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General Election 2015: Reasons Why the U.K. Election Matters, UK General Election, UK Polls, British parliament election,General Election 2015

General Election 2015: Reasons Why the U.K. Election Matters

Britain goes to the polls on May 7 in what is expected to be a close-fought race between Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives and the main opposition Labour Party. Here’s what’s at stake:

European Union Membership
Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged, if he wins, to hold a referendum by 2017 on whether the U.K. should leave the EU. Under pressure from some in his party who want to change Britain’s relationship with Brussels or even for the U.K. to exit, Mr. Cameron has said he will seek reforms and then present the British people with an in-out choice. Opposition parties say the referendum, regardless of the result, would lead to a period of uncertainty for businesses and warn that Britain’s exit from the EU would harm its economy and global standing. Such a referendum would mark the first vote by an existing member on whether to leave since the modern-day EU was established in the early 1990s.

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Immigration has become an increasingly vocal debate in the U.K., echoing the experience of other European countries where the issue has come to the fore of political debate in the wake of the region’s economic problems. Both of Britain’s main parties are promising new rules to impose tighter border controls after the election, amid concern among many voters that an unprecedented wave of immigration over the past two decades has placed a strain on already-stretched public resources, such as housing and health care. The Conservatives say they will restrict new European migrants’ access to some welfare support for four years. Labour says they will introduce stronger border controls and prevent migrants from receiving welfare benefits for two years.

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Government Stability
Opinion polls suggest neither main party will win a majority, producing a so-called “hung parliament.” That would mean the Conservatives or Labour would need to form a coalition or a minority government with support from smaller parties to ensure they can deliver their legislative program. Unlike other European countries, the U.K. is unused to coalition politics. The last election in 2010 produced Britain’s first peacetime coalition since the 1930s, with the Liberal Democrats the junior partner to the Conservatives. It could be more complicated this time around with whichever party leading the government requiring support from more than one other party and increasing the risk of a divergence of views at the top table.
Pace of Government Cuts

The party that wins the election will decide the pace and extent of efforts to reduce the size of Britain’s still-hefty budget deficit, a decision which could have implications for financial markets as well as the public services Britons enjoy. Both of the main parties agree on the need to balance the country’s books, but the Tories say they will do it much quicker. Some smaller parties oppose austerity measures altogether.

Another thorny issue for the next government will be how to manage growing demand for more localized power. Although the Scottish National Party failed to win Scotland’s independence referendum last year, it has seen its support base continue to grow. The party, which continues to support independence from the rest of the U.K., is calling for greater devolution of powers in areas such as taxation, welfare and employment policy. The SNP’s rise has emboldened other parts of the U.K., with Plaid Cymru calling for increased public funding in Wales. The Conservatives have said they want to give English lawmakers a veto over matters affecting England, including income tax.


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