Spotlight: General Election 2015

Prime Minister David Cameron speaking outside Number 10 Downing Street on 8 May 2015. Photo by: Cabinet Office

Prime Minister David Cameron speaking outside Number 10 Downing Street on 8 May 2015. Photo by: Cabinet Office

A week on from the general election and almost everything that the bookies and the pollsters had predicted has been proven wrong. No one expected us to wake up on Friday morning with a Conservative Majority Government – as students this came as a shock to most.

The results were surprising: right up to the election day the polls showed the two major political parties (Conservatives and Labour) neck and neck, and a coalition was thought to be almost certain. Of course, ‘almost’ being the operative word. The Conservatives ended the elections with 331 seats, gaining 6 more seats than the 50% mark. Labour experienced crushing defeats in Scotland and lost ground across the UK, they lost constituencies and finished with 232 seats. The SNP were the primary profiteers from the Labour loss North of the border, as they bagged 56 of the 59 Scottish seats – unseating Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander and the Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy in the process. The Lib Dems were decimated and were left with just 8 MPs. The Greens remained with 1 seat, that of Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion. Nigel Farage’s Ukip lost one seat and kept just the one: Douglas Carswell’s seat for Clacton.

The interest in this election is not only extending from the rather surprising Conservative majority but rather with what happens next. Friday saw the resignation of three party leaders – Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and Nigel Farage. For two of these parties, the next thing is to elect a new leader and work out where they went wrong – in Ukip’s case the party decided to reject Mr Farage’s resignation.

In terms of what happens now, well, the Conservatives have a majority, albeit a slim one, with which to govern. However, the worry is that this election signified the beginning of the end for the Union. Each of the four nations within the UK have a different largest party – the SNP in Scotland, Labour in Wales, the DUP in Northern Ireland and the Conservatives in England. This would not be a major problem was it not for the fear of the SNP.

The Scottish National Party has sparked fears of another Scottish Referendum should Nicola Sturgeon not be able to get what she wants from Westminster. Ms Sturgeon has not clearly ruled out the pledge for another referendum and that in itself is telling – fears remain of yet another tumultuous road to voting for Scottish Independence. With 56 MPs in the House of Commons, the SNP has more power in Westminster than ever before, perhaps to the detriment of the future of the Union. She has already mentioned that if an overall majority in the UK votes to withdraw from the EU in the referendum David Cameron has promised, but Scotland votes to stay in, then her party will seriously think about another independence bid.

With Cameron back in No. 10, change is in the air. The Tory Party has long been known as the party of the rich; the fear is that with more austerity and cuts to the welfare budget, the gap between the rich and the poor will grow ever wider. It is true that the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition allowed for more employment but I am not sure whether that is enough to sustain equality.

It is likely that Cameron will have to take a harder-lined stance against immigration and the EU now that he has a majority. Many Conservative backbenchers and the 1922 Committee have a hard-line stance on the EU and immigration, with a greater precedent now they have a majority, the fear is that Euroscepticism may lead to a break from the European Union. The idea of an EU referendum is quite likely to take place in this government, the question is do people resent immigration enough to overlook the trade benefits the EU has for the UK?

We are only a week into this government and already speculating about what it will bring. We know for sure who is going to be in the Cabinet and the prime suspects are raring to go: the return of Osborne, May, Hammond and, of course, Cameron sets the tone for this new government. I am hard pressed to give any firm indications of what may happen with a Conservative majority, and even more reticent to speculate what the role of the SNP may be.

But one thing is for sure: we are in for an interesting 5 years, even if it isn’t the end of an era for the Union.


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