2015 has been a big year for British politics. The Conservatives won their first outright majority for over 20 years while both Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband stepped down the day after the election. And just as the polls didn’t see a Tory victory on the horizon, very few could have predicted the rise Jeremy Corbyn to leader of the opposition. Away from the two main parties, the Liberal Democrats were replaced by the surging SNP as the third party in politics.
In the news; bacon sandwiches, multiple kitchens, and leadership battles dominated the front pages. We look forward to 2016 and try to predict just might what happen across Westminster and the country…
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2015 has been a bumper year for the Tories. David Cameron’s party managed to prevent a UKIP surge and achieved an outright majority at the general election in May – resigning Labour to a second consecutive defeat. Indeed, David Cameron was the first Prime Minister since Lord Salisbury in 1900 to be re-elected with a larger share of the vote.
Ongoing scandals over his choice of Lynton Crosby as campaign manager, as well as his persistently close relationship with Rupert Murdoch didn’t prevent Cameron from being viewed as more prime ministerial than his opponent, Ed Miliband.
However, with such a small majority, governing will be difficult in 2016. Mr Cameron has to persuade his own backbenchers that his European deal is one worth fighting for, before the country goes to the polls to vote on whether Britain should remain in Europe as early as the summer. At the same time, the Tory leadership battle will slowly evolve as George Osborne, Theresa May and Boris Johnson all set their sights on the top job and the 2020 election battle.
House of Lords reform will doubtless continue under Cameron, who has been blighted by a troublesome second chamber. 2015 has been a sunny year for the Tories, but no one can guarantee that 2016 will be so easy, and the party must be wary of complacency.
The Labour Party
Jeremy Corbyn’s shock victory in the Labour leadership election has created a rift in the Labour Party that will take longer than a few months to heal. Whilst there has been talk of a SDP-style split, this isn’t likely to happen without a battle to oust Corbyn. And, given that Jeremy’s mandate is larger than any Labour leader since Blair, it is unlikely that dissatisfied MPs will be able to topple the veteran socialist.
Meanwhile, rumours suggest that there could be a shadow cabinet reshuffle in the New Year, with a new influx of left-wing MPs taking senior positions on the frontbench. This will be designed to reinforce Corbyn’s position and stifle dissent amongst senior Labour politicians. It will also make it easier for Corbyn to push his anti-nuclear and anti-austerity messages.
However, if Corbyn doesn’t perform well in Welsh Assembly, London Mayoral and local elections in May, then real questions will linger over how long he can remain in his position. 2016 will be a rocky year for Labour, with acrimony likely to augment between members and MPs of different wings of the party. A little peace and quiet wouldn’t go amiss for the Labour leadership.
With elections for the Scottish Parliament on the horizon, the SNP are expected to retain and increase their majority in the devolved institution. This will be a major test for Nicola Sturgeon, who has been leader for little over a year and who will be expected to make further inroads into Labour heartlands. The SNP will have to defend its governmental policy, and play an increasingly important role as the third party of British politics. It has already managed to apply pressure over to the government over a vote on overturning the fox hunting ban – they will hope to replicate this success in 2016.
2015 has produced mixed results for UKIP. Despite gaining nearly 13% of the popular vote in the general election, only one UKIP MP was returned to Westminster. Now Douglas Carswell is opening criticising Nigel Farage and suggesting that the party needs a new, fresh face at the helm. It is certainly not beyond the realms of possibility that the peoples’ army will lose its beloved General in 2016. In addition, with the possibility of an EU referendum as early as the summer, UKIP need to formulate a clear message and dominate the debate. Failure in the referendum could see the party lose the wind from its sails. Undoubtedly, the next twelve months represents a make or break period for UKIP.
A catastrophic general election, which returned just eight Lib Dem MPs – with many high-profile figures losing their seats – was evidence of how terrible 2015 has been for a party that just five years ago acted as the Westminster king-maker. The Liberal Democrats will have to struggle for survival over the next twelve months, using every opportunity to raise their profile from this historic low. We don’t expect much movement from them, as the group tries to build a base on which to grow again.