Britain votes: Who’s who in the UK election?

By Reuters
May 1, 2015

Britons head to the polls for the UK general election on May 7 in what has been described as the closest race to No. 10 Downing Street since the 1970s.

Neither Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives nor the opposition Labour Party have been able to break a decisive lead in opinion polls for weeks and smaller parties could emerge as key players from the vote, in which Britons will elect their members of parliament for the next five years.

With Scottish nationalists expected to perform well, the vote could not only determine Scotland’s future but also Britain’s position within the European Union. Cameron has promised a referendum on bloc membership.

At stake is who will govern a $2.8 trillion economy, which has recovered in the last five years but seen wages lag inflation.

Rising housing prices, especially in London, are also a hot topic, with many young people unable to afford buying a home, as is immigration. The number of people moving to the UK surged by 40 percent in 2014.

A painted house is reflected in puddle in Kensington, London, Britain April 29, 2015. A woman has been told by the local authority that she must remove the the red and white stripes she had painted on the her house in protest after her plans to have the house demolished and replaced with a new house with a two story basement were rejected.  REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

A painted house is reflected in puddle in Kensington, London, Britain April 29, 2015. A woman has been told by the local authority that she must remove the the red and white stripes she had painted on the her house in protest after her plans to have the house demolished and replaced with a new house with a two story basement were rejected. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Below is a profile of the main contenders.

David Cameron:

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (C) joins local supporters in a 'selfie' photograph whilst campaigning in Norton Sub Hamdon near Yeovil, south west England, Britain, April 25, 2015.  REUTERS/Toby Melville

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron (C) joins local supporters in a ‘selfie’ photograph whilst campaigning in Norton Sub Hamdon near Yeovil, south west England, Britain, April 25, 2015. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Cameron is running for a second term in this election. When he came to power in May 2010 aged 43, he was the youngest premier in nearly 200 years.

Cameron has trumpeted the Conservatives’ economic record in his campaign, but he has drawn criticism for being out of touch with ordinary Britons. He was left looking a little embarrassed last month when he appeared to forget during a speech which soccer team he supported in football-mad Britain.

He has promised a new law to prevent tax increases for five years if re-elected. His party got a slight edge on Thursday when a poll showed it had a five point lead over Labour.

Ed Miliband:

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband walks through a crowd gathered for at a campaign event in Warwick, central England April 8, 2015. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband walks through a crowd gathered for at a campaign event in Warwick, central England April 8, 2015. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

The head of the center-left Labour party has seen his ratings rise this year — with an unexpected fan base among young female Britons who declared their love for him on Twitter under “#Milifandom” in response to right-wing media publishing unflattering pictures of him. A snap poll showed Miliband, 45, won the final TV debate before the election. Neither Cameron nor Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg took part. He has pledged to scrap taxes paid when purchasing a home for first-time buyers, and ruled out a post-vote deal with Scottish nationalists after Cameron warned such a move could lead to a UK break up.

Nick Clegg:

Britain's Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat Party leader Nick Clegg and a group of children show off their hands covered with green modelling dough at a day nursery in Poole, Britain April 27, 2015.  REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat Party leader Nick Clegg and a group of children show off their hands covered with green modelling dough at a day nursery in Poole, Britain April 27, 2015. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

The deputy prime minister and leader of the junior party in the coalition government may lose his seat according to one poll as he has lost his status as most popular party leader in recent years.

Having joined forces with Cameron’s Conservatives in 2010, the center-left Liberal Democrats have seen their share of the vote more than halve since then, hit by policies such as breaking a pledge to oppose increasing student tuition fees. Should he lose his seat, Clegg could face pressure to step down as party leader.

However, with polls forecasting that neither the Conservatives nor Labour will win the vote outright, Clegg’s party could be asked again to form a coalition.

Nigel Farage:

United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)  leader Nigel Farage wears an apron bearing a St George's Cross as he enjoys a pint of beer during a visit to mark St George's day at the Northwood Club in Ramsgate, southern England, April 23, 2015  REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage wears an apron bearing a St George’s Cross as he enjoys a pint of beer during a visit to mark St George’s day at the Northwood Club in Ramsgate, southern England, April 23, 2015 REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

The former commodities trader is leader of the anti-EU UK Independence Party, UKIP, whose core policies focus on withdrawing Britain from the European Union through a referendum, and sharply cutting immigration.

UKIP won EU elections in Britain last year, as well as poaching two Conservative MPs from Cameron. But support has decreased this year for the party, often criticised for being a one-man band.

Nicola Sturgeon:

Nicola Sturgeon (2nd R), the leader of the Scottish National Party, poses with local candidate Michelle Thomson during a campaign visit in South Queensferry, Britain April 28, 2015.  REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Nicola Sturgeon (2nd R), the leader of the Scottish National Party, poses with local candidate Michelle Thomson during a campaign visit in South Queensferry, Britain April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

The former lawyer is the first woman to hold the position of leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and First Minister of Scotland, elected to the post following last year’s “no” vote in the Scottish independence referendum.

The SNP has since received record support, fuelled by anger at London’s perceived failure to deliver pre-referendum promises on more autonomy, and could take nearly all the seats in Scotland, according to an early April poll.

Sturgeon, who has raised the prospect of another referendum, was praised for her performance in the main televised election campaign debate, with one poll suggesting she won it

Natalie Bennett:

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett hugs a supporter as she arrives at a campaign event in Liverpool northern England, April 26 , 2015.  REUTERS/Phil Noble

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett hugs a supporter as she arrives at a campaign event in Liverpool, April 26 , 2015. REUTERS/Phil Noble

The head of the left-wing Green Party is a former journalist born in Australia. Leading the party since 2012, she apologised for a “very bad” interview in February, in which she stumbled to explain the Greens’ housing policy. The Greens, who have won supporters from Labour, will be fighting to keep their one seat in parliament

Leanne Wood:

(L-R) Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and UKIP leader Nigel Farage participate in the televised leaders' debate in London, April 16, 2015. REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/Pool

(L-R) Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and UKIP leader Nigel Farage participate in the televised leaders’ debate in London, April 16, 2015. REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/Pool

Wood is the first female leader of Welsh nationalist party, Plaid Cymru. She is also the first to be a non-native Welsh speaker. An advocate of an independent Wales and socialist, Wood once called Britain’s Queen Elizabeth “Mrs Windsor” and was ordered out of the Welsh Assembly chamber.

Plaid Cymru is focusing on getting the same powers for Wales that Scotland already has.

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