The next United Kingdom general election will be the election to the 56th Parliament of the United Kingdom, likely to be held in 2015. 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.
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, the review of constituencies (and reduction in seats) was delayed in 2013 by an amendment to the 2011 Act by the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013. 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.
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 had voted to leave the United Kingdom in the independence referendum on 18 September 2014, it was expected that a 2015 general election would still have included Scotland, but the status and role of MPs elected in Scotland would have required clarification.
Date of the election
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.
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 MinisterNick 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.
In the run up to the Scottish independence referendum, 2014, SNP MP Angus Robertson suggested that politicians in the remainder of the UK would have had to consider delaying the 2015 election by a year if Scotland had voted for independence on 18 September 2014. Robertson argued that holding an election during the independence negotiations would be a diversion. Ultimately this ceased to be an issue, as Scotland voted against independence.
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 table below shows the figures for seats won by each party at the 2010 election and the seat changes that have taken place before the next election.
^1 See here for a full list of changes during the current Parliament.
^2Lindsay Hoyle (Labour), Eleanor Laing (Conservative) and Dawn Primarolo (Labour) were elected Chairman of Ways and Means, First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means and Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means respectively. Although these Deputy Speakers do not resign from their parties, they cease to vote (except to break ties) and do not participate in party political activity until the next election.
^3 Although Sinn Féin maintains offices at Westminster, the party's policy of abstaining from participation in the House of Commons (on account of disputing the UK Parliament's claim to jurisdiction in Northern Ireland and the requirement for Members to swear an oath to the Queen) precludes its MPs from taking their seats.
In January 2013, Labour published its list of 106 target seats for the next election. UKIP's list of 12 target seats was reported in August 2014, while others external to UKIP have highlighted seats where UKIP may be strongest.
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.
The first series of televised leaders debates in the United Kingdom were held in the previous election. It has been proposed that the debates could start as early as 2014. 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.Conservative Party leader 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.
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. While not being shown, other parties such as the Greens have on occasion polled higher than one or more of the parties represented. Each dot represents a party's results in opinion polls, the lines are then created by a 15-day trend line.