Election 2015: what next?

Sunday 19 October, 14.00 until 15.30, Free Stage, Barbican Contemporary Controversies

The outcome of next year’s General Election seems more in doubt than any since 1992. The circumstances are novel in many ways, too. The election marks the end of the first coalition government in postwar Britain. Two of the three main parties must thus take responsibility for the successes and failings of the government. The defining debate during and after the last election campaign was how to bring down government borrowing. All the main parties agreed that austerity was required, with the only area of disagreement being the timing and degree of government cutbacks. Yet the deficit remains stubbornly high, although economic growth and unemployment levels have looked more positive in the past year or so.

However, there seems little enthusiasm for any of the big parties. Labour has consistently been ahead in the opinion polls, but has never managed a commanding lead, dogged by accusations of lacking a clear alternative to the coalition. The Conservatives have seemed happier to play to metropolitan concerns like legalising gay marriage, even at the expense of their own supporter base, while failing in their main aim of bringing down the deficit. The Lib Dems have suffered from being in coalition, most particularly on the issue of tuition fees, while failing to win support for reform of the voting system in 2011’s referendum. UKIP’s victory in the European Parliament elections sums up this disillusion with the main parties. Could Nigel Farage and Co finally win seats at Westminster in 2015? Meanwhile, many young people seem never to have been inspired by party politics in the first place, concurring with Russell Brand’s dismissal of the entire process: ‘The only reason to vote is if the vote represents power or change. I don’t think it does.’

What will be the outcome of the next election? Will there be a change of government? Was UKIP’s success at the Euro elections a flash in the pan, a meaningless protest vote, or does it suggest that the main parties are increasingly isolated from the concerns of large sections of the electorate? Will voters bother to go out to the polls or will turnout - which rose slightly in the past two elections - return to the record low of 59 per cent in 2001? Given the lack of difference between the big parties, does the outcome even matter?

Dr Tim Black
editor, Spiked Review

Philip Davies
Conservative MP for Shipley

Ian Dunt
editor, Politics.co.uk; political editor, Erotic Review

Miranda Green
journalist; founding editor, The Day; regular contributor to BBC political shows; former Lib Dem spin doctor

Joel Cohen
communications manager, BeyondMe

Produced by
Joel Cohen communications manager, BeyondMe
Recommended readings
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Miranda Green, News Week, 19 September 2014

Go on, Carswell, tell ’em what you really think

The Tory defector believes our changing politics makes radical change easier. He should ask his voters if they agree

Daniel Finkelstein, The Times, 3 September 2014

The end of the party: how we could be heading for a post-democratic era

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Michael Kenny and Nick Pearce, New Statesman, August 2014

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