British Election Ends in Surprising Twist
Against all forecasts to the contrary, May 7th's British general election ended in decisive victory for
David Cameron's ruling Conservative Party. Pre-election polling had predicted an extremely tight contest between the Conservatives and their main opponent, the Labour Party. Estimates put the Conservatives' projected number of seats at 278, just ahead of Labour's 267. As both numbers fall short of the 326 seats needed for a majority, the possibility of another coalition government and the further destabilization of the UK's traditional two-party system seemed likely. On election night, however, the Conservatives swept the polls with 331 seats, giving them a firm hand on the reins of power. Labour, by contrast, ended up with 232 seats, losing many of its traditional seats in Scotland to the Scottish National Party (SNP). However, it was the Liberal Democrats, partners in the 2010-2015 coalition government, who were perhaps the biggest losers of the night, winning only 8 seats - down from 57 in 2010. The leaders of Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and the populist right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP) all stepped down in the hours following the election.
The Conservative victory will have a number of important ramifications. The most significant of these is a referendum on whether or not Britain will remain in the European Union, which Cameron has pledged to hold by 2017. Much of the British business community - and, indeed, the majority of the general public - opposes a total exit, and many commentators believe Cameron may simply use the looming referendum as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the rest of the EU in order to change the impact of its rules on issues such as immigration and voting rights for the UK.
On the domestic front, five more years of Conservative rule will mean more austerity. The Conservatives plan to eliminate the deficit by 2018, largely by means of budget cuts. They plan to slash welfare benefits for the working poor by 12 billion pounds over the next three years, and also to make cuts on local council spending, transport, and defense. The National Health Service (NHS) will be further privatized, and many of its smaller hospitals may lose specialized services that they currently offer. Workers' rights may also come under fire, with the Conservatives having pledged to reduce business regulations as part of their effort to spur economic growth (an effort that will also include tax cuts).
|Source: The Independent|