Okay so our elections are every 5 years (it used to be every 4 years, but the current government changed it). The UK (made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) is divided into 650 constituencies with their size and boundary depending on the amount of people on the electoral roll (registered to vote). In each constituency, several candidates run for election to be an MP (Member of Parliament) to win a seat in the House of Commons in Westminister, London and they are all from different parties:
The two main parties are Conservative (also known as ‘Tory’) and Labour (Conservative being of the right and Labour of the left) and these are in opposition to each other. The leader of the Conservatives is David Cameron and Ed Miliband leads the Labour party.
Then there is The Liberal Democrats, who are currently in a coalition government with the Conservatives. This party is of the centre and their leader is Nick Clegg. They have lost a lot of votes after breaking a promise to ditch tuition fees and instead, trebled them.
The UK Independence Party, or UKIP are a controversial party of the far right. Their main policies are about controlling immigration and leaving the EU and they are often dubbed a racist party because of the amount of members who have been suspended due to racist, homophobic or misogynistic remarks (one of their councillors blames the storms and floods on the legalisation of gay marriage). Their leader is Nigel Farage, who is of a privileged background but is known for using his drinking and smoking habits to show how he identifies with the working man.
Completely contrary to UKIP is the Green Party of England and Wales, led by Australian-born Natalie Bennett, this party focuses on the environment, LGBTIQ rights and social equality. Often called ‘hippies’ because of their beliefs, this party is particularly popular amongst young people and currently holds 1 seat in the House of Commons for the constituency for Brighton Pavilion.
The Scottish National Party (SNP), of the left, works for more devolution of powers from Westminster to Scotland and ultimately they want Scotland to be its own independent country, separate from the rest of the UK. The leader, Nicola Sturgeon has risen the SNP’s profile through media exposure and it is predicted that they will take most of Labour’s current seats in Scotland.
Plaid Cymru (Party of Wales) is similar to the SNP in that they want more power and funding from Westminster. Their leader is Leanne Wood.
In Northern Irelend there is the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), of the right, then the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and Sinn Féin (We Ourselves) of the left. The Alliance Party is the Northern-Irish sister party of the Liberal Democrats in the rest of the UK.
All leaders of the parties stand for election for leader of their party and the party votes. Ed Miliband beat his brother David in being elected as leader of the Labour Party.
There are other smaller parties such as Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), Respect Party and the Monster Raving Loony Party.
There is also a number of independent candidates in each constituency who don’t belong to any party, but may win a seat in the House of Commons.
SO ANYWAY, each constituency elects 1 MP. 326 seats are needed to be won by a single party for it to win outright. When this happens, the leader of the winning party becomes the new Prime Minister.
HOWEVER, when no party reaches 326 seats, this is called a hung parliament and negotiations between parties take place to try and get a parliament of at least 326 together. For example, in the 2010 general election, Conservative won 306 seats, Labour won 258 and Lib Dems won 57 so the Tories and Lib Dems formed a coalition. David Cameron became Prime Minister and Nick Clegg became Deputy. This is certain to happen again this year, but possibly with a different outcome.
As for candidates running, some will choose to stand down as leader of their party if they are not successful but some will stay on. Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP says he will stand down if he does not win in his local constituency of Thanet South, Kent.
I really hope this has helped you understand a bit about UK general elections, please let me know if anything is unclear or you want to ask me something else, I’ll be happy to answer.