In 2010, at the age of 43, David Cameron became the youngest prime minister of Britain since 1812. Known for his privileged background – schooling in Eton, the UK’s top private school; college in Oxford; and an ancestry that makes him the Queen’s distant relative – the leader of the Conservative party has, however, tried to cultivate an image of being tuned into a changing Britain.
Cameron has similarities with former Prime Minister Tony Blair, including a modernizing approach to politics and a great TV presence. In fact, he once described himself as the “heir to Blair.”
Born on 9 October 1966, he has described his childhood as a happy one.
In Oxford, he was not known to be particularly keen on student politics. He became formally associated with the Conservative party in 1988 and started as a researcher there. The then Prime Minister John Major described the young Cameron as “extraordinarily able and bright.”
In 1996, he married Samantha, a landowner’s daughter.
After a seven-year stint as public relations head at a television firm, he contested the 1997 general election from Stafford, but lost. Four years later; however he won the vacated Tory seat of Witney.
After this he rose rapidly through Tory ranks. In 2005, he surprised a lot of people by winning the party leadership race. Though he led the Tories to victory in the 2010 general election, the party fell short of an absolute majority and had to tie up with Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats.
As prime minister, Cameron has had to cope with the aftereffects of the financial crisis. His government has brought changes to immigration, welfare, and healthcare. In 2011, he vetoed a European Union treaty. He agreed to hold a potentially risky Scottish independence referendum. Gay marriages were legalized in England and Wales. Immigration continues to be a tricky issue as Britain heads to another general election and Cameron at times seems to be struggling to articulate a clear line on it.
Ed Miliband was born in London to European immigrants – a Marxist academic father and a Holocaust survivor mother.
After attending multiple schools, including two in the US, he initially studied politics, philosophy, and economics at Oxford University’s Corpus Christi College. He got his first taste of student politics here. Later he secured a Master’s from the London School of Economics.
After a stint in the media, he worked as a speechwriter and policy researcher for Harriet Harman, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, and then with Gordon Brown. Between 1997 and 2002, Miliband was Brown’s special adviser.
In 2004, he became the chairman of an economic advisory council.
The following year he stood for election for the first time, and became the Labour MP from Doncaster North. In May 2006 he became the parliamentary secretary to the cabinet office in the Tony Blair government.
In 2007, brothers Ed Miliband and David Miliband, the foreign secretary, were both members of the Gordon Brown cabinet. Ed Miliband was later made secretary of state to the energy and climate change department.
He won the Labour leadership election in September 2010 and became leader of the opposition.
Among his key statements as opposition leader, he has supported military action by the UK against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and spoken against domestic public spending cuts.
In 2012, he reaffirmed Labour’s commitment to economic “fairness.” In 2013, he expressed his opposition to a referendum on deciding the UK’s membership to the EU, and a British military intervention in Syria on basis of insufficient evidence of a chemical attack. Miliband has sought to project himself as a leader distinct from both former Labour prime ministers Blair and Brown.
Nick Clegg was born in 1967 in Buckinghamshire to Nicholas Peter Clegg and Hermance van den Wall Bake. After finishing school, he studied archaeology and anthropology at Cambridge University, where he was active in theater and sports.
His work experience is wide-ranging and includes stints in a bank, as an intern at The Nation magazine in New York, in the humanitarian aid sector, as a lobbyist, and as a policy adviser to the EU.
He is also a prolific writer of articles and pamphlets.
Chosen as a euro-candidate, in 1999 he became the Liberal Democrat MEP from East Midlands. In 2005, he became the MP from Sheffield Hallam. Within two years he was the party leader.
In a speech, he declared he was liberal “by temperament, by instinct and by upbringing.” In the run-up to the 2010 general election, he became a popular figure in television debates.
After the 2010 election, Liberal Democrats formed a coalition government with the Conservatives, and Clegg became the deputy prime minister.
Born in 1964 in Kent, Nigel Farage studied at Dulwich College, south London. He worked as a commodities broker for some time. After defecting from the Conservatives party, he co-founded the Ukip in 1993. In 1999, he became an MEP from South-east England. In 2010, he was elected the party leader.
Very critical of the European Union, he does not want the UK to have anything to do with it. He has often made controversial and even rude remarks – once comparing a former Belgian prime minister to a “low-grade bank clerk.”
His strong anti-immigration line has found support with a section of the UK voters. It will be interesting to see how many seats Ukip wins through Farage’s aggressive brand of politics.