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The Big Picture – UK Elections: How did Tories surprise all?

The Big Picture – UK Elections: How did Tories surprise all?

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Summary:

Going against opinion of all pollsters and the general sentiment, elections in the United Kingdom has thrown up a huge surprise with Prime Minister David Cameron led party winning a majority in the 635 member House of Commons. The prediction was that there would be a dead heat between the conservative party and labour party and Scottish party would play a key role in government formation. However, the conservative party won with huge majority and it did not need any other party’s support to form the government. The virtual wipe out of Liberal Democrats who were part of the alliance government and poor showing of labour in Scotland are also some of the highlights.

Widespread predictions of a close contest with the centre-left Labour opposition proved to be wrong, as Cameron won 331 out of 650 parliamentary seats and a new term as head of a majority centre-right Conservative government. The victory was however focused on England. In Scotland, the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) won a historic landslide, just seven months after losing a referendum on breaking away from the rest of the United Kingdom. The leaders of Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) all stepped down over their parties’ electoral drubbing.

Every poll had put Britain’s Labour and Conservative parties virtually neck and neck and most commentators had forecast a hung parliament, in which no party has an overall majority. However, the ruling Conservatives outpolled Labour by 6.5% points, winning more seats than when they were first voted into office five years ago. The Conservatives won 36.9% of the national vote, against Labour’s 30.4%. Labour’s most dramatic losses are in Scotland, previously a Labour stronghold, where 56 of the 59 seats are won by an insurgent Scottish National Party (SNP).

Now the conservative party is going to have to deliver on some big promises that it made to the electorate. In his promises, Cameron had given a guarantee to hold an in-out referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union before 2018. However, many businessmen in Britain feel that an exit could disrupt trade with the Continent and isolate the UK. And European leaders aren’t interested in renegotiating on what they see as the fundamental principles of the union. The Conservative’s another key policy statement was to make the UK the “technology centre of Europe”. But for the UK to develop any sort of dominance over the technology sector will require intelligent engagement with Europe and EU policy, such as the proposed Single Digital Market.

The greatest economic challenges facing the government will include issues that were not even discussed during the election campaign. Oil prices have started going up again, a development that will hit economic growth in the UK and undo some of the boost from lower prices. However, the great tragedy of this election campaign was the shallow nature of the economic debate. There was much rowing about tax and spend, but very little about other, equally vital issues.