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Spotlight on the 2010 British General Election

The General Election of 2010 was held on 6 May and was primarily fought between the Labour Party who were attempting to achieve a fourth term in government, the Conservative Party who were attempting to end their longest spell in opposition since the founding of the party and finally the Liberal Democrats who were attempting to build upon the relative success of 2005 and secure a larger share of the parliamentary seats.

This election was held shortly after the banking crisis of 2007. As a result the election centred on the economic future of Britain with slogans such as “a future, fair for all” being used by the incumbent Prime Minister Gordon Brown and “vote for change” from the Conservative Party leader David Cameron who claimed the financial crisis was down to Labour policies.

Significance of the Election

This election was highly significant for the candidates and Britain in three key ways:

  • The introduction of tv debates to be held for the first time in British election history
  • The rare and very real possibility that the election would produce no clear majority making a coalition the most likely outcome.
  • The strength of the Liberal Democrats who would almost certainly decide the next occupant of number 10 Downing Street.

The Televised Debates

The televised leaders debates were held over three successful weeks and broadcast by ITV, the BBC and Sky Television. The debates were met with enthusiasm by the British public, 9.9 million of whom tuned in for the first of the three debates.

This figure declined sharply for the second debate down to just 4.6 million before spiking again for the final debate to 8.3 million. Each debate consisted of two parts the first half dedicated to a specific issue, domestic policy, foreign policy and economic policy, while the second half was dedicated to general areas of policy and opened to questions from the public. It is hard to tell the significance of the debates on how people voted but many attribute the strong performance of Nick Clegg to their increases at the election.

The Results

  • The Conservative Party won 306 seats of 650 (48%) and therefore failed to secure the majority required to form a government. However despite failing to secure a majority the Conservatives polled 36.1% of the vote an increase of 3.7% on the results of the 2005 election. In addition to this the number of female Conservative MPs increased from 17 to 49 and now means that 16% of all Conservative MPs are women. Finally 11 ethnic minority MPs were elected for the Conservative party 9 more than in 2005.
  • The Labour Party won 258 seats of 650 (40%) a drop of 90 seats compared with their 2005 total. Labour polled 29.0% of the vote a fall of 6.2%. The geographical breakdown of Labour’s seats is markedly different from that of the Conservatives who won 97% of their seats in England, with Labour securing 36% of the seats in England, 65% of the seats in Wales and 69% of the seats in Scotland. In addition to this 81 female MPs were elected for Labour 17 fewer than in 2005 to make 31% of the total number of Labour MPs. Finally 16 ethnic minority MPs were elected for Labour, 3 more than in 2005.
  • The Liberal Democrats won 57 seats of 650 (9%) and despite strong performances in the leadership debates an upsurge in popularity this is a decrease of 5 seats on the parties 2005 total. The Liberal Democrats polled 23.0% of the vote and came second to Labour in Scotland. The number of female MPs elected for the Liberal Democrats was 7 a decrease from 10 in 2005 making 12% of Liberal Democrat MPs women. Finally there are no ethnic minority Liberal Democrat MPs.

The Aftermath

The aftermath of the 2010 general elections was that the result was inconclusive.

With no clear majority a coalition was formed between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats the first for many years in the UK and the first time the Liberals have been in government since before the Second World War, Labour leader Gordon Brown stood down and a leadership battle was fought electing the current Labour leader Ed Miliband.