Prospects for the British General Election
  • Plymouth Lecture Theatre, Portland Square Building

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The general election scheduled for May 2015 promised to be one of the most unpredictable and closely contested for many years. 

It was the first election for 80 years to follow the period in office of a peacetime coalition government. It took place against the background of one of the most sustained incursions into the established party system since the foundation of the Labour Party 100 years ago.  It reflected the impact of the independence referendum in Scotland on politics on both sides of the border.

This open event (part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science) was led by Professor Colin Rallings and Professor Michael Thrasher. It was designed to offer participants the chance to enhance understanding of what might happen and why, and to share their own opinions and insights through questions and contributions from the floor.

The session made extensive use of Rallings and Thrasher’s own work on elections as well as findings from other ESRC sponsored resources such as the British Election Study and the British Candidate Survey. It showed how social science has helped us evaluate changes in patterns of voter loyalties and behaviour over time; how different electoral outcomes emerge; and appraise the latest evidence from election results and opinion polls.

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Biography: Professor Colin Rallings and Professor Michael Thrasher

Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher worked at the University for over 30 years. During this period they published extensively on elections at all levels of the political system, establishing the University’s unsurpassed reputation as an authoritative source of information and analysis on electoral matters.

They are the authors of Local Elections in Britain, of British Electoral Facts 1832-2012, and of 30 annual editions of the Local Elections Handbook. Together with colleagues they have devised a new way of measuring and explaining the relationship between votes cast and seats won in multi-party British elections. Their ESRC grant supported the revision and updating of the British Local Elections Database, praised by one reviewer as ‘a wonderful resource’.

In addition to their academic work, Rallings and Thrasher have appeared on screen on election night television for ITN and Sky News over more than two decades; have written extensively for the print media including the Sunday Times and Local Government Chronicle; and have compiled two editions of The Media Guide to the New Parliamentary Constituencies to calculate the likely partisan consequences of parliamentary boundary changes for a media consortium comprising the BBC, ITN, Sky News and the Press Association. In 2013 a Guardian editorial noted their ‘distinguished record’ for having ‘done more than most to illuminate British democracy’.  

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