Thursday, May 6, 2010

I'm UK, You're UK

Well, today is--finally--the day of the UK election. I've always been fascinated by British politics, not least because some foundation used to send me free surplus books about it in college.

The UK, aside from Canada and possibly Australia, arguably has the closest culture to the United States. Certainly in western Europe they have the most similar political culture. Sure, the Conservatives are more like our moderate Democrats, and they have an entire party of Dennis Kuciniches in the Liberal Democrats, but when it's all said and done it's not so terribly different.

One party, all of this guy. No wonder they lost an empire.

Of course, most comparisons are not going to be ideal. Few western democracies have anything close to our system; parliamentary elections run quite differently than our presidential one. In this case, it may make a difference. The UK has a small but significant third party, the Liberal Democrats. Normally they are a distant afterthought with the occasional bout of scathing importance. This year, however, it's different.

With an electorate comfortable but irritated at New Labour--the functional equivalent of Clinton Democrats formed under the Democratic Leadership Council in America, where Labour shed its embarrasingly pro-Marxist platform--but not quite ready to pull the trigger on the equally reformed but electorally untested conservative Tories, the Lib Dems have a shot to be a sizable minority. The alarmingly unexpected but otherwise electrifying charisna of the Lib Dem's leader, Nick Clegg, is also helping their cause. It's unlikely they will get past third place, but they may gain enough seats to deny either Labour or (more likely) the Conservatives of an outright majority.

In this kingmaker role, the Lib Dems are demanding a change in the electoral system. Without getting into the wonky details, it essentially makes it easier for third parties (such as the Liberal Democrats, but also the various nationalist parties in Scotland, Wales, and Ireland) to win elections. Neither Labour nor the Conservatives are eager to do this, so the outcome isn't clear--and a few other options, such as the unstable minority government, are potential outcomes as well.

I'm certain few are as interested about this as myself. Perhaps the fact the the outcome will only at best tangentally affect us makes it more fun to follow.

1 comment:

  1. Still time for me to set the DVR my love. Or for you to follow it on Twitter.