The General Election, held on the 7th of May, resulted in a Conservative majority of 331 seats and a Labour and Liberal Democrat wipe-out. Labour’s old stronghold in Scotland was reduced by the gargantuan gains of the Scottish National Party and resulted in Labour retaining only one seat north of the border. Voter turnout was 66.1% which was the highest since the 1997 General Election which saw Tony Blair win a landslide majority. It was the first time that opinion polls have been called worthless when they were compared to the Exit Poll.
Party Leader Resignations
Following the Conservative majority we witnessed the resignation of Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and Nigel Farage. In Scotland Jim Murphy, leader of Scottish Labour, eventually resigned after increasing external pressure. Ed Miliband, leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party, resigned almost immediately after the announcement of the result. Nick Clegg soon followed him. Both had been re-elected but both parties had performed worse than expected. Nigel Farage resigned after failing to win the Thanet South seat but his resignation was rejected by the United Kingdom Independence Party executive. Jim Murphy initially resisted calls for his resignation but then eventually announced he would step down as party leader on the 16th of May.
On the 4th of April 2015, Alistair Carmichael, now the last remaining Liberal Democrat MP in Scotland, was involved in the highly controversial leaking of a memo from the Scotland Office regarding comments that Nicola Sturgeon has made to the French ambassador about her desire to see David Cameron remain as Prime Minister. This memo has since been discredited, and even though Carmichael had originally denied his involvement he recently came out and admitted that he was indeed responsible for its leak and that the contents of the memo were in fact fabricated. He is currently resisting calls for his resignation.
Here is outlined the contents of the Queen’s Speech from the 27th of May:
• Ban for five years on income tax, VAT and national insurance increases
• Freeze on working age benefits, tax credits and child benefit for two years from 2016-17
• 30 hours free childcare a week for three and four-year-olds by 2017
• A cut in the total amount one household can claim in benefits from £26,000 to £23,000
• More devolution for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and “English votes for English laws” at Westminster
• 500 more free schools and more failing and “coasting” schools turned into Academies
• A ban on legal highs
• A seven day NHS by 2020
There was some controversy during the ceremony in the form of clapping by the Scottish National Party MPs after a speech by Angus Robertson MP. This was attacked by the Speaker, John Bercow, who maintained that the act of not clapping was a “well established convention” and that it would be “respectful to maintain that convention”. Indeed, there was nothing unusually shocking or controversial about the Queen’s Speech itself because we were expecting a Conservative based speech.
Referendum on European Union membership announced
The campaign regarding the UK’s membership of the EU has effectively begun with the announcement that there will be an In/Out Referendum by the end of 2017. David Cameron has committed himself to pushing for reform and renegotiation of the UK’s position within the union. Kate Hoey, a Labour politician, has been given backing to be the leader of the “EU NO” with the potential that David Cameron could well be the symbolic leader of the “Yes” campaign.