Commentary

UK Election Results: A Conservative Surge and a Defeat for Socialism

Nile Gardiner
By Nile Gardiner | May 11, 2015 | 9:54 AM EDT

Greatly exceeding expectations, the Conservative Party, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, surged in last week’s United Kingdom General Election, winning 330 parliamentary seats, enough to form a majority in the House of Commons.

The socialist Labour Party won just 232 seats, and the Liberal Democrat vote collapsed, securing just 8 seats. The Scottish National Party won 56 seats in Scotland. The UK Independence Party (UKIP) won just one seat, despite receiving over three million votes.

Here are five takeaways from the election result:

1. Labour was not trusted on the economy.

The Labour Party, headed by Ed Miliband, dramatically underperformed in this election. The British electorate clearly had cold feet when it came to voting for a left-wing Socialist leader who vowed to reverse the successful economic policies of the Conservative-led government.

Miliband’s big government, heavy spending, high tax agenda failed to capture the hearts of Middle England, and British voters opted instead for the free market approach put forward by the Conservatives.  The wide-reaching welfare reforms, headed by Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith, also proved popular with the British electorate.

2. Britain is at heart still a conservative country.

Britain’s two main center right parties, the Conservative Party and UK Independence Party won 49.4 percent of the total vote. In England, the Right was dominant in terms of the overall vote.

The idea that Britain is becoming a more liberal country is a myth. From government spending to immigration, the U.K. has become more, not less, conservative in recent years on most key issues.

The Conservative Party would have secured an even greater share of the vote had David Cameron not alienated many grassroots supporters with highly controversial “modernizing” policies such as backing gay marriage and increasing spending on foreign aid, both deeply unpopular with the Conservative base.

3. The European Union referendum will go ahead.

David Cameron has pledged to hold a referendum on Great Britain’s membership of the European Union in 2017. Ed Miliband opposed holding a popular vote on the EU, and the defeat of the Labour Party now opens the way for the referendum to move forward.

If the British people vote to leave the EU, the U.S.-U.K. special relationship will be further strengthened, and Britain will be in a strong position to negotiate a free trade agreement with the United States.

4. Britain’s nuclear deterrent is safe.

Before last night’s election results, Britain faced the prospect of a possible Labour coalition with the far left wing Scottish National Party (SNP). The Scottish nationalists are opposed to Britain’s submarine-based nuclear deterrent (Trident), and have called for a nuclear-free Britain. The entire British nuclear deterrent is currently based inside Scotland.

The return of a Conservative-led government means that Britain’s nuclear deterrent is now safe, at least for the foreseeable future. The Conservatives have pledged to keep and renew Britain’s nuclear force, an important commitment as a key NATO member.

5. Scottish nationalism is again on the rise.

The Scottish National Party emerged as the big winner in Scotland, with 56 out of 59 Scottish seats, benefiting from a Labour and Liberal Democrat collapse north of the border.

Despite losing the Scottish independence referendum vote last September, the Scottish National Party, led by Nicola Sturgeon, will undoubtedly press for another vote to be held, a call that will be strongly resisted by the British government.

Nile Gardiner, a leading authority on transatlantic relations, is director of The Heritage Foundation's Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom.

Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by The Heritage Foundation.