In Depth

Britain: the road to May 2015

The parties have laid out their plans for the future of Britain. But will any of them get to put their schemes into action?

Now that the Scottish referendum is over, eyes are turning to the next big British political event – the general election in May 2015. Clearly there is little that investors can do to influence the outcome (beyond voting), so you might feel that there’s little point in worrying about it. Yet while we wouldn’t lose sleep or make massive changes to your portfolio ahead of the event, it’s worth being aware of what might happen both before and afterwards so you can be prepared.

It may be one of the most unpredictable elections that Britain has seen in some time. We have an unpopular coalition government riven by internal strife, facing an opposition led by an unpopular leader. Throw in the wild cards of a rapidly growing populist party in the form of Ukip, and on top of that, the political fallout from the Scottish referendum, and the upshot is that it’s anyone’s to win or lose.

The good news is that the party leaders set out their stalls pretty clearly at the party conferences, reverting to type in the process – the Tories went for tax cuts (eye-catchers include major changes to pensions that could effectively provide a way around inheritance tax, and a promise to up the threshold for paying higher-rate income tax substantially), alongside more benefit reforms.

Labour’s Ed Miliband meanwhile has promised windfall taxes on everyone from tobacco companies to utility firms to owners of properties worth more than £2m. Whoever gets into power (and clearly one of these options is more investor-friendly than the other), they won’t be celebrating long, if at all – they will have to find a way to tackle the UK’s hefty debt levels, while grappling with the divisive question of Europe.

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