Saturday, April 10, 2010

Vote Britannia

Queen Elizabeth II has dissolved Parliament and Britain will go to the polls to choose their next government on 6 May (in a twist of fate, that is just two days after much of Tennessee will vote in major local primaries) and for the first time in 13 years, the Conservative Party, now led by David Cameron, has a chance at a majority government as a result of that vote.

What remains uncertain is how accurately the current polls reflect how the General Election will turn out. The Times, which was once-along with The Telegraph and The Daily Mail-among the press bulwarks of British Conservative politics, has now become a sort of standard establishment news outlet, is saying that if the election were held today, the Conservatives would have a tiny majority of four seats. That would make Tory Leader David Cameron the Prime Minister, but his majority would be more tenuous than John Major's was during the years following the 1992 General Election-Major would eventually have to lead a minority government after a series of bi-election losses by 1996.

The Telegraph has published a poll which put the Conservatives at 38%, with 30% going for Labour and 21% for the Liberal Democrats. If that were the final result next month, it would make the Conservatives the largest party but give no one the majority-a hung Parliament. Hung Parliaments have become par for the course in Canada with both the Liberals (after 2004) and the Conservatives (since 2006) having to slog through hung Parliaments in recent years (because of the Bloc Quebecois), with the Liberal Government falling on a no confidence vote in November of 2005. The Conservatives in Canada have successfully managed to cobble together something of a stable government despite a hung Parliament. In Britain, however, hung Parliaments are much more rare and when they do happen are often a signal of governmental instability. Hence, that is why there seems to be so much discussion in the media about it.

If Britain's 2008 local elections were replicated on 5 May, the result would be a Conservative landslide on the scale of Labour's 1997 wipeout of the Tories.

Here is a glimpse of that 1997 history.

Here is the concession of defeat in 1997 from Britain's last Conservative Prime Minister, John Major. In it, he delivers what has become my favorite line to describe political life-a hard truth. "Politics is a rough old trade."

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