A mere few months ago, the UK Conservative party was going through what may have been its greatest crisis since their large scale infighting over the EU in the early 1990s. A sluggish economic recovery, A leading labor party in the opinion polls, an unpopular coalition with the liberal democrats, and the rise of the far right party UKIP (UK Independence Party) that sapped votes from the conservative’s more right wing supporters all contributed to a bleak outlook for the Tories in the 2015 election. Currently however, only a few months on from these dark times, David Cameron and the conservative-led coalition appear to be in a better than ever position to reclaim their country’s support. The factors that have led to a turnaround for the Tories include an economic recovery that is beginning to pick up, the decline of the labor and UKIP parties, liberal social stances that appeal to younger voters, and a plummeting crime rate.
The most pertinent issue facing Britain over the past five years has been it’s longest and deepest recession on record; a grim legacy left behind by Britain’s previous labor government. To point out the big picture: Britain’s GDP declined by 3.3% as a result of the financial crisis, but has grown by 2.1% since 2010 when Cameron’s government took power. Economic growth in the current quarter is double what it was in the last, and the vast majority of growth being added to the private sector.
Britain faces a sizeable budget deficit, which has added to its growing national debt over the past few years. Under the conservative coalition’s austerity program and spending cuts however, the annual deficit has decreased by a third. Another significant economic effect that has taken place under the Tories is an increase in demand for British products abroad. Britain has long suffered from a lack of foreign demand for its products that has contributed to its annual deficit. Recently however, foreign demand for British goods in certain markets has increased, improving British exports figures.
Finally, the overall improving economic condition has incentivized Cameron to consider lowering taxes, which can both win support from much of the heavily taxed population as well as large corporations which can thus create more jobs and further reduce the unemployment rate.
The conservative coalition is also enjoying the plummeting support suffered by its chief rivals, UKIP and labor. The coalition’s fairly centrist stance on continued UK membership of the EU proved to be one of its biggest early mistakes, as this facilitated the growth of UKIP. The far right party successfully sapped much of the support for the conservative coalition by adopting a strong “leave the EU” position. At its peak, UKIP received almost 20% of the vote in the polls. Recently however, UKIP has seen its support cut by almost half, with many of their supporters returning to the coalition.
The main competition to the conservatives in 2015 however, will obviously come from the labor party. Despite enjoying an initial lead over the conservative coalition, labor has recently lost support to the point that it is now neck and neck with the conservative party, while the liberal democrats gained support in the latest June poll.
Finally, David Cameron can also expect to bank on both a declining crime rate as well as support for policies popular with younger voters who have more liberal-conservative views. As of slightly more than a week ago, he has become the first British Prime Minister to pass the legalization of gay marriage in the United Kingdom, with the Marriage Act 2013 expecting to come into force in mid-2014. It is estimated that at least 60% of voters back same sex marriage, with the number being higher among young voters. Cameron has also hailed a plan to crack down on large multinational corporations that engage in tax evasion, which is another issue popular with younger, liberal voters. The conservatives can finally point to a drastic reduction in the crime rate, which has fallen by over 10% since 2010, and continues to decrease despite reduced police spending by the government. Violent crime in Britain has long been a major domestic issue, and the conservatives will be able to point to the declining crime rate on their watch come 2015.
It must be noted that while not all of the improvements in the British economy and society are necessarily results of conservative policies, they did occur under the conservative government. Nevertheless, the coalition can expect more and more Britons to be pleased with what Cameron’s first term has brought for the United Kingdom.