Saturday, May 9, 2015

David Cameron is to continue being Prime Minister of the UK after his Conservative Party won a majority of seats in a general election on Thursday. Although the party led a Coalition government it formed alongside the Liberal Democrats after the previous general election in 2010, this is the first time the party has won an overall majority since 1992.

Our manifesto is a manifesto for working people and as a majority government, we will be able to deliver all of it. Indeed, it is the reason why I think majority government is more accountable

Across the UK, Conservatives won 331 seats out of the 650 available, an increase of 24 on their 2010 total. The Labour Party, which won 258 seats in 2010, now has 232. The Liberal Democrats experienced the heaviest number of seat losses, dropping from 57 to eight. Amongst the Liberal Democrat figures to lose seats were David Laws, Charles Kennedy, Simon Hughes, Jo Swinson, Lynne Featherstone and Jenny Willott. Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg said while “fear and grievance have won, liberalism has lost”.

Although UKIP and the Greens each only won one seat, their national vote share increased by 9.5% to 12.6% and by 2.8% to 3.8%, respectively; this compares to 7.9% for the Liberal Democrats, 30.4% for Labour and 36.9% for Conservatives. Statistics reported by the BBC suggest the voting turnout was 66.1%, based on an electorate of approximately 46.4 million.

The bulk of Conservative seat increases occurred in England, where their seat total increased by 21 to 319 out of a possible 533. Labour’s seat count here increased by 15 to 206, while the Liberal Democrats dropped from 43 seats to six. The final results defied opinion polls, which had broadly suggested Labour and Conservatives were tied for the lead. An independent inquiry is set to be conducted into opinion polling accuracy in the UK, given they had appeared to underestimate the Conservatives’ success and/or overestimate Labour’s results.

“I truly believe we are on the brink of something special in our country”, David Cameron said in a speech yesterday. “We can make Britain a place where a good life is in reach for everyone who is willing to work and do the right thing. Our manifesto is a manifesto for working people and as a majority government, we will be able to deliver all of it. Indeed, it is the reason why I think majority government is more accountable.” In highlighting what a Conservative government would set out to achieve, he said it would include “Three million apprenticeships, more help with childcare, helping 30 million people cope with the cost of living by cutting their taxes, building homes that people are able to buy and own, creating millions more jobs that give people the chance of a better future and yes, we will deliver that in-out referendum on our future in Europe.” He went on to talk about new powers the UK Government had and would devolve to regional administrations in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. For the latter, he said, “our plans are to create the strongest devolved government anywhere in the world with important powers over taxation.”

In Scotland, the Scottish National Party (SNP) made the largest gains of any party in the UK, increasing from six seats to 56 seats out of a possible 59, the highest number they have ever had, based on a Scotland vote share of approximately 50%. The number of constituencies held by Labour and Liberal Democrats there decreased from 41 and 11, respectively, to one for each of them, with the Conservatives staying at one seat. SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, who said this result had surpassed her expectations, said “the tectonic plates of Scottish politics [have] shifted”. Sturgeon also stated that the SNP would “work with others across the UK, to try to get more progressive politics at the heart of Westminster”. One seat, Glasgow North East, experienced a record swing of 39% from Labour to the SNP. On top of that, 20-year-old student and SNP candidate Mhairi Black became the youngest MP to be elected in the UK since 1667.

In Wales, Conservatives went up from eight to eleven of a possible 40 seats. Labour achieved 25, down one from 2010; the Liberal Democrats went down two to one seat and Plaid Cymru remained at three seats. In Northern Ireland, most of the 18 constituencies did not change hands. However, Sinn Féin went down one to four seats, while the Alliance Party lost their one seat. The Ulster Unionist Party, who did not win any seats in the last general election, won two seats this time.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls was one of the high profile losses for Labour, having lost his seat to the Conservatives by a narrow 422-vote margin. Numerous Liberal Democrats who were previously government ministers, including Ed Davey, Vince Cable and Danny Alexander, all lost their seats. In the wake of the results, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage all announced they would resign from their roles as the leaders of Labour, Liberal Democrats and UKIP, respectively. Farage had said he would stand down as leader if he did not win the seat of Thanet South, which he did not, but said yesterday he was considering whether or not to stand in a leadership election for the party later this year. Clegg described the situation for his party as “a very dark hour for our party”. He blamed the large loss of Liberal Democrat MPs on “forces beyond their control”, describing the situation as “simply heartbreaking”. Meanwhile, Miliband said “I have done my best for nearly five years” and that “Britain needs a Labour Party that can rebuild after this defeat”. Harriet Harman — the current deputy leader — is to serve as interim leader until a new Labour leader is selected. Harman also intends to resign the deputy leadership.

Tom Watson, Labour MP for West Bromwich East, said he is considering running for Labour deputy leader. “I’ve always thought that the deputy leader role is the campaigning role”, he said. “We’ve got a mayoral election in Tower Hamlets to fight in six weeks’ time. Who knows, we might even have a by-election for London mayor. So this party has got to keep campaigning whilst we try and understand what’s gone on in the general election.”

Meanwhile, Cameron has begun to appoint members of his new cabinet, announcing George Osborne, Theresa May, Philip Hammond and Michael Fallon are to retain their posts as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary, respectively.

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David Cameron, Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister. Image: Land of Hope and Glory.

Ed Miliband, outgoing Labour Party leader. Image: Department of Energy.

Nick Clegg, outgoing Liberal Democrats leader. Image: World Economic Forum.

Nigel Farage, outgoing UKIP leader. Image: Nigel Farage.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish National Party leader and Scottish First Minister. Image: Scottish Government.