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The UK General Election 2015: The Result that nobody expected

On Thursday the 7th of May the UK went to the polls to choose their next government. The previous government had been a compromise between two parties, sharing their seats in order to form a workable coalition. For months and years before last week’s election, the pollsters had been predicting a similar result,  a hung parliament, where no one party would have overall control  and all the signs were suggesting that there would have to be another coalition and no one knew for sure which parties that might contain and even who might be the overall winner.

This is a rather unusual event in the tradition of strong majority controlled British politics and onlookers were wary of the implications such a close result might have and whether this meant a fundamental change in the nature of British politics was happening. With the rise of the smaller parties such as the SNP, UKIP and Green Party disrupting the usual proceedings to claim a larger share of the parliamentary pie and usher a new era of collaboration politics.

However what was seen at the exit polls (the poll taken from voters on the day) was very different from everything that had been predicted up until that point. The Conservative Party with a workable majority was a very different result from the months of discussion about a hung parliament. Also the predictions of almost complete collapse of the Liberal Democrats and the utter annihilation of the Labour party in Scotland seemed to suggest that this exit poll had gone very far wrong in its predictions. But astonishingly that is exactly what happened.

Blog election 2015 (4)-1

As we can see above UKIP struggled to change its 3 million votes into any more than one seat, the SNP built a huge portion of MP’s taking all of Scotland’s Labour seats and effectively wiping Labour out in Scotland, the Liberal democrats went from 57 seats to 8 having had an absolutely disastrous election, Labour had a very bad night with not only all of Scotland being lost but many key marginal seats in England too. But the real head scratcher for analysts is just how the polls predicted the conservative share of the vote so badly wrong and it was wrong by a very big margin, the difference between a full Conservative government and a no overall control situation potentially leading to a vote of no confidence and a second general election.  Some polls had even put Labour in the lead by a couple of percentage points on the morning of the election. Perhaps this sheds doubt on the whole science of polling and whether listening to the polls is actually worthwhile.

So what went wrong? No one really knows as yet. Some have suggested that this is due to conservative voters having more shy supporters, less forthcoming with their views. Others have said that it can be due to voters changing their perspectives between self-interest and broader interests in the build-up to the vote. Some say the entire techniques, funding and low response rate of the UK polling industry are to blame. But this seems a more fundamental problem with the understanding of the mechanics of British politics, than any of these suggestions, as not one polling organisation (and there are many) even got close at any stage. But it seems at least British exit polls are bang on the money.

But what is now clear is that there is a Conservative majority government in place after all the confusion. Most analysts would agree that some of the major topics in British politics which are likely to be discussed in this new political environment are likely to be that of a European Referendum, public sector cuts and immigration legislation reform. But then again predictions have shown themselves to be pretty inaccurate, so perhaps not.

To learn more about the UK and it’s political system please click here.

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