The United Kingdom general election of 2010 is currently being held on 6 May to elect one Member of Parliament in each of the 650 constituencies to the House of Commons, the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The election will be more than five years after the previous election. Voting will take place between 7.00 am and 10.00 pm. Local elections will also be held in some areas on that day. The election was called on 6 April, and Parliament was dissolved on 12 April for the ensuing campaign.
The governing Labour Party will be looking to secure a fourth consecutive term in office and to restore support lost since 1997. The Conservative Party will seek to gain a dominant position in UK politics after losses in the 1990s, and to replace Labour as the governing party. The Liberal Democrats hope to make gains from both sides; their most realistic ambition, as the campaign began, was to hold the balance of power in a hung parliament. Since the televised debates between the three leaders, their poll ratings have risen to the point where many are considering the possibility of a Liberal Democrat role in Government.
The Scottish National Party, encouraged by their victory in the 2007 Scottish parliament elections, have set themselves a target of 20 MPs and will also be hoping to find themselves in a balance of power position. Equally, Plaid Cymru is seeking gains in Wales. Smaller parties who have had successes at local elections and the 2009 European elections (United Kingdom Independence Party, Green Party, British National Party) will look to extend their representation to seats in the House of Commons. The Democratic Unionist Party will be looking to maintain, if not extend, their number of seats, currently the 4th largest party in the House of Commons
The election is the first to be faced by the Labour leader Gordon Brown as Prime Minister, who became party leader in 2007 after the resignation of Tony Blair. It is also the first election to be faced by the main opposition party leaders, David Cameron of the Conservatives and Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats. It is thus the first time since 1979 that none of the three main party leaders has headed a previous general election campaign. For the first time at a British election, the three main party leaders engaged in a series of televised debates.
The Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited Buckingham Palace on 6 April and asked the Queen to dissolve Parliament on 12 April, confirming in a live press conference in Downing Street, as had long been speculated, that the election would be held on 6 May five years, almost to the day, since the previous election on 5 May 2005. The key dates are as follows:
Monday 12 April Dissolution of the 54th parliament and campaigning officially begins
Tuesday 20 April Last day to file nomination papers, to register to vote, and to request a postal vote
Wednesday 5 May Campaigning officially ends
Thursday 6 May Polling day
Tuesday 18 May 55th parliament assembles
Tuesday 25 May State Opening of Parliament
Thursday 27 May Voting takes place in the delayed poll in the constituency of Thirsk and Malton.
See also: Conservative Party (UK) leadership election, 2005, Liberal Democrats leadership election, 2006, Labour Party leadership election, 2007, and Liberal Democrats leadership election, 2007
All three main parties will go into the general election having changed leaders since the last election. David Cameron became Conservative leader in December 2005, replacing Michael Howard. Gordon Brown succeeded Tony Blair as leader of the Labour Party on 24 June 2007 and as Prime Minister on 27 June 2007. Nick Clegg was elected as leader of the Liberal Democrats in December 2007, succeeding Sir Menzies Campbell who resigned on 15 October 2007 after having replaced Charles Kennedy, who had himself resigned in January 2006. The last time all three main parties went into a general election with new leaders was in the 1979 election, when James Callaghan as Labour leader, Margaret Thatcher for the Conservatives, and David Steel with the then-Liberal Party took to the polls.
The leadership of each party may have implications beyond party popularity at the polls, especially if a hung parliament requires the formation of a coalition or minority government. Tony Blair courted the Liberal Democrats for possible coalition in the 1997 Parliament even though Labour had a clear majority, and similarly Gordon Brown made comments about the possibility of a coalition in January 2010. In 2009, it was reported that senior civil servants are to meet with the Liberal Democrats to discuss their policies, an indication of how seriously the prospect of a hung parliament is being taken.Nick Clegg and Menzies Campbell have continued the position of Charles Kennedy of not being prepared to form a coalition with either main party and of voting against any Queen's Speech unless there was an unambiguous commitment in it to introduce proportional representation.
David Cameron is attempting to make a pitch towards "Middle England" — the people who it is said have abandoned the Conservative Party since 1992 for Labour or the Liberal Democrats.
See also: List of parties contesting the United Kingdom general election, 2010
Other parties with representation at the previous general election at Westminster include the Scottish National Party from Scotland and Plaid Cymru from Wales, and Respect - The Unity Coalition and Health Concern, each of which holds one Parliamentary seat from England. Since that election, the Scottish National Party have won the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections and currently control the Scottish Government and also won the largest share of the 2009 European Parliament election vote in Scotland. In Wales, the Labour Party remained the largest party in the Welsh Assembly, though Plaid Cymru increased their share of the vote and formed a coalition government with Labour.
In Northern Ireland, none of the main parties from Great Britain has any representation. At the 2005 election, Sinn Féin (whose MPs do not take their seats as they will not swear the Oath of Allegiance to the Queen) won five seats. The Democratic Unionist Party won nine, continuing their expansion at the expense of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (3 seats) and the Ulster Unionist Party (1 seat). The sole Ulster Unionist Party MP subsequently resigned from the party leaving them with no representation at Westminster.This shift continued trends in both the nationalist and unionist communities that had been seen in the previous two elections, and was also replicated in the 2007 elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly. In 2008, the DUP announced their intention to sit with the Conservative Party in parliament, and in 2009 the UUP and the Conservative Party announced they had formed an electoral alliance: the two parties will field joint candidates for future elections under the banner of "Ulster Conservatives and Unionists – New Force".
Many constituencies will be contested by other, smaller parties. Parties that won no representatives at Westminster in 2005 but have seats in the devolved assemblies or European Parliament include the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, the Progressive Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, the British National Party, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), and the Green parties in the UK: the Green Party of England and Wales, the Scottish Green Party, and the Green Party in Northern Ireland. In 2009, Nigel Farage announced his intention to resign as UKIP leader to focus his attention on becoming a Member of Parliament. Farage was replaced by Lord Pearson of Rannoch, elected by party members, whose stated intention would be for the electoral support of UKIP to force a hung parliament. The Green Party of England and Wales has voted to have a position of leader for the first time; the first leadership election was won by Caroline Lucas, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate to contest the constituency of Brighton Pavilion.
In addition to a wide number of smaller parties which currently have no parliamentary representation, a new loose coalition will contest a general election for the first time. The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), is a grouping of left-wing parties that participated in the 2009 European Parliament elections under the name of No2EU; members include the Socialist Workers Party, the Socialist Party, the Socialist Alliance, Socialist Resistance, and is supported by some members of UNISON, the National Union of Teachers, the University and College Union, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, and the Public and Commercial Services Union. Several members of these unions have agreed to run as candidates under the TUSC banner. However, some former members of NO2EU, such as the Liberal Party and the Communist Party of Britain, have chosen not to participate in the TUSC campaign. The coalition will not run candidates against left-wing Labour or Respect candidates.