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About this book

This is a comprehensive study of the 2015 general election in Britain designed not only for students and scholars of British politics, but also for the interested reader. It looks at the record of the Coalition government both in terms of its plans and performance, particularly in relation to the economy, as the starting point for understanding what happened. The authors go on to examine the campaign during the run-up to polling day and to explain why people voted the way they did. They also take a close look at the various constituency battlegrounds across the country showing how and why voting patterns varied across Britain. Finally, they discuss the implications of the election outcome for the future of the party system and British politics more generally. This book provides important insights into an election which has permanently changed the political geography of Britain.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

1. Setting the Scene for 2015

Abstract
Chapter 1 depicts the evolving political context preceding the 2015 general election and how prominent events and conditions influenced trends in public opinion. Most important was austerity, the organizing theme of the economic policies pursued by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government formed in May 2010. Other significant events include selecting Ed Miliband as Labour Leader, the national referendum on changing the electoral system, efforts to control immigration, NHS reform, Prime Minister Cameron’s promised referendum on continued EU membership, the 2014 EU parliamentary elections and the Scottish independence referendum. Widely publicized foreign policy decisions including the attack on Libya and the vote on military intervention in Syria also are discussed.
Harold D. Clarke, Peter Kellner, Marianne C. Stewart, Joe Twyman, Paul Whiteley

2. The Political Economy of Austerity

Abstract
Chapter 2 considers the records of the Coalition Government and the Labour opposition from 2010 to 2015. The chapter looks closely at the Coalition Agreement and the policy proposals which accompanied it, particularly with respect to the economy and the austerity strategy pursued by the Coalition Government. Comparisons are made of the evolving policy goals and forecasts made just after the 2010 election with the economic outcomes that actually occurred. Policy-making and performance outcomes regarding immigration, welfare and the NHS also are examined
Harold D. Clarke, Peter Kellner, Marianne C. Stewart, Joe Twyman, Paul Whiteley

3. Policy Performance and Political Payoffs

Abstract
Chapter 3 employs data from monthly Essex Continuous Monitoring Surveys to examine voters’ reactions to major issues, such as the economy, immigration, health and EU membership. The chapter also examines assessments of party leaders and evaluations of party performance. Analyses indicate that Prime Minister Cameron and the Conservatives did well on the economy but judgments on the NHS and immigration were less favourable. There is also evidence of widespread dissatisfaction about economic inequality, social justice and corporate greed. Labour was unable to profit from voters’ discontents because its ‘brand’ was badly tarnished, and many people did not believe that the party or its leader, Ed Miliband, could deliver on key issues
Harold D. Clarke, Peter Kellner, Marianne C. Stewart, Joe Twyman, Paul Whiteley

4. The 2015 Campaign

Abstract
This chapter describes the official election campaign from its kick off to polling day. The focus is on widely publicized campaign events such as the debate among the seven party leaders, the launch of party manifestos and on-going efforts by the parties to focus public attention on ‘their’ issues. Public relations gambits, such as Ed Miliband’s unveiling of a huge stone monolith — derisively dubbed the ‘Ed Stone’ — also are discussed. Polling evidence indicates public opinion was largely unaffected by the campaign, with parties’ vote shares remaining largely static from beginning to end. Equally noteworthy, the election result showed that the pollsters got it wrong, underestimating the Conservative vote and overestimating Labour’s.
Harold D. Clarke, Peter Kellner, Marianne C. Stewart, Joe Twyman, Paul Whiteley

5. Choosing to Vote and Choosing a Party

Abstract
Chapter 5 uses data from the Essex CMS pre- and post-election surveys to investigate turnout and party choice in 2015. The turnout analyses study the effects of several predictor variables including political interest, political efficacy, sense of civic duty and social trust as well as differences in voting participation among major sociodemographic groups. Relationships between party choice and key ‘valence politics’ variables such as partisanship, party performance on important issues and party leader images are highlighted. Judgments about leader and party performance had powerful effects on party choice in 2015, with renewed economic optimism doing much to explain electoral support for Prime Minister Cameron and the Conservatives.
Harold D. Clarke, Peter Kellner, Marianne C. Stewart, Joe Twyman, Paul Whiteley

6. Explaining the Election Outcome

Abstract
Chapter 6 analyses constituency-level competition among the parties across the country. Direct competition between Labour and the Conservatives was limited in 2015, making contests involving one of the two major parties and various minor parties very important. The SNP sweep in Scotland and the success of the Conservatives in capturing Liberal Democrat seats across southern England largely explain the election outcome, with the Lib-Dem collapse being crucial for the Conservative victory. Official election returns combined with census data and the results of Ashcroft polls’ indicate that leader images and economic evaluations had significant effects on constituency-level election outcomes.
Harold D. Clarke, Peter Kellner, Marianne C. Stewart, Joe Twyman, Paul Whiteley

7. The Politics of Discontent: Britain’s Emerging Multi-Party Politics

Abstract
Chapter 7 discusses prospects for British party politics in light of the 2015 election result. A striking aspect of the outcome was the strong performance of various minor parties, coupled with the long-term decline in support for the two major parties. Public unhappiness with political parties is persistent and widespread. Perceived performance failures and feelings that parties represent socio-economic elites rather than ordinary people are important sources of this discontent — discontent expressed via the election of veteran left-wing activist Jeremy Corbyn as new Labour leader. The chapter concludes by discussing how Corbyn’s leadership and Prime Minister Cameron’s promised referendum on continuing EU membership may affect Labour, the Conservatives and the British party system more generally.
Harold D. Clarke, Peter Kellner, Marianne C. Stewart, Joe Twyman, Paul Whiteley

Backmatter

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