With 100 days to go, Elliot Folan looks ahead to May’s general election.
The 2015 general election was always going to be unusual. Ever since the Fixed Term Parliaments Act extended parliamentary terms to a full five years, and took the power to call elections away from the Prime Minister, it was clear that the 2015 election would be much more of a drawn-out affair. Indeed, for the last year it has very much seemed as if the parties have been fighting an invisible election, throwing mud at each other and launching policy initiatives without actually being able to win votes for them. But now, with 100 days remaining until Britain goes to the polls, the election has officially begun.
Across England, the five main parties (Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Ukip and Green) are set to battle it out in hundreds of constituencies, while in Scotland and Wales the nationalist parties are added to the mix. Most of the seats will be foregone conclusions: safe Labour seats or safe Conservative seats.
But here in Norwich South, we’re in the rather unusual situation of being a very politically diverse constituency; the Lib Dems won in 2010, but only with 29.4% of the vote. Labour were second on 28.7%, the Conservatives were third with 22.9% and the Greens were fourth with 14.9%.
Meanwhile, over the last year, we’ve seen the Green Party narrowly win the most votes in Norwich South during the local elections and seen a Norwich South poll by Lord Ashcroft that put Labour in first place on 33% and the Greens second on 20%.
So given that the five main parties will be eagerly seeking our votes over the next 100 days, where do they stand right now? We’ve listed them here in the order they came in the 2010 election in Norwich South.
Norwich South 2010 29.4%
The Lib Dems argue that the last five years of coalition have allowed them to implement many of their manifesto promises, including lifting the tax threshold to £10,000 and implementing a pupil premium. The party has begun advertising itself as a ‘middle ground’ party, claiming that Labour cannot provide economic responsibility and that the Tories cannot ensure a fairer society. Despite this, the party has begun to lose popularity, plunging from 24% of the national vote in 2010 to around 7%, often falling behind the Greens. Some pundits expect it to win as few as 22 MPs, down from 57 in 2010.
Norwich South 2010 28.7%
Labour argues that it is best placed to deal with what it calls “a cost of living crisis” in the UK, and has pledged to reverse some of the more infamous Coalition policies such as the bedroom tax. The party has been trying to improve perceptions of its economic record by pledging to continue cuts to public spending, as well as sticking to Coalition budget plans for the first year of a Labour government. The party has recovered ground over the past five years – it’s now polling 33%, up from its 2010 score of 30%, and seat projections suggest it is on course to be the largest party in a hung parliament. But in the last year it has begun to leak support to the SNP and the Greens, which may harm its chances.
Norwich South 2010 22.9%
The Tories are standing on their economic record and seeking a mandate for a full-throated majority Conservative government. The party is already floating policies like the repeal of the Human Rights Act, stricter restrictions on migration and a referendum on the EU. It also wants more cuts to public spending well into 2020, with the aim of pushing the budget into a surplus which will then be used for tax cuts. The party has lost some support since 2010 – it’s now polling 32% across the UK, just behind Labour, compared to its 2010 result of 37%. Seat projections suggest that it could emerge as the largest party in a hung parliament but is unlikely to win a majority.
Norwich South 2010 14.9%
The Greens have emerged from the political side-lines this year and have begun out-polling the Lib Dems, putting them in contention for constituencies like Brighton Pavilion, Bristol West and Norwich South. The party presents itself as the “real opposition” to the Coalition, pushing an agenda it claims is further to the left than Labour. It opposes almost all public spending cuts, calls for more taxes on the rich and wants to give every citizen a minimum income of £71 a week. The party, which polled just 1% of the national vote in 2010, recently hit 11% in one opinion poll and averages around 7%. It also has a lead in the only Green seat, Brighton Pavilion.
UK Independence Party
Norwich South 2010 2.4%
Ukip’s rise over the last five years has been well documented: the party averages around 15%, up from 3% in 2010. The by-election victories of Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless have given it a permanent foothold in Parliament, and it is likely to add to that in May with victories in places such as Boston and Skegness, and Thurrock. The party famously stands for a referendum on EU membership, but it also draws support for its policies on restricting migration. It positions itself as the voice of ordinary people who have been left behind by mainstream political leaders, and has said it would do a coalition deal with either Labour or the Tories.