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Britain and the general election of 2015

Professor John Curtice, University of Strathclyde

Date/Time: 14th May 2015

The British General Election of 2015 was an unusually historic one:

  • it was the first election the date of which was determined years in advance (through the 2011 Fixed Term Parliaments Act)
  • it followed the first period of coalition government for seventy years;
  • it took place less than a year after a referendum in which nearly half of Scottish voters expressed a desire to leave the UK
  • it was also the first genuinely multi-party General Election in which ‘insurgent’ parties – nationalist and green – attracted large numbers of voters dissatisfied with conventional Westminster politics

No clear outcome was expected – far from it – and the campaign was dominated by discussion of what parties would do, and with whom, after polling. As it turned out, 7 May delivered a majority government, the first elected for a decade, and the first Conservative government for nearly a quarter of a century. It also saw the near-wipe-out of UK-wide parties from Scotland, the rise of UKIP across England, and the emasculation of the Liberal Democrats across Britain. This lecture considers the election, and its consequences.

Speaker biography

On the BBC election programme David Dimbleby, Huw Edwards, and Andrew Neil introduced Professor John Curtice as the “king of polls.” He is Britain’s leading psephologist and has published widely on elections. He attained particular prominence in 2014 when from his base at the University of Strathclyde, he helped inform public debate over the Scottish independence referendum for TV, radio, and press.

He serves as President of the British Polling Council, is a vice-chair of the Economic and Social Data Service's Advisory Committee, and is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Elections, the Executive Committee of the British Politics Section of the American Political Science Association, and the Policy Advisory Committee of the Institute for Public Policy Research.