Are Cameron, Miliband and Farage fighting for survival?

The United Kingdom general election of 2015 will be held on 7 May. Read few comments.

Questions:

1. Are Ed Miliband and David Cameron fighting for political survival, do they have to win the elections to stay as party leaders or not, and why?

2. Is also Nigel Farage somehow in danger? The expectations how the UKIP will perform run quite high. But what if the UKIP will under perform?

Answers:

Martin Smith, Professor, Department of Politics, University of York

1. The answer to the first one is difficult because I think it depends on the nature of the result. However, I think if the Conservatives are not part of the next government then David Cameron will resign. He will be criticised for not winning when the Conservatives seemed to have a strong economic argument and in that sense he would have to take a lot of the blame for the loss. The situation for Ed Miliband is probably a bit different. He has probably performed better than expected and if the party is seen to do well – even if they lose he may stay but again I think that if Labour lose he will resign at some point before the next election. However, he may last longer than Cameron.

2. Support for UKIP seems to be falling through the campaign and it seems likely that they will only win 1 or 2 seats. Nigel Farage has said that he will resign as leader if he does not win his seat so his future depends on his own result. The fight in the constituency where he standing – Thanet – is very tight and so the outcome is unclear. I think if UKIP under perform and Farage resigns then the future of UKIP is very uncertain as it has depended a lot on Farage.

Tom Quinn, Senior Lecture, Department of Government, University of Essex

1. Whichever major party leader fails to become prime minister is likely to resign. That is what usually happens after a major party is defeated in a general election. The last time that a major party leader did not resign after a general election defeat was in 1987, when Neil Kinnock stayed on after Labour’s defeat. But when Labour lost again in 1992, he resigned. When the Conservatives lost in 1997, John Major resigned; when they lost in 2001, William Hague resigned, and when they lost in 2005, Michael Howard resigned. When Labour lost in 2010, Gordon Brown resigned. Party leaders try to take the election defeat with them so that their parties can rebuild in opposition and move on from the past.

2. Farage has said that he will stand down as leader of UKIP if he fails to win the parliamentary seat he is contesting. There might be less pressure on him to go internally because he is the party’s biggest asset at the moment, although that could change if he were defeated. There are not many big names who are well-known who could replace him, although the MP, Douglas Carswell, is one. Farage might decide that the party’s best chance of progressing, if he failed to win his parliamentary seat, could be with someone else as leader. However, if he wins his seat, he will stay on, regardless of how well UKIP performs in the rest of the country.

Katharine Dommett, Lecturer in the Public Understanding of Politics, University of Sheffield

1. Neither Ed Miliband or David Cameron have faced serious challenges to their leadership in the run up to the election, nor is it likely that there will be immediate calls for the resignation on the 8th of May. As it is not expected that either party will win an outright majority the party leaders are not under significant pressure to achieve this goal. What is likely, however, is that in the long term each party will want to rethink how they could secure a majority in the future. This may lead both parties to want change leadership.

2. Nigel Farage is perhaps the only instantly recognisable UKIP politician and this means he faces a different set of expectations. There is no clear alternative to Farage, so even if the party do not live up to expectations around their performance at this General Election it is unlikely that he will face a leadership challenge.

Alan Convery, Lecturer in Politics, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh

1. I think it would be difficult for David Cameron to stay on as party leader if he is not prime minister after the election. The Conservative Party is not traditionally tolerant of electoral failure.

2. On UKIP, the UK’s electoral system makes it quite hard to tell. The party got around 900,000 votes in 2010 but no seats, so it really depends on the dynamics in individual constituencies. I think Farage has said he will resign if he doesn’t win his seat.

Graham Wilson, Department Chair, Professor, Department of Political Science, Boston University

1. I assume both would go as quickly as possible if they lost. But given the confusion on the situation, it might take some time for the to go.

2. Is also Nigel Farage somehow in danger? The expectations how the UKIP will perform run quite high. But what if the UKIP will underperform?

They will get only a couple of seats I think. If Farage does not win a seat, I think he will go. UKIP’s support has always been vulnerable to pressure from the Conservatives.

 

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