Thousands of candidates will have started this year dreaming of success at the general election and the chance of a shot at power.
I’ve picked 15 of them. All these individuals have chosen to fight a particularly notable or potentially sensational contest. None of them are currently in parliament. Collectively, however, they represent some of the main trends and themes that will shape the political year ahead.
1. Oliver Coppard
Labour candidate for Sheffield Hallam
Coppard is the man who hopes to defeat Nick Clegg. If he succeeds, it could be the most spectacular result of election night. But he’ll need a mammoth swing of 18.7%, and has to leapfrog the Tories who came second in 2010.
2. Christine Jardine
Liberal Democrat candidate for Gordon
Only one person stands in the way of Jardine succeeding Malcolm Bruce as the Lib Dem MP for this Scottish seat. Unfortunately for her, that person is Alex Salmond, and he will attract not just a mighty battery of SNP supporters but a similarly-sized pack of reporters. It will be a very tough, and very high-profile, contest.
3. Darren Hall
Green candidate for Bristol West
Can the Green party double their representation in the Commons from one to two? Hall is the party’s best bet to join Caroline Lucas on the appropriately-coloured green benches, but this Lib Dem-held seat is also being targeted by Labour and the Tories.
4. Tim Aker
Ukip candidate for Thurrock
Tory MP Jackie Doyle-Price faces a double challenge to her tiny majority of 92 in Thurrock. Both Labour’s Polly Billington and Ukip’s Tim Aker think they can win, but it’s Aker who commands the most bluster and who could become Ukip’s first MP to triumph in a seat outside a by-election.
5. Tulip Siddiq
Labour candidate for Hampstead & Kilburn
Glenda Jackson won here by just 42 votes in 2010. She’s standing down this time, and Tulip Siddiq is hoping not just to hold the seat for Labour but convert it from an ultra-marginal into a safe London constituency. Siddiq is likely to benefit from some lofty ministerial visits during the campaign: she previously worked for both Ed Miliband and Tessa Jowell.
6. Royston Smith
Conservative candidate for Southampton Itchen
Smith could be the only Tory in the country to take a seat from Labour. John Denham managed a majority of only 192 in 2010, and he’s standing down in 2015. The Lib Dems came a strong third place at the last election; in whose favour might their vote collapse this time?
7. The SNP candidate for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey
Whoever gets picked for this role has the chance of causing another election sensation: the defeat of Lib Dem MP and chief secretary to the treasury Danny Alexander. The SNP aren’t exactly being hasty in picking their candidates, however; they might want to get a move on in this seat, especially as they’ll need a 11% swing for victory.
8. Victoria Ayling
Ukip candidate for Great Grimsby
Another of Ukip’s hopefuls, and someone whose victory would give the party not only its first female MP but its first ever gain from Labour. The retiring MP Austin Mitchell has praised Ayling for being a “very good candidate”, though he added he also thought she was “crackers”.
9. Margaret Greenwood
Labour candidate for Wirral West
Greenwood is hoping to defeat Conservative MP and employment minister Esther McVey. She has a good chance of claiming the most high-profile Tory scalp of the election: a swing of 3.1% would see the seat change hands.
10. Rachel Gilmour
Liberal Democrat candidate for Taunton Deane
How well can the Lib Dems halt the Tory advance across south-west England? Gilmour has the job of defending one of the less perilous seats in the region, but she’s only just been selected following Jeremy Browne’s recent surprise decision to stand down. His majority in 2010 was 3,993.
11. Wes Streeting
Labour candidate for Ilford North
Labour will have had a very good election in the capital if Streeting takes this seat from Tory MP Lee Scott. Ilford North requires a 5.8% swing to change hands, but Labour did exceptionally well in London in the 2014 local elections, and could repeat the trick again this year.
12. Flick Drummond
Conservative candidate for Portsmouth South
Mike Hancock won this seat for the Lib Dems in 2010, but now sits as an independent. He’s yet to say whether he’s standing again. Drummond could capitalise on Hancock’s behaviour to deny both him and his former party a win.
13. Craig Tracey
Conservative candidate for Warwickshire North
Tracey is the man with the unenviable task of defending the Tories’ smallest majority in the UK. Dan Byles won the seat by just 54 votes in 2010, but is not contesting the seat a second time. The man Byles defeated in 2010, Labour’s Mike O’Brien, is back for revenge. Tracey has a tough fight ahead.
14. Imran Hussain
Labour candidate for Bradford East
The last time Labour fought a parliamentary election in Bradford, it got roundly beaten by George Galloway. Come the 2015 election the party will be hoping to see at least one MP elected in the city, and Hussain should do it comfortably in this seat currently held by Lib Dem David Ward.
15. Alan Pugh
Labour candidate for Arfon
In 2010 Plaid Cymru gained Arfon from Labour and Alan Pugh. In 2015 Labour and Pugh will be hoping to take it back. They need a swing of 2.8% to do it. But will PC’s Hywel Williams profit from the same kind of anti-Labour pro-nationalist mood that is currently growing in Scotland?