David Cameron is to remain as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom following the Conservative’s majority of 331 seats. The results of the United Kingdom’s May 7th General Election had been expected by few. The majority of polls, throughout the campaign, had Conservative and Labour almost level which may have required a coalition government. Although, the morning of Friday May 8th brought the news that the Conservative party had managed to gain a majority of the seats in the House of Commons. The victory for the Conservative party might show the pedestal on which the United Kingdom places topics regarding economic stability.
The 331 seats belonging to the Conservative party is a gain of 24 from the 2010 General Election which saw them form a coalition government. The Labour party saw a reduction of 26 seats from 2010, bringing their total to 232 predominantly due to a large rise in support of the Scottish National Party (SNP). The SNP transformed their share of seats in Westminster gaining 50 seats which takes their total to 56, making them the third largest party in the House of Commons. The Liberal Democrats, challenged due to their reputation regarding the rise in tuition fees, saw a reduction of 49 seats in the election, taking their total to 8 members of parliament.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), representing parts of Northern Ireland, managed to hold its 8 seats whilst Sinn Fein, a party seeking Northern Irish independence, was reduced by 1 seat to 3. Plaid Cymru, a Welsh party, and the Social Democratic Labour Party (SDLP), an Irish nationalist party, both maintained their 3 members of parliament. The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) gained 2 seats to be represented in parliament whilst the United Kingdom’s Independence Party (UKIP) and the Green Party both possess a seat each. The final seat saw an Independent candidate hold onto the North Down seat in Northern Ireland.
The SNP’s gaining representation for the majority of Scotland, a historically strong area for Labour, changes the make-up of Westminster. Given last year’s Independence Referendum, the SNP appears to have carried its momentum onto the General Election. In future elections, Labour may look to shift its focus to other areas of the United Kingdom following the changing situation in Scotland. The SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon, said of the results and how they may affect Scotland, “our voice will be heard. Our interests will be protected.”
Due to their election performances there is to be new leadership for two of the traditionally established parties. Labour and the Liberal Democrats both announced leadership changes despite Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg both continuing on as MPs. Following the election it appears as though both parties may be looking to change their image by selecting new candidates. The selection of new leaders might be seen by these parties as an important opportunity to improve their image and indicate the party’s future direction to the electorate.
The possibility of a change in the electoral system appears to be gaining traction with some political leaders. Electoral reform is an ongoing topic in the United Kingdom and this may be expected to continue following the election. In the United Kingdom the emphasis is placed on the amount of seats won rather than the total amount of votes gained. The most effective examples of this might be UKIP and the Green Party, who gained 12.6% and 3.8% of the total vote respectively which equated to a single seat each. On the other hand, the SNP, whom are the third largest Westminster party with 56 seats, gained 4.7% of the total UK-wide vote. Electoral reform may be increasingly debated due to the rise in support of a diverse range of parties.
The possibility of a change in the voting system may be a continued theme throughout the coming parliament and may be the next defining topic facing UK politics. Currently, the Conservative party might look to protect the economic recovery on which they campaigned on. Equally, the reshuffling of traditional support bases might shift the direction of the opposition parties and shape their message to the electorate.
How might the election productively change the face of British politics?