International Student Guide to UK General Election

Posted by AndyWalsh on 29 April 2015

choice-158159_640When is it?

Thursday the 7th of May (The General election is held every 5 years on the 1st Thursday in May)

What’s it all about?

A General election is when all 650 seats of the UK’s governing body the House of Commons are democratically elected by a public vote. The old Parliament is dissolved and a new government is formed. The representatives that sit in the House of Commons are called Members of Parliament or MP’s for short.

The UK parliament is made up of two different bodies the democratically elected House of Commons and the House of Lords. Both bodies must pass new policies before they are included in UK law.

Why is this year any different?

Historically the UK usually has one party in power, secured by a majority of votes. However last year this didn’t happen and a coalition of parties was formed to make the government. (Conservative and Liberal Democrats) In the last hundred years having a second coalition government is extremely rare, apart from at times of War. World War 1 and 2.

Also this year there is a lot of excitement because there are more parties that could genuinely influence power. The UK has been dominated by three parties; the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, but this year the UK Independence Party, the Scottish Nationalist Party, the Green Party and the Democratic Unionist party all have increased prominence.

How can I find out the main policies of each political party?

The best place for an overview is the BBC election site

If you want more detail the individual parties publish a document called a manifesto that has all their main policies in. This can be found on their websites.

How do I start a political discussion in the UK?

Raising political discussion in the UK should be done carefully as while many people are happy to give their opinion, there are some who believe it is a personal matter. However if you keep the discussion general and don’t ask people how they are going to vote all will be well.

Starter questions:

What do you think is the biggest issue in this election?

What are your thoughts on another coalition Government?

What do you think of the main party leaders?

Can I vote?

UK and Common Wealth citizens can vote in Parliamentary elections. (Plus Local, European and regional elections)

EU students can vote in European, Local Elections and regional elections

For more information go to the UK Council for International Student Affairs

Will the result affect me?

Yes, but the change could be relatively minor in the short term. Paying a little more or less tax on goods, transport, and alcohol. However a big change could occur if a substantial change was made to UK immigration law, for example a change in visa lengths.

Can I get a political internship or voluntary work?

Yes, a good site to look for political jobs is

For more jobs in Government and Politics check out Jobonline

Or if you’re careers service is run by The Careers Group try searching the Online careers library,

Careers Tagged Search under ‘Politics’ or ‘Think Tanks’ for policy related work


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Topics: employability skills, International Students

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