Checking In On The UK General Election
General election time in the U.K. is always exciting, but so far this time around, the races have been particularly polarizing. Throughout 2015, neither the Conservative Party (also commonly referred to as the Tories) nor the Labour Party has managed to gain a significant advantage. Smaller parties, while operating without hope of securing a majority in Parliament, have made themselves heard. All of this has produced an especially compelling political race, and here’s what you need to know to follow it the rest of the way.
For starters, both major parties made headlines in the past week when their respective leaders released manifestos outlining their key goals and aspirations. Judging by The Telegraph’s at-a-glance look at the manifesto from Tory leader and current Prime Minister David Cameron, the Conservative Party’s approach is based largely on reaching out to working-class voters. As the article puts it, it’s a move to “shed their image as the ‘party of the rich.'” This approach includes an aim to lower or eliminate income tax for minimum wage workers, goals to produce significant numbers of new houses, jobs, and apprenticeships, and even the creation of 500 new schools without tuition. There are other highlights as well, in defense, immigration, and foreign policy. However, as often happens in political elections, the party appears poised to foc
us primarily on domestic and economic policy during the home stretch.
Meanwhile, The Telegraph produced a similar look at the Labour Party’s manifesto, presented by Ed Miliband and also geared largely toward domestic and economic policy. Overall, it does seem as if the Labour Party’s manifesto focuses more on the economy at the national level. There are plans to introduce a budget that cuts the national deficit every year while creating “a surplus on the current budget as soon as possible.” These goals were criticized as being somewhat vague, though they are appealing to those concerned with the economic direction of the country as a whole.
So, which manifesto is resonating better with voters? At this point, it’s quite difficult to say. On Monday, Betfair political analyst Max Liu posted a sort of summary of various predictions that laid out the odds of success for each party and painted a pretty mixed picture overall. The key statistic within the article is that the Conservatives are currently 1.59 favourites to win the most seats come election day. However, perhaps just as significantly, Labour leader Ed Miliband is viewed as a 1.94 favourite to win the Prime Minister’s seat and take up residence at Downing Street. Perhaps the best way to take the projections at this stage is that neither party appears poised to take total control of British government. It may be that one party gains the most seats while the other has the Prime Minister; or, it may be that whichever major party “wins” still won’t have an overall majority in the House of Commons (that requires 326 seats).
If that last point—the winning party not gaining an overall majority—sounds a little bit strange, it can best be understood by looking at a projection model supplied by U.S. sports and political analysis site FiveThirtyEight. Known for incredibly accurate predictions in U.S. elections, FiveThirtyEight has been covering the U.K. general election as well. Going by their current predictions, it looks as if gains by the SNP (the Scottish National Party) may be largely to blame for there not being enough seats for a Conservative or Labour majority. The prediction sees the SNP bouncing from six to 42 seats, making it potentially the third-largest political party in the U.K.
Ultimately, the race should be fascinating to watch from now until May 7. With the two major parties locked neck-and-neck, and the SNP unexpectedly rising to become a formidable force in the elections, the next few weeks should amount to a frenzied power struggle with serious implications for the direction of the UK government.