18 April 2015

A Game of Votes: The Lowdown on the United Kingdom's May Election

April 16, 2015 

The United Kingdom goes to the polls on May 7, 2015. Opinion polls indicate that neither of the country's two major parties, the Conservatives (also called Tories) and the Labour Party, is likely to command an outright majority. Complicating matters, the Tories' coalition partner in the last government, the center-left Liberal-Democrats, are trailing in the polls, fourth place behind the anti-immigration United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). In the north, the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) appear on the verge of obliterating Labour and capturing a clear majority of Scottish seats.

The UK 2015 elections are exceedingly messy, the outcome very uncertain and the consequences could lead to greater political instability in the country having the “mother of all parliaments.” British historian Simon Jenkins in hisA Short History of England (2011) warned "...the asymmetric nature of the Westminster parliament, with England's government in partial thrall to MPs from the semi-autonomous Celtic fringe, cannot be sustainable in the long term." Indeed, the 2015 election could be dubbed the “Revenge of the Celtic fringe,” since what happens in Scotland and, to a lesser extent, in Wales and Northern Ireland will be critical to the shape of the British nation.

On the surface, the "big" election issues are the economy, income inequality (which touches upon the issue of better management of the National Health Service, or NHS) and immigration. The UK is currently enjoying moderate economic growth, and inflation is under control. However, the sharp economic downturn in 2008-2009 made income inequality painfully more evident.

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