The British General Election 2015 I: Five Points of Background

Is there anything special to the upcoming general elections?

1. The Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 (as amended Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013) has always provided a certain date for the election: Thursday, 7th May 2015. Described as a “true first” by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the Act overstepped the prerogative of the monarch (exercised usually on advice of the prime minister). Why special? It is different to a campaign to a deadline, rather than have  a (relatively) short campaign period. It will be interesting to see whether the Liberal Democrats, whose campaign for the 2010 election was very strong, and UKIP, who are a populsit party, can use this to their advantage.

2. The 2010 election was the first that gave no party an overall majority since 1974, and the first that resulted in a coalition government since the Second World War. This has forced the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives to tread the fine line between effective government (i.e. co-operation) and making sure that they remain distinct (i.e. identity). Consequently, the tone the two parties will strike during the campaign, with regards, to

3. What are the primary battle grounds? First is the question of austerity. Labour, Conservatives, and UKIP have all come out pro-austerity. The question therefore, is whether this will have the effect of permitting a surge in perviously (almost) unheard  of parties? Secondly, the question of Europe. The fear of the Brussels diktat, amplified by sensationalist press has pushed the European Question into second place in terms of priority.  There is more to differentiate the parties here; UKIP wish to revoke membership, the Tories want to hold a referendum, Labour have been a key player in EU reform on the basis of their past history, whilst the Lib Dems are the most pro-EU leaning party.

4. The welfare state is perhaps the most visual of the areas traditionally discussed (defence, education, taxation, environment) in an era of capitalism and increasing need to be competitive, many have questioned the appropriateness of having a welfare State. It is worth noting that America, the world’s largest economy, is not a welfare State. At first it seems that the trade off is sacrificing people’s quality of life for economic gain. Yet it is a credibly argument to note that people’s quality of life will increase where there are more jobs, increased minimum pay, etc. Thus if economic growth occurs, then one may also receive the benefits associated with a top-down, State driven, welfare State. The Liberal Democrats have made health one of their five  manifesto concerns and it will be interesting to see how this will resonate with a growing majority (young people and the middle-aged) who have job seeking as their primary interest.

5. What is the state of the UK? The headline news, given by PwC at the close of 2014 was that the recovery would continue into 2015, although there might be a slower rate of growth. A slow down in output has reduced expectations of GDP; this, coupled with the decrease of oil prices, has led to an expectation of deflation. Low interest rates have permitted mortgages to be given at a lower level than ever before, but this has been at the cost of interest on isas and other savings mechanisms. Unemployment continues to fall.

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