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UK General Election
2015 will be marked as the year the pollsters got it wrong.
Going into Election Day, the polls were predicting that neither Labour nor the Conservatives would win an overall majority – they predicted the fate of the next government would rest on the rising Scottish Nationalists. For the first time, the televised debates included the smaller parties of UKIP, the Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SNP.
Once the clock struck 10pm the exit poll was revealed and quickly set the tone for the evening. It predicted the Conservatives would be the biggest party in Parliament. The Tories gained a majority of 12, meaning an end for the Coalition Government. Labour lost seats with a near wipe-out in Scotland. The Tories’ Coalition partner of the Liberal Democrats lost 49 of their 57 seats, pushing them into fourth place behind the SNP.
UKIP took 12.9% of the national vote and retained one seat they gained from a defection prior to the election. The Greens took 3.8% of the national vote and retained their only MP, Caroline Lucas.
This unexpected result led to the resignations of Ed Miliband (Lab), Nick Clegg (Lib Dems) and Nigel Farage (UKIP) – the latter having failed to win a seat for himself. This last resignation was short lived, however.
Following Labour’s defeat at the general election, leader Ed Miliband resigned. This triggered a leadership contest.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham, Shadow Health Minister Liz Kendal and backbencher Jeremy Corbyn each secured the number of Parliamentary Labour members required to get a spot on the ballot.
Burnham was long considered the front-runner, but following a rule change under Miliband, members of the public could join the party as a ‘registered supporter’ for £3, which would entitle them to vote in the leadership ballot. The polls started to shift with Jeremy Corbyn taking the lead.
This lead to party grandees such as former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, former Foreign Secretaries Jack Straw and David Miliband, former spin doctor Alistair Campbell and former Business Secretary Lord Mandelson coming out in a bid to intervene and dilute the support of Corbyn with a warning that Labour would become unelectable under Corbyn.
When the results were announced, Corbyn had won the leadership on the first round of voting with 59.5% of the vote. Burnham came second with 19%. Corbyn took 49.6% of party members, 83.8% of the registered supporters and 57.6% of the affiliated supporters. The apparent rebel had won the leadership, promising a new kind of politics.
Now the Labour party is ostensibly fractured into two factions epitomised by the left-wing Momentum (supporting Corbyn) and the moderates supported by Progress. Though Corbyn appointed a mixed cabinet of the left and moderates it hasn’t been smooth.
Corbyn was criticised for not appointing women to the top posts of Shadow Chancellor, Foreign and Home secretary. Corbyn was criticised by his Shadow Defence Secretary for appointing her alongside former Mayor of London Ken Livingston to head up the party review into Trident.
The division became no clearer than when the Commons was asked to vote in favour of air strikes in Syria following the Parisian attacks. Corbyn granted a free vote for Labour members after he had announced that he would not support air strikes.
The 11-hour debate closed with Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn (son of Stop the War campaigner and left-wing politician Tony Benn) arguing in favour of the government’s motion. It passed with 66 Labour MPs supporting the Government to give it a majority of 174 votes.
The Labour fracture is set to continue, with rumours of mandatory re-selection for all Labour MPs in an attempt to get rid of the moderates and plans for a Shadow Cabinet reshuffle after the Christmas Recess to promote those loyal to Corbyn.
It will be an interesting year in 2016 for Labour with the London mayoral election alongside the Scottish and Welsh Assembly and local elections in May.
In July, Greece went to the polls in a referendum on whether to accept bail-out terms set by the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras hoped that a resounding no vote would give him the mandate to negotiate a better deal with the EC, IMF and ECB. The result was a resounding no across all constituencies: 61.3% to 38.6%.
The leader of New Democracy and former Prime Minister Antonis Samras resigned as party leader, having committed himself and the party to the yes campaign. Tsipras formally requested a three-year bailout from the Eurozone with the request granted by the Greek Parliament.
This request was submitted to the Eurozone, but in the end a much harsher deal was agreed, making deeper cuts into pensions and increasing taxes on the Greek people. This deal was driven by the Germans, who ostensibly sought to punish Greece for their referendum.