By Jayne Lutwyche:
For decades, the UK’s parliamentary system was dominated by two parties; left-of-centre Labour and the right-of-centre Conservatives. In 2010 that all changed when neither party managed to get enough seats to form an overall majority and a coalition between the Conservatives and the third party, the centre-straddling Liberal Democrats was formed.
Fast forward to 2015 and we’re looking at an even tighter race. The Lib Dems are likely to take a bashing for their part in supporting some unpopular coalition policies like a rise in tuition fees for students and the spare room subsidy (dubbed the bedroom tax).
A referendum on Scottish independence in 2014 has seen a rise in support for nationalist parties – especially the Scottish Nationalist Party (the SNP) in Scotland. The SNP look likely to win over a lot of Labour’s support in Scotland with polls projecting they’ll over take the Lib Dems to become the third biggest party in Westminster. You also have the rise of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). They swept the board in the European elections to come out at the top. Eurosceptical and anti-immigration, they’re to the right of the Conservatives. They’ve successfully taken support away from Labour and Conservatives as well as absorbing some of the protest vote which used to go to the Euro-centric Lib Dems.
There are other parties to take into consideration, there’s a whole suite of parties who only stand in Northern Ireland – like Sinn Fein (pro Northern Ireland joining with the Republic of Ireland) and the Democratic Unionist Party (pro Northern Ireland remaining in the UK). In Wales there’s Plaid Cymru. Across the UK there is also the Greens, who currently only have one MP. They’re environmentally conscientious and left of Labour in most of their policies.
With the polls, Britain has become a nation obsessed with polls in 2015, predicting no overall majority for Labour or the Conservatives it’s the smaller parties who may hold the balance of power after polls close today at 22:00 (BST).
Despite polls suggesting UKIP will get over 14% of the vote, their support is spread across constituencies and it’s predicted they’ll only succeed in winning a handful of seats. SNP are projected to get anywhere between 20 and 45 seats depending on the poll. The Lib Dems are predicted to lose over half their seats and only come away with around 20 MPs. Labour and the Conservatives are tied with pollsters saying they’ll get between 270 and 280 seats each (short of the 326 needed for an overall majority).
What is clear is that politics in the UK has changed. While there was a resounding no for support of a different voting system in 2011 (the UK was asked whether it would like to change to alternative vote instead of first-past-the-post) the rise of smaller parties in 2015 means that a change in how Britain elects its MPs may happen sooner rather than later.