|British party leaders debate on April 2. - Euronews|
British voters vote based on party more than anything else, whereas in the United States we vote based on individual at the presidential level. British political parties nominate between their members who the party leader will be. This is person who can best articulate their message. The party that wins the most seats usually gets their party leader to be prime minister and then it is his or her job to manage and pass legislation that the party wants (as well as what they themselves might want). The current major British political parties are:
The Conservative Party - The center-right political party of the UK led by David Cameron, who is currently the prime minister. They have 302 seats. They often heavily argue for balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility, but aren't as socially conservative as they used to be. They are generally skeptical of the Eurozone (continental Europe's single currency economic system), which they are not part of and Cameron says that if he wins a second term then he will push for a national referendum on continuing EU members.
The Labour Party - The center-left political party of the UK led by Ed Miliband, who is the leader of the opposition against Cameron's government. They have 256 seats. They usually stand for more spending and Keynesian economics, but lately have favored some compromises in order to win back blue-collar workers. However, they still reject neoliberal free trade unlike the Conservatives. They look more favorable to the European Union and the Eurozone.
The Liberal Democrats - A highly centrist political party that favors social liberalism. They are led by Nick Clegg with 57 seats. No party is more middle-of-the-road than the Liberal Democrats. As whole, they want more spending, but also make attempts at balancing the budget. They are more committed to Europe than to other allies.
The Scottish National Party - A party that mainly exists to represent the interests of Scotland and favors Scottish independence. Since they lost the independence referendum last year, they intend to do what it takes to work with other political parties to support the Scottish people. They are led by Nicola Sturgeon with 6 seats. They are center-left and favor more economic intervention in the economy as well as Scottish nationalism.
The Party of Wales - Known by the Welsh as Plaid Cymru, this part is similar to the Scottish Nationalists because it focuses on policies that will help Wales. Their leader is Leanne Wood and it has three seats. They hold views of independence, but the Welsh independence movement is weak compared to the Scottish independence movement. They endorse democratic socialism and want to bring back the Welsh language in Wales for a bilingual system.
The United Kingdom Independence Party - This party became widely popular over the last few years as the British people, specifically those on the right, became angry at the establishment of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. UKIP, as it is called, is led by Nigel Farage and only has two seats. UKIP has become the populist right-wing party in British politics. The party advocates for supply-side economic policies and an end to the inheritance tax in the UK. They are in favor of leaving the European Union in order to remain close with Anglosphere countries like the United States, Canada, and Australia.
The Green Party of England and Wales - With the word "green" in it, it should be immediate to most people that this party is heavy on the environment. The party is currently led by Natalie Bennett and has only one seat in the House of Commons. The party holds leftist political positions that focus on protection of the environment and they advocate for more social justice. Other positions include more spending on welfare and less military responses to foreign policy issues.
There are other political parties in the UK, but these are the most important. Smaller parties could be the key if no single party wins a majority in 2015 and a coalition government is needed. As we get close to the election date, I will post a prediction as to who the winners will be. There are still many days left for the political situation to chance, but as of now it looks very tight between the Conservatives and the Labour Party. It is clear that this election isn't a conventional British election where usually a majority can be captured by the two major parties. Many people don't like the top three parties, so they have moved to others who want more action like UKIP and the Greens.
I also want to emphasize that the current British government is a coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. Back in the 2010 general election, Labour under Prime Minister Gordon Brown had become unpopular and the election was clearly going to the Conservatives. The problem was that in order to obtain a majority, the Conservatives needed to control 326 seats. They fell short of that goal:
Conservative Party (David Cameron) - 306 (+97)
Labour Party (Gordon Brown) - 258 (-91)
Liberal Democrats (Nick Clegg) - 62 (-5)
Scottish Nationalists (Alex Salmond) - 6 (+/-)
Party of Wales (Dafydd Wigley) - 3 (+1)
Green Party (Caroline Lucas) - 1 (+/-)
UKIP (Lord Pearson) - 0 (+/-)
In order for there to be a coalition, Cameron and other key members of the Conservative Party went to Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats for a coalition government of 363 seats. This meant the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats would have to work together on passing legislation and neither party would get entirely what they wanted, but would nevertheless come close since they weren't highly ideologically different. Five years later, voters are mostly concerned with economic issues. Cameron became the prime minister in the midst of a weak recovery from the recession that hit in 2007 and 2008. The unemployment rate was at 7.8 percent in May 2010, but has went down to 5.5 percent in December 2014: