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The United Kingdom General Election of 2015 will be the election to the 56th Parliament of the United Kingdom. The terms of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 mandate dissolution of the parliament on 30 March 2015 and that the election will be held on 7 May 2015, unless Parliament itself orders an earlier date. There are local elections scheduled to take place on the same day across most of England, with the notable exception of London. There are no additional elections scheduled to take place in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, apart from any forthcoming local by-elections.
In the general election, voting will take place in all parliamentary constituencies of the United Kingdom to elect Members of Parliament (MPs) to seats in the House of Commons, the lower house of the Parliament.
This will be the 55th general election for the United Kingdom since 1801 (earlier elections took place for parliaments in Great Britain and Ireland), though the resultant Parliament will be the 56th, as the first Parliament came about after the co-option of members from the Parliament of Great Britain and the Parliament of Ireland.
Although the government initially planned the number of parliamentary seats to be reduced from 650 to 600, through the Sixth Periodic Review of Westminster constituencies under the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011, this change was dropped during the Bill's passage through Parliament. The next boundary review is now set to take place in 2018 meaning that the next general election must be contested using the same constituencies and boundaries as in 2010.
In addition, the Act mandated a referendum in 2011 on changing from the current 'first past the post' system system to an Alternative Vote system for elections to the Commons. The Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition agreement committed the coalition government to such a referendum. The referendum was held in May 2011 and resulted in the retention of the existing voting system.
Before the previous general election the Liberal Democrats had pledged to change the voting system, and the Labour Party pledged to have a referendum about any such change. The Conservatives, however, promised to keep the first past the post system, but to reduce the number of constituencies by 10%. Liberal Democrat plans were to reduce the number of MPs to 500 elected using a proportional system.
Each parliamentary constituency of the United Kingdom elects one MP to the House of Commons using the 'first past the post' system. If one party were to obtain a majority of seats, then that party would be entitled to form the Government. If the election results in no single party having a majority, then there is a hung parliament. In this case, the options for forming the Government are either a coalition government or a minority government.
If Scotland votes to leave the United Kingdom in the independence referendum on 18 September 2014, it is expected that a 2015 General Election would still include Scotland, but the status and role of MPs elected in Scotland would be unclear. There are 59 Scottish MPs, so if the election does not take place in Scotland, or if the Scottish MPs do not take their seats, the number of seats would reduce from 650 to 591.
An election is called following the dissolution of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The power to dissolve Parliament has been a Royal Prerogative, exercised by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Sovereign has not refused a request for dissolution since the beginning of the 20th century; the guidelines under which this might theoretically occur are known as the Lascelles Principles after the King's private secretary who set them out. As a result, incumbent Prime Ministers have often chosen to call a general election at a time when they believed they enjoyed a temporary tactical advantage.
Under the provisions of the Septennial Act 1715, as amended by the Parliament Act 1911, an election had to be announced on or before the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the previous parliament, barring exceptional circumstances. Since the enactment of the 1715 Act, Parliament has never been allowed to expire. The previous general election, held on 6 May 2010, elected MPs to the 55th Parliament which began on 18 May 2010; thus this Parliament would expire on 17 May 2015. Since the last day that a proclamation summoning a new Parliament could be issued is this day of expiration, the election timetable dictated that the latest possible date for the election was 11 June 2015.
Occasionally, a constituency is forced to delay its polling day. In each of the two preceding general elections, one constituency delayed its poll due to the death of a candidate.
Prior to the 2010 general election, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats pledged to introduce fixed-term elections. As part of the Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition agreement, the Cameron ministry agreed to support legislation for fixed-term Parliaments, with the date of the next general election being 7 May 2015. This would have coincided with elections for the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales and Northern Ireland Assembly, which are held on a four-year, fixed-term basis. In response to cross-party criticism of this, Nick Clegg offered each devolved body the right to vary their length of tenure by a year in either direction. Therefore, the next elections to the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales will take place in 2016.
The Act removed the Royal Prerogative to dissolve Parliament. As a result, a Prime Minister no longer has the power to advise the monarch to call an early election. The Bill originally only permitted early dissolution if Parliament voted for one by a supermajority of 55%. A government could still lose a vote of no confidence by a majority of over just over 50%, requiring it to resign. Later, the Government amended the Bill to increase the required supermajority to two-thirds, as applies to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. When doing so, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg clarified that Parliament would be dissolved if no new government could be formed within 14 days of a no-confidence vote. The Bill was enacted in this amended form.
SNP MP Angus Robertson has suggested that politicians in the remainder of the UK should consider delaying the 2015 election by a year if Scotland votes for independence on 18 September 2014. Robertson argues that holding an election during the independence negotiations would be a diversion.
As of 17 September 2010[update], the Electoral Commission's Register of Political Parties includes 392 different political parties registered in Great Britain, and 43 in Northern Ireland. In addition, candidates who do not belong to a registered party can use "independent" or no label at all.
The Sixth Periodic Review of Westminster constituencies has been postponed until 2018, under the terms of the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013. which means the next election will be held without new boundaries being agreed. It will use the same boundaries as the previous election (2010).
In January 2013, Labour published its list of 106 target seats for the next election.
Listed below are some of the top target seats for those parties which won seats at the 2005 or 2010 general elections, ranked by the percentage swing required. These may not be the seats where parties choose to target their resources. Opinion polling in individual constituencies is also another indicator for possible target seats.
|Labour targets||Swing required||Conservative targets||Swing required||Liberal Democrat targets||Swing required|
|1||North Warwickshire (CON)||0.05%||Hampstead and Kilburn (LAB)||0.04%||Camborne and Redruth (CON)||0.08%|
|2||Thurrock (CON)||0.10%||Bolton West (LAB)||0.10%||Oldham East and Saddleworth[note 1] (LAB)||0.12%|
|3||Hendon (CON)||0.12%||Solihull (LD)||0.16%||Oxford West and Abingdon (CON)||0.16%|
|4||Cardiff North (CON)||0.20%||Southampton Itchen (LAB)||0.22%||Ashfield (LAB)||0.20%|
|5||Sherwood (CON)||0.22%||Dorset Mid and Poole North (LD)||0.29%||Sheffield Central (LAB)||0.20%|
|6||Norwich South (LD)||0.32%||Wirral South (LAB)||0.66%||Edinburgh South (LAB)||0.36%|
|7||Stockton South (CON)||0.33%||Derby North (LAB)||0.68%||Truro and Falmouth (CON)||0.45%|
|8||Broxtowe (CON)||0.37%||Wells (LD)||0.72%||Newton Abbot (CON)||0.55%|
|9||Lancaster and Fleetwood (CON)||0.39%||Dudley North (LAB)||0.84%||Chesterfield (LAB)||0.60%|
|10||Bradford East (LD)||0.45%||Great Grimsby (LAB)||1.08%||Swansea West (LAB)||0.71%|
|11||Amber Valley (CON)||0.58%||Morley and Outwood (LAB)||1.13%||Hull North (LAB)||0.96%|
|12||Waveney (CON)||0.75%||Telford (LAB)||1.19%||Rochdale (LAB)||0.97%|
|13||Wolverhampton South West (CON)||0.85%||Walsall North (LAB)||1.37%||Harrogate and Knaresborough (CON)||0.98%|
|14||Morecambe and Lunsdale (CON)||1.00%||St. Austell and Newquay (LD)||1.39%||Watford (CON)||1.29%|
|15||Carlisle (CON)||1.01%||Somerton and Frome (LD)||1.50%||Hampstead and Kilburn (LAB)||1.51%|
|16||Stroud (CON)||1.12%||Birmingham Edgbaston (LAB)||1.54%||Montgomeryshire (CON)||1.75%|
|17||Weaver Vale (CON)||1.13%||Sutton and Cheam (LD)||1.66%||Edinburgh North and Leith (LAB)||1.82%|
|18||Lincoln (CON)||1.16%||Halifax (LAB)||1.69%||St. Albans (CON)||2.19%|
|19||Brighton Pavilion (Green)||1.21%||Newcastle-under-Lyme (LAB)||1.80%||Newport East (LAB)||2.39%|
|20||Plymouth Sutton and Devonport (CON)||1.31%||Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (LAB)||1.82%||Weston-super-Mare (CON)||2.56%|
|21||Dewsbury (CON)||1.41%||Wakefield (LAB)||1.82%||Hereford and Herefordshire South (CON)||2.57%|
|22||Warrington South (CON)||1.42%||St. Ives (LD)||1.87%||Devon West & Torridge (CON)||2.68%|
|23||Brent Central (LD)||1.48%||Plymouth Moor View (LAB)||1.91%||Winchester (CON)||2.73%|
|24||Bedford (CON)||1.50%||Gedling (LAB)||1.93%||Northampton North (CON)||3.09%|
|25||Brighton Kemptown (CON)||1.56%||Eltham (LAB)||1.98%||Cornwall South East (CON)||3.25%|
|26||Pudsey (CON)||1.69%||Walsall South (LAB)||2.15%||Bristol North West (CON)||3.25%|
|27||Brentford and Isleworth (CON)||1.82%||Nottingham South (LAB)||2.17%||City of Durham (LAB)||3.32%|
|SNP targets||Swing required||Plaid Cymru targets||Swing required|
|1||Ochil & Perthshire South (LAB)||5.14%||Ynys Môn (LAB)||3.55%|
|Green Party targets||Swing required||Respect targets||Swing required|
|1||Norwich South (LD)||7.20%||Birmingham Hall Green (LAB)||3.9%|
|Sinn Féin targets||Swing required||SDLP targets||Swing required||DUP targets||Swing required||Alliance targets||Swing required|
|1||Belfast North (DUP)||3.01%||Newry and Armagh (SF)||9.3%||Belfast East (A)||2.22%||Belfast South (SDLP)||15.00%|
The first series of televised leaders debates in the United Kingdom were held in the previous election. Comments from senior politicians such as Prime Minister David Cameron have made it clear that they intend to hold another series of televised debates in the run up to the 2015 election, although they will likely take on a different format, as David Cameron felt that they dominated the campaign. It has been proposed that the debates could start as early as 2014, presumably after the parliamentary summer recess as not to have an impact on the elections to the European Parliament. It has also been suggested that the debates could still take place in 2015 before the election campaign begins over the longer period of January, February and March. David Cameron has suggested that the televised debates should take place before the campaign itself, as he felt that the 2010 debates overshadowed the rest of the campaign; he was, however, still positive towards them taking place.
There is media speculation from individuals such as Michael Crick of Channel 4 News as to who may be included in the debates. He suggested that if UKIP's political fortunes were to continue to improve, and they do not receive sufficient coverage, they could make a legal case against broadcasters that under-represent the party, if the leaders of the Conservative Party, Labour Party and Liberal Democrats are included. Prime Minister David Cameron has dismissed the call for UKIP's participation. The Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband said in January 2013 that the composition of each debate was a matter for the media organisations.
In the run up to the European Parliament election, 2014, there was a series of two debates between the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg and the UK Independence Party leader, Nigel Farage. According to polling, Mr Farage is reported to have comfortably won both debates and this has prompted further speculation that Farage could or should be invited to take part in the debates ahead of the General Election. UKIP won the European elections, topping the poll. This could now further strengthen Farage's case and increase calls for UKIP to be represented in such TV debates.
The chart shows the relative state of the parties from 13 May 2010 to the date the next election is held, with each line's colour corresponding to a political party: blue for the Conservatives, red for Labour, yellow for the Liberal Democrats and purple for the UKIP. Each dot represents a party's results in opinion polls, the lines are then created by an eight-data-point moving average.