in Scotland in 2010 and fifth in the Scottish Parliamentary elections of 2011. The Greens have been rising in the polls since late 2014, challenging the Liberal Democrats for fourth. They were fourth in the 2014 European elections (both in terms of votes and seats won, having gained a seat).
  • Plaid Cymru: led by Leanne Wood, a member of the Welsh Assembly and not standing in the general election. Plaid Cymru organise in Wales and coordinate with the SNP; they have three MPs and were fourth in Wales by vote share in 2010 and eighth in Great Britain, but third in the 2011 Welsh Assembly elections.

Smaller parties in Great Britain include Respect (with one MP currently), the British National Party and the English Democrats.

Northern IrelandEdit

The main parties in Northern Ireland (with 18 constituencies) are described by Ofcom,[28] the BBC[35] and others as:

  • Democratic Unionist Party: the DUP are the fourth biggest party in the Commons with eight MPs, and the biggest from Northern Ireland; the party also won the 2011 Northern Ireland Assembly election, but were second in the 2014 European election.
  • Sinn Féin: Sinn Féin won most votes in Northern Ireland in 2010, but came second in seats, winning five constituencies. They were second in the 2011 Assembly elections, but first in the 2014 European elections. Sinn Féin operate a policy of abstentionism with respect to the Commons and have never so far taken their seats there. The party also organises in the Republic of Ireland, where it does take seats in parliament.
  • Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP): the SDLP were third in the 2010 and 2011 elections, and fourth in the 2014 European elections. They have three MPs. The SDLP has a relationship with the Labour Party in Great Britain, with SDLP MPs generally following the Labour whip. They are expected to support Labour in June in the event of a hung Parliament.[36]
  • Ulster Unionist Party: the UUP has not had an MP at the Commons since Lady Hermon left the party to successfully run as an independent in 2010. However, they have an MEP, having been third in the 2014 European elections. They were fourth in the 2011 Assembly elections and came fourth by vote share at the 2010 general election.
  • Alliance Party of Northern Ireland: the Alliance Party had an MP elected for the first time in 2010. They were fifth in the 2010 election by vote share, fifth overall in 2011 and sixth in 2014. Alliance has a relationship with the Liberal Democrats in Great Britain: the party's former leader sits in the House of Lords as a Liberal Democrat, but Alliance's one MP elected in 2010 sat on the opposition benches in the Commons and not with the Liberal Democrats on the government benches.

Smaller parties in Northern Ireland include Traditional Unionist Voice and the Green Party in Northern Ireland (a region of the Green Party in Ireland), both with one current Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA). Two of the major parties in Great Britain also organise in Northern Ireland: UKIP (with one MLA) and the Conservatives, represented by the Northern Ireland Conservatives. The Conservatives were in an electoral alliance with the UUP in 2010, but this has since been dissolved.

CandidatesEdit

The deadline for parties and individuals to file candidate nomination papers to the acting returning officer (and the deadline for candidates to withdraw) was 4 p.m. on 9 April 2015.[37][38][39][40]

The total number of candidates is 3,971; the is the second-highest number in history, slightly down from the record 4,150 candidates at the last election in 2010.[41][42]

There are, however, a record number of female candidates standing in terms of both absolute numbers and percentage of candidates: 1,020 (26.1%) in 2015, up from 854 (21.1%) in 2010.[41][42] The proportion of female candidates varies by region; it is 26.6% in Wales, 26.2% in England (30.4% in London), 25.6% in Scotland, and 23.9% in Northern Ireland.[42] The proportion of female candidates is lowest in eastern England (21.6%).[42]

Overall candidate profileEdit

The University College London's Parliamentary Candidates UK project[43] evaluated the background of 2015 general-election candidates (excluding incumbent MPs) from the seven major parties: Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, UKIP, Plaid Cymru, the SNP, and the Greens.[44]

The project found that 26% of candidates contesting the 2015 general election were political professionals (defined as those currently working as advisers, researchers, party officials, trade unionists or lobbyists).[44] The parties with the highest percentage of political-professional candidates were the SNP (47%), Labour (33%), and Plaid Cymru (33%); the party with the lowest percentage of political-professional candidates is UKIP.[44] The parties with the highest proportion of lobbyist candidates are the Conservatives (27%) and the Liberal Democrats (21%).[44]

The party with the highest percentages of candidates from a business or commercial background was UKIP (37%) and the Conservatives (21%); the lowest is the Greens (15%).[44] The party with the highest percentages of candidates in professions such as law and teaching are the Liberal Democrats (16%) followed by Labour (12%).[44]

The Conservatives have the largest number of researcher candidates (12), but the SNP has the largest percentage of researcher candidates (five researchers, or 36% of its candidates).[44] Some 23% of Labour candidates work in trade unions.[44] The Liberal Democrats have the highest percentage of candidates who sit on local councils (53%), followed by the SNP (43%) and UKIP (40%).[44]

The parties with the highest proportion of female candidates are the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (41%), the Greens (in England and Wales and Scotland) (38%), and the SNP (36%).[45] The party with the lowest proportion of female candidates is UKIP (12%).[45] The constituency with the most female candidates is Camberwell and Peckham in south London, where five women and four men are running.[45] In some 120 constituencies, no female candidate is running.[45]

According to the UCL's Parliamentary Candidates UK project, the average age of the candidates for the seven major parties is 45; there is substantial deviation among the parties, with Conservatives having the youngest average (41) and UKIP the oldest (52); in the middle are Labour (43) and the Liberal Democrats (47).[46] Among marginal seats—those constituencies that are highly contested—UKIP and the Liberal Democrats both have a lower average age for candidates (44) than for all seats in general, while the Conservatives, Labour, and Greens all have slightly older candidates in such seats than for seats in general.[46]

The youngest candidates are Solomon Curtis, 18, of Labour, running in the safe Conservative seat of Wealden; Niamh McCarthy, 18, an independent, running in the safe Labour seat of Liverpool Wavertree; Michael Burrows, 18, of UKIP, running in Inverclyde, Scotland; Declan Lloyd, of Labour, running in South East Cornwall; and Laura-Jane Rossington, 18, of the Communist Party of Britain.[47][48][49] The youngest Conservative candidate is Taylor Muir, 19, running in Rutherglen and Hamilton West.[47] The youngest candidate with a substantial chance of winning election in Mhairi Black, 20, of the Scottish Nationalist Party, who could become the youngest MP in history if she defeats Labour MP Douglas Alexander in the Paisley and Renfrewshire South constituency.[46][50]

The oldest candidate is Doris Osen, 84, of the Elderly Persons' Independent Party (EPIC), who is standing in Ilford North.[48] Other oldest candidates running in the election include two longtime Labour MPs running for reelection: Sir Gerald Kaufman, 84, of Manchester Gorton, and Dennis Skinner, 83, of Bolsover.[46]

Unusually, three former MPs are competing against each other in one seat, Northampton North.[51] There, Conservative Michael Ellis, who was elected to the seat in 2010; Labour candidate Sally Keeble, who was a Labour MP for the seat from 1997 to 2010; and Green candidate Tony Clarke, who was a Labour MP for neighboring Northampton South from 1997 to 2005 before leaving the party, are all competing against each other.[51] It is not unusual for two former MPs to compete in an election (often a rematch), but it is rare for three former MPs to contest a single seat.[51]

Pan-United KingdomEdit

The Conservatives are standing in 647 constituencies; the party is running in every seat in Great Britain except for the Speaker's seat, and is also running in 16 of the 18 Northern Ireland seats.[40] UKIP are standing in 624 seats (up from 572 in 2010).[40]

Great BritainEdit

The Conservatives, Labour[note 1] and the Liberal Democrats are standing in 631 seats in Great Britain (all save the Speaker's seat).[40] The Greens across England, Scotland and Wales are standing in 568 seats (up from 331 in 2010).[40][41][52][53]

Among the minor parties:

WalesEdit

The Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, UKIP and Plaid Cymru are standing candidates across all 40 constituencies in Wales.[41][42]

ScotlandEdit

A total of 346 candidates are standing in Scotland's 59 constituencies.[38] The SNP, Labour, Conservatives, and Liberal Democrats are running candidates in every Scottish constituency; UKIP in 41; the Scottish Greens in 31; the Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in 10, including one joint candidate with Left Unity; Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol in 8; the Scottish Socialist Party in four; the National Front and the Scottish Christian Party in two, and the Scottish Communist Party, and the Socialist Equality Party in one each.[38][41] There are also ten independent candidates standing for election in Scottish constituencies.[38]

Northern IrelandEdit

A total of 138 candidates are standing in Northern Ireland's 18 constituencies.[69][70] Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Alliance are standing in all 18; the DUP in 16 (having made an electoral pact to support the UUP in two constituencies); the Conservatives in 16; the UUP in 15 (having made an electoral pact to support the DUP in two constituencies; they are also not standing in North Down against Sylvia Hermon); UKIP in ten; TUV in seven, the Greens in five, and the Workers' Party in five.[69] "Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol" have 4 candidates and "People Before Profit" one. Five independent candidates are running in Northern Ireland, including incumbent Lady Hermon.[69]

In Northern Ireland, the fewest candidates in a constituency is five (in Fermanagh and South Tyrone and Newry and Armagh); the most is 10 in North Down.[71] Overall, women make up 25% of candidates in Northern Ireland.[71] One constituency only has only male candidates (Belfast West), while only one constituency has more female than male candidates (Fermanagh and South Tyrone).[71] The DUP and UKIP (in Northern Ireland) have no female candidates.[71]

2010 resultsEdit

The table below shows the figures for seats won by each party at the 2010 election and the seat changes that have taken place before the next election.

Affiliation Members[72]
After 2010 General Election At dissolution of Parliament
Conservative 306 302
Labour 258 256
Liberal Democrat 57 56
DUP 8 8
SNP 6 6
  Independent
1 5
Sinn Féin 5 5
Plaid Cymru 3 3
SDLP 3 3
UKIP 0 2
Alliance 1 1
Green 1 1
Respect 0 1
  Speaker
1 1
 Total number of seats
650 650
 Actual government majority
83 73
Notes
  • See here for a full list of changes during the fifty-fifth Parliament.
  • The actual government majority is calculated as Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs less all other parties. This calculation excludes the Speaker, Deputy Speakers (two Labour and one Conservative) and Sinn Féin.

Likely or potential target seatsEdit

In January 2013, Labour published its list of 106 target seats for the next election.[73] UKIP's list of 12 target seats was reported in August 2014,[74] with an updated list of 10 reported in April 2015,[75] and others external to UKIP have highlighted seats where UKIP may be strongest.[76] A list of Conservative non-target seats was deduced in February 2015.[77] The Green Party of England & Wales describe having 12 target constituencies, including their one current seat.[78][79]

Below are the most marginal seats listed by the party in second for those parties which won seats at the 2005 or 2010 general elections, ranked by the percentage swing required. These may not be the seats where parties choose to target their resources. Opinion polling in individual constituencies is also another indicator for possible target seats.

Labour targets[80] Swing required Conservative targets[81] Swing required Liberal Democrat targets[82] Swing required
1 North Warwickshire (CON) 0.05% Hampstead and Kilburn (LAB) 0.04% Camborne and Redruth (CON) 0.08%
2 Thurrock (CON) 0.10% Bolton West (LAB) 0.10% Oldham East and Saddleworth[note 2] (LAB) 0.12%
3 Hendon (CON) 0.12% Solihull (LD) 0.16% Oxford West and Abingdon (CON) 0.16%
4 Cardiff North (CON) 0.20% Southampton Itchen (LAB) 0.22% Ashfield (LAB) 0.20%
5 Sherwood (CON) 0.22% Mid Dorset and North Poole (LD) 0.29% Sheffield Central (LAB) 0.20%
6 Norwich South (LD) 0.32% Wirral South (LAB) 0.66% Edinburgh South (LAB) 0.36%
7 Stockton South (CON) 0.33% Derby North (LAB) 0.68% Truro and Falmouth (CON) 0.45%
8 Broxtowe (CON) 0.37% Wells (LD) 0.72% Newton Abbot (CON) 0.55%
9 Lancaster and Fleetwood (CON) 0.39% Dudley North (LAB) 0.84% Chesterfield (LAB) 0.60%
10 Bradford East (LD) 0.45% Great Grimsby (LAB) 1.08% Swansea West (LAB) 0.71%
11 Amber Valley (CON) 0.58% Morley and Outwood (LAB) 1.13% Hull North (LAB) 0.96%
12 Waveney (CON) 0.75% Telford (LAB) 1.19% Rochdale (LAB) 0.97%
13 Wolverhampton South West (CON) 0.85% Walsall North (LAB) 1.37% Harrogate and Knaresborough (CON) 0.98%
14 Morecambe and Lunesdale (CON) 1.00% St Austell and Newquay (LD) 1.39% Watford (CON) 1.29%
15 Carlisle (CON) 1.01% Somerton and Frome (LD) 1.50% Hampstead and Kilburn (LAB) 1.51%
16 Stroud (CON) 1.12% Birmingham Edgbaston (LAB) 1.54% Montgomeryshire (CON) 1.75%
17 Weaver Vale (CON) 1.13% Sutton and Cheam (LD) 1.66% Edinburgh North and Leith (LAB) 1.82%
18 Lincoln (CON) 1.16% Halifax (LAB) 1.69% St. Albans (CON) 2.19%
19 Brighton Pavilion (Green) 1.21% Newcastle-under-Lyme (LAB) 1.80% Newport East (LAB) 2.39%
20 Plymouth Sutton and Devonport (CON) 1.31% Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (LAB) 1.82% Weston-super-Mare (CON) 2.56%
21 Dewsbury (CON) 1.41% Wakefield (LAB) 1.82% Hereford and Herefordshire South (CON) 2.57%
22 Warrington South (CON) 1.42% St. Ives (LD) 1.87% Torridge and West Devon (CON) 2.68%
23 Brent Central (LD) 1.48% Plymouth Moor View (LAB) 1.91% Winchester (CON) 2.73%
24 Bedford (CON) 1.50% Gedling (LAB) 1.93% Northampton North (CON) 3.09%
25 Brighton Kemptown (CON) 1.56% Eltham (LAB) 1.98% South East Cornwall (CON) 3.25%
26 Pudsey (CON) 1.69% Walsall South (LAB) 2.15% Bristol North West (CON) 3.25%
27 Brentford and Isleworth (CON) 1.82% Nottingham South (LAB) 2.17% City of Durham (LAB) 3.32%
SNP targets Swing required Plaid Cymru targets Swing required
1 Ochil & Perthshire South (LAB) 5.14% Ynys Môn (LAB) 3.55%
Green Party targets Swing required Respect targets Swing required
1 Norwich South (LD) 7.20% Birmingham Hall Green (LAB) 3.9%
Sinn Féin targets Swing required SDLP targets Swing required DUP targets Swing required Alliance targets Swing required
1 Belfast North (DUP) 3.01% Newry and Armagh (SF) 9.3% Belfast East (Alliance) 2.22% Belfast South (SDLP) 15.00%

MPs standing downEdit

ConservativeEdit

  1. James Arbuthnot (North East Hampshire), announced 6 June 2011[83]
  2. Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury), announced 1 September 2014[84]
  3. Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle), announced 14 July 2014[85]
  4. Brian Binley (Northampton South), announced 22 July 2013[86]
  5. Aidan Burley (Cannock Chase), announced 5 February 2014[87]
  6. Dan Byles (North Warwickshire), announced 20 July 2014[88]
  7. James Clappison (Hertsmere), announced 3 July 2014[89]
  8. Stephen Dorrell (Charnwood), announced 25 November 2014 [90][91]
  9. Jonathan Evans (Cardiff North), announced 17 January 2013[92]
  10. Lorraine Fullbrook (South Ribble), announced 14 September 2013[93]
  11. William Hague (Richmond (Yorks)), announced 14 July 2014[94]
  12. Charles Hendry (Wealden), announced 1 March 2013[95]
  13. Mark Hoban (Fareham), announced 23 January 2015[96]
  14. Chris Kelly (Dudley South), announced 31 August 2014[97]
  15. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire), announced 15 July 2014[98]
  16. Jessica Lee (Erewash), announced 20 January 2014[99]
  17. Sir Peter Luff (Mid Worcestershire), announced 5 September 2012[100]
  18. Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton), announced 31 January 2014 [101] (deselected)
  19. Francis Maude (Horsham), announced 1 February 2015[102]
  20. Brooks Newmark (Braintree), announced 11 October 2014[103]
  21. Stephen O'Brien (Eddisbury), announced 9 March 2015[104]
  22. Sir Richard Ottaway (Croydon South), announced 28 May 2012[105]
  23. Sir Jim Paice (South East Cambridgeshire), announced 8 March 2013 [106]
  24. Sir John Randall (Uxbridge and South Ruislip), announced 10 July 2014 [107]
  25. Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Kensington), announced 24 February 2015[108]
  26. Andrew Robathan (South Leicestershire), announced 22 September 2014[109]
  27. Sir Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid Kent), announced 14 January 2015[110]
  28. David Ruffley (Bury St Edmunds), announced 28 July 2014[111]
  29. Laura Sandys (South Thanet), announced 25 November 2013[112]
  30. Sir Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills), announced 24 October 2014[113]
  31. Mark Simmonds (Boston and Skegness), announced 11 August 2014[114]
  32. Sir John Stanley (Tonbridge and Malling), announced 23 March 2012[115]
  33. Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle), announced 21 March 2014[116]
  34. Robert Walter (North Dorset), announced 5 December 2014[117]
  35. Mike Weatherley (Hove), announced 3 July 2014[89]
  36. David Willetts (Havant), announced 14 July 2014[118]
  37. Tim Yeo (South Suffolk), announced 3 February 2014[119] (deselected)
  38. Sir George Young (North West Hampshire), announced 29 November 2013[120]

LabourEdit

  1. Bob Ainsworth (Coventry North East), announced 7 December 2012.[121]
  2. Sir Hugh Bayley (York Central), announced 5 December 2014.[122]
  3. Joe Benton (Bootle), announced 12 June 2014.[123]
  4. Hazel Blears (Salford and Eccles), announced 20 February 2014.[124]
  5. David Blunkett (Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough), announced 21 June 2014[125]
  6. Gordon Brown (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) – announced 1 December 2014[126]
  7. Martin Caton (Gower), announced 11 March 2012.[127]
  8. Sir Tony Cunningham (Workington), announced 28 June 2014[128]
  9. Alistair Darling (Edinburgh South West), announced 2 November 2014[129]
  10. John Denham (Southampton Itchen), announced 7 October 2011[130]
  11. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St Pancras), announced 18 July 2014[131]
  12. Frank Doran (Aberdeen North), announced 19 October 2013[132]
  13. Hywel Francis (Aberavon), announced 22 November 2013[133]
  14. Peter Hain (Neath), announced 6 June 2014[134]
  15. David Hamilton (Midlothian), announced 24 January 2015[135]
  16. Dai Havard (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney), announced 24 September 2014[136]
  17. David Heyes (Ashton-under-Lyne), announced 1 March 2014[137]
  18. Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Kilburn), announced 23 June 2011[138]
  19. Siân James (Swansea East), announced 25 February 2014[139]
  20. Dame Tessa Jowell (Dulwich and West Norwood), announced 21 November 2013[140]
  21. Andy Love (Edmonton), announced 12 January 2015[141]
  22. Jim McGovern (Dundee West), announced 3 April 2015[142]
  23. Dame Anne McGuire (Stirling), announced 14 January 2014[143]
  24. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston), announced 10 December 2013[144]
  25. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby), announced 16 April 2014[145]
  26. George Mudie (Leeds East), announced 4 October 2013[146]
  27. Meg Munn (Sheffield Heeley), announced 25 January 2014[147]
  28. Paul Murphy (Torfaen), announced 30 January 2015[148]
  29. Dame Dawn Primarolo (Bristol South), announced 10 November 2011[149]
  30. Nick Raynsford (Greenwich and Woolwich), announced 22 March 2013[150]
  31. Linda Riordan (Halifax), announced 12 February 2015[151]
  32. Lindsay Roy (Glenrothes), announced 6 November 2013[152]
  33. Dame Joan Ruddock (Lewisham Deptford), announced 12 January 2013[153]
  34. Jack Straw (Blackburn), announced 25 October 2013 [154]
  35. Gerry Sutcliffe (Bradford South), announced 26 May 2013
  36. Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent North), announced 15 November 2013 [155]
  37. Dave Watts (St Helens North), announced 3 January 2015[156]
  38. Mike Wood (Batley and Spen), announced 28 February 2014[157]
  39. Shaun Woodward (St Helens South and Whiston), announced 7 November 2013[158]

Liberal DemocratsEdit

  1. Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed), announced 7 August 2013[159]
  2. Jeremy Browne (Taunton Deane), announced 15 October 2014[160]
  3. Annette Brooke (Mid Dorset and North Poole), announced 5 March 2013[161]
  4. Sir Malcolm Bruce (Gordon), announced 9 October 2013[162]
  5. Sir Menzies Campbell (North East Fife), announced 9 October 2013[163]
  6. Don Foster (Bath), announced 8 January 2014 [164]
  7. David Heath (Somerton and Frome), announced 11 October 2013[165]
  8. Sir Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove), announced on 29 September 2013[166]
  9. Ian Swales (Redcar), announced 11 July 2014[167]
  10. Sarah Teather (Brent Central), announced 7 September 2013[168]

Plaid CymruEdit

  1. Elfyn Llwyd (Dwyfor Meirionnydd), announced 19 October 2013[169]

Sinn FéinEdit

  1. Conor Murphy (Newry and Armagh), announced 21 October 2014[170]

IndependentEdit

  1. Eric Joyce (Falkirk), announced 2 March 2012 (elected as Labour)[171]

Television debatesEdit

The first series of televised leaders' debates in the United Kingdom were held in the previous election. After much debate and various proposals,[172][173] a seven-way debate with the leaders of Labour, the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, UKIP, Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru was held, with a series of related programmes.

Opinion pollingEdit

UK opinion polling 2010-2015.png


The chart shows the positions of the political parties from 13 May 2010 to the date of the last published opinion poll. Each line corresponds to a party: blue for the Conservatives, red for Labour, yellow for the Liberal Democrats, purple for UKIP, and green for the Greens. Although not shown, other parties such as the Scottish National Party have on occasion polled higher than one or more of the parties shown in the chart. Each dot represents a party's results in opinion polls; the lines are then created by a 15-day moving average.

Throughout the present parliament, first and second place have without exception alternated between the Conservatives and Labour. The Liberal Democrats and the UK Independence Party have tended to hold either third or fourth place in each individual poll. The combined Green parties consistently polled at least fifth and have on occasions polled fourth – level with or ahead of UKIP for a period in 2010, or more recently the Liberal Democrats.

Early in the parliament, there was a collapse in Liberal Democrat support,[174] which primarily went to the Labour party. In 2012 there was an increase in UKIP support,[175] largely from the Conservatives, meaning that Labour had a substantial polling lead.[176]

In 2013 the Labour lead over the Conservatives declined from around 10% to around 6%, and it then fell again to just under two points in 2014.[177] In 2014 there was a noticeable increase in Green support from around 2% to their highest levels of support since the late 1980s. UKIP support rose overall in 2014, particularly because of defections and by-elections.[177]

Particularly since the Scottish Independence Referendum, the Scottish National Party has gained substantial leads in Scotland.[177]

The UK's electoral system and its use of first-past-the-post means that there is no direct relationship between national vote share and seats won.[178] Thus parties like UKIP and the Greens are expected to underperform in seats won compared to the vote shares predicted by polling, while parties standing only in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are expected to do much better in seat terms than their overall vote share.

EndorsementsEdit

Seat predictionsEdit

The first-past-the-post system used in UK general elections means that the number of seats won is not closely related to vote share.[178] Thus, a number of approaches are used to convert polling data and other information into seat predictions. The table below lists a number of regularly updated predictions. ElectionForecast is being used by Newsnight and FiveThirtyEight. May2015.com is a project run by the New Statesman magazine.[179]

Such approaches may just use Great Britain polling, may look at polling in the different constituent nations or may additionally incorporate constituency level polling. Approaches may or may not use uniform national swing (UNS). Approaches may just use current polling, i.e. a 'nowcast' (e.g. Electoral Calculus, May2015.com and The Guardian), or add in a predictive element about how polling shifts based on historical data (e.g. ElectionForecast and Elections Etc.).[180] An alternative approach is to use the wisdom of the crowd and base a prediction on betting activity: the Sporting Index column below covers bets on the number of seats each party will win with the midpoint between asking and selling price, while FirstPastThePost.net aggregates the betting predictions in each individual constituency. Some predictions cover Northern Ireland, with its distinct political culture, while others do not. Parties are sorted by current number of seats in the House of Commons:

Party ElectionForecast[180][181]
(Newsnight Index)
as of 24 April 2015
Electoral Calculus[182]
as of 24 April 2015
Elections Etc[183]
as of 24 April 2015
The Guardian[184]
as of 24 April 2015
May2015.com[185]
as of 24 April 2015
Sporting Index[186]
as of 24 April 2015
First Past the Post[187]
as of 17 April 2015
Conservatives 286 282 286 273 270 283 276
Labour 267 280 263 268 273 270 279
Liberal Democrats 24 17 26 28 26 24 27
DUP 9 Included under Other GB forecast only Included under Other Included under Other No market 9
SNP 48 48 51 55 55 46 38
UKIP 1 1 4 4 3 4.5 6
SDLP 2 Included under Other GB forecast only Included under Other Included under Other No market 3
Plaid Cymru 4 3 3 Included under Other 3 3.6 3
Greens 1 1 1 1 1 1.15 1
Other Sinn Féin 5
UUP 1
Sylvia Hermon 1
Speaker 1
18 (including 18 NI seats) GB forecast only, but
does not sum to
632 due to rounding
21 (including 18 NI seats) 19 (including 18 NI seats
& Respect 1)
No market Sinn Féin 5
Hermon 1
Speaker 1
UUP 1
Respect 0.5
Overall result (probability) Hung Parliament (94%) Hung Parliament (82%) Hung Parliament (92%) Hung Parliament Hung Parliament Hung Parliament Hung Parliament

Other predictions have been published.[188] An election forecasting conference on 27 March 2015 yielded 11 forecasts of the result in Great Britain (including some included in the table above).[189] Averaging these predictions gives Labour 283 seats, Conservatives 279, Liberal Democrats 23, UKIP 3, SNP 41, Plaid Cymru 3 and Greens 1.[190] In that situation, no two parties (excluding a Lab-Con coalition) would be able to form a majority without the support of a third.

LucidTalk for the Belfast Telegraph have a monthly prediction, incorporating some dedicated polling, of the result in Northern Ireland. Latest prediction: DUP 9, SF 5, SDLP 3, Lady Hermon 1, with the only seat changing hands being the DUP gaining Belfast East from Alliance.[191]

Pacts and possible coalitionsEdit

With the United Kingdom electoral system, coalitions have been rare as one party has usually won an overall majority in the Commons. However, with the current Government being a coalition and with opinion polls not showing a large or consistent lead for any one party, there has been much discussion about possible post-election coalitions or other arrangements.[192] The run-up to the general election has been marked by a rise in multi-party politics, with increased support for UKIP, the SNP and the Greens. That, coupled with the two main parties, Conservative and Labour having similar levels of support, has led to discussion of another hung parliament and what government would then be formed.[26] Because of the first past the post electoral system, the number of seats won by parties can be very different from their vote share, complicating predictions.[193][194]

Pre-election pactsEdit

Some UK political parties that only stand in part of the country have reciprocal relationships with parties standing in other parts of the country. These include:

  • Labour (in Great Britain) and SDLP (in Northern Ireland)
  • Liberal Democrats (in Great Britain) and Alliance (in Northern Ireland)
  • SNP (in Scotland) and Plaid Cymru (in Wales)
    • Plaid Cymru have also recommended supporters in England vote Green,[195] while SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has said she would vote for Plaid Cymru were she in Wales, and Green were she in England.[196]
  • Green Party of England and Wales (in England and Wales), Scottish Greens (in Scotland) and the Green Party in Northern Ireland (in Northern Ireland)

On 17 March 2015, after six months of discussion, the Democratic Unionists and Ulster Unionists agreed an election pact whereby the DUP will not stand candidates in Fermanagh and South Tyrone (where a joint unionist candidate just lost to Sinn Féin in the most marginal result in the UK in 2010) and Newry and Armagh (where the UUP and DUP were third and fourth respectively in 2010). In return, the UUP will stand aside in Belfast East (which the DUP lost to the Alliance in 2010) and Belfast North (DUP hold in 2010). Of these four seats, Belfast East elected Naomi Long (the Alliance Party's sole MP), Belfast North is held by the DUP, and the other two elected Sinn Féin MPs in 2010. The Unionist parties were unable to agree on a pact for the SDLP-held Belfast South constituency.[197] The election pact between the two largest Unionist parties may be advantageous to both parties: the UUP lost their last constituency in 2010, whilst a ninth seat for the DUP would further strengthen their position as the dominant political force in Northern Ireland.

The SDLP rejected a similar pact suggested by Sinn Féin, citing that they believe election pacts to be 'clinging to the past',[198][199] and rejected the proposal again when it was repeated after the announcement of the UUP/DUP agreement.[200]

Party positionsEdit

The Conservatives and Labour both say that they are aiming to achieve an overall majority of seats, rendering a coalition unnecessary. The Conservatives have largely refused to discuss possible coalition scenarios.[201] Labour and the Conservatives are also reported to be preparing for the possibility of a second election in the year.[202]

If neither of them achieves an overall majority, the Liberal Democrats have said that they will talk first to whichever party wins the most seats.[203] Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, also said that he would "find it very difficult to imagine the circumstances" in which the Lib Dems and UKIP would sit together in Cabinet.[204] The Liberal Democrats also said they would not be involved in a coalition with the SNP. On 24 April 2015, Clegg said he ruled out "any arrangements" with UKIP or the SNP. He continued: "I would never recommend to the Liberal Democrats that we help establish a government which is basically on a life support system, where Alex Salmond could pull the plug any time he wants."[205][206]

Labour have ruled out a coalition with the SNP, but not a less formal arrangement.[207] Labour have also ruled out a coalition with Plaid Cymru.[208] The Conservatives previously ruled out a coalition with the SNP,[209] while the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, Vince Cable, also said that the Liberal Democrats will not enter a coalition with the SNP.[210]

Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, asked about a deal with UKIP in the Scottish leaders' debate, replied, "No deals with UKIP." She continued that her preference and the Prime Minister's preference in a hung Parliament is for a minority Conservative government.[211]

The Green Party of England & Wales, Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party have all ruled out working with the Conservatives, and have agreed to work together "wherever possible" to counter austerity.[212][213][214] Each would also make it a condition of any agreement with Labour that Trident nuclear weapons are not replaced; the Green Party of England and Wales have stated that 'austerity is a red line.'[215] The SNP have actively campaigned on a position that they could hold the balance of power and would use this influence to ensure greater devolution for Scotland, as was promised in the referendum campaign. The SNP have said they "are prepared to work with Labour and the Liberal Democrats."[209] The SNP have said a formal coalition with Labour is "highly unlikely" (in the words of party leader Nicola Sturgeon),[216] but have left open the possibility of more informal support.[217] In the Scottish leaders' debate on STV on 7 April, pressed on the point by the Scottish Labour leader, Sturgeon said, "I don't want David Cameron to be prime minister, I'm offering to help make Ed Miliband prime minister."[218] The SNP manifesto says:

"The SNP will never put the Tories into power.
"Instead, if there is an anti-Tory majority after the election, we will offer to work with other parties to keep the Tories out."[219]

Plaid Cymru also prefer a confidence and supply arrangement with Labour.[220] The Green Party of England and Wales have also ruled out joining any coalition,[215] even though a Labour/SNP/Green coalition was the outcome in the event of a hung parliament that attracted most support among the general public in an ICM opinion poll.[221]

UKIP say they could support any government that offered a referendum on EU membership[222] through a confidence and supply arrangement, but have ruled out joining a formal coalition.[223] UKIP leader, Nigel Farage subsequently said he would support a minority Conservative government through a confidence and supply arrangement in return for a referendum before Christmas 2015. He also spoke of the DUP joining UKIP in this arrangement.[224] UKIP and DUP have said they will work together in Parliament.[225] In the 16 April opposition leaders' debate, Farage said UKIP "could have worked with" Labour had they offered a referendum on the EU, but that Labour had "turned their backs" on the idea.[226]

The DUP have welcomed the possibility of a hung Parliament and the influence that this would bring them.[202] The party's deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, has said that the party could work with the Conservatives or Labour, but that the party is "not interested in a full-blown coalition government".[227] Their leader, Peter Robinson, has said that the DUP will talk first to whichever party wins the most seats.[228] In March 2015, Peter Robinson said, "We are one of those parties that has not determined that we will only speak to one party."[229] The DUP have said they want, for their support, a commitment to 2% defence spending, a referendum on EU membership, and a reversal of the under-occupation penalty. They oppose the SNP being involved in government.[230][231] The UUP have also indicated that they would not work with the SNP if it wanted another independence referendum in Scotland.[232]

The leader of the SDLP, Alasdair McDonnell, has said, "We will be the left-of-centre backbone of a Labour administration", and that, "the SDLP will categorically refuse to support David Cameron and the Conservative Party".[229] Sinn Féin have reiterated their abstentionist stance.[202]

Media speculationEdit

The most likely outcomes of the election have been described in the media as: a Labour majority, a Labour/SNP informal relationship, Labour/Liberal Democrats/SNP power-sharing, a Labour/Liberal Democrats coalition, a Conservative/Liberal Democrats coalition, or a Conservative majority, but with the possible involvement of one or some of the smaller parties (SDLP, Green, Plaid Cymru, DUP and UKIP) as well.[229] With Sinn Féin abstaining from Parliament, 323 seats are needed for a majority (presuming Sinn Féin have 5 seats, holding the ultra-marginal of Fermanagh and South Tyrone). Labour are seen as having more potential support in Parliament than the Conservatives. The SDLP will support Labour; the independent MP Lady Hermon is expected to support the formation of a Labour government; and Respect, if elected, will not support a Conservative government. The SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens have all said they will not support the Conservatives.[233] That leaves fewer parties who might support either of the biggest two parties.

There have been discussions and debates about whether the Liberal Democrats would continue in coalition with the Conservatives, or enter a new Lib–Lab pact. Some commentators[234] suggest that the election result might mean that the Liberal Democrats could not form a majority two-party coalition with either Labour or Conservatives, and that the Liberal Democrats may prefer not to be in a coalition anyway.[202]

The most likely right-of-centre coalition of three parties is seen as being the Conservatives, the UK Independence Party and the Democratic Unionist Party, although a Conservative minister, Rob Wilson, suggested that a second General Election would be more likely than a three-party coalition. An agreement of some description between the Conservatives and the DUP without UKIP would be less controversial and easier to negotiate.[235] The possibility of a Conservative/LibDem/DUP coalition has also been mooted in the media. Likely arrangements on the left of centre would see Labour supported by the SNP, the Liberal Democrats or both. Various smaller parties (Green, Plaid Cymru, SDLP) could also support therm.[236]

There has also been discussion of the possibility of a Conservative-Labour coalition,[237][238] although this is seen as unlikely.[239][240]

TimetableEdit

Counting of the votes is expected to be finished on 8 May 2015. Parliament is due to sit again on 18 May and will begin by electing or re-electing the Speaker. The Queen's Speech and State Opening are due on 27 May.[2] After a few days of debate, there will be a vote on the Queen's Speech, which is generally regarded as a test of whether the new government formed can stay in office (although it does not constitute an explicit vote of no confidence under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act).[241]

The UK has an unordered government formation process: that is, the parties can negotiate with each other as they wish. The incumbent ministerial team remain in office until a new government is formed, but are expected not to take any major decisions.[228]

See alsoEdit

FootnotesEdit

  1. ^ After nominations closed, the Labour candidate in Banff and Buchan, Sumon Hoque, was suspended from the Labour Party when he was charged with multiple driving offences.
  2. ^ As compared to the 2010 general election result, not the 2011 by-election result.

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External linksEdit

Polls and forecastsEdit

News sitesEdit

ManifestosEdit

Boundary CommissionsEdit