The life and death of each party

As the United Kingdom prepares for a general election on May 7, the leaders of each of the four most prominent parties will see their positions riding on the outcome.
In what promises to be a very close election, the Conservatives could emerge well ahead of Labour in the national share of the vote, but still have insufficient MPs in the House of Commons to rule as a majority. In such a scenario, they would have won the election, but failed to reach the magic number of 326 needed to govern on their own and ensure the passage of legislation through parliament. In 2010, David Cameron’s party won 36.1% of the vote, giving them 306 MPs, against 29.0% for Labour, which secured 258. The Conservatives were still 20 seats short. In the end Cameron teamed up in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, who had 57 seats. Pollsters believe the Conservatives could fall short again, by a similar number. Probably with fewer Liberal Democrats to fall back on this time around.
Recent surveys of British public opinion show that, while the UK economic recovery from recession continues to build, so Labour’s longstanding lead over the Conservatives in the opinion polls is beginning to fade.
Economic optimism – expressed as a belief in the ability to keep up with the cost of living – is now at its highest level among voters since 2010, the poll found. At the same time, Labour’s poll lead has fallen from 8 points in November to only 3 points in March.
With inflation hitting the 2% target for the first time since 2010, the UK economy has turned a corner. So the political question that follows is whether this necessarily means the game is now up – or about to be up – for Ed Miliband’s party?
Yet winning an election against a government which has the double protection of a reputation for economic competence alongside the support of strong consumer confidence is extremely rare.
Perhaps the most dramatic issue will revolve around Britain’s willingness to remain in the European Union. The performance of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), led by Nigel Farage, will be an indicator of how much the anti-EU anti-immigrant front will grow in the lead-up to the referendum many want to be held in 2016.