Thursday, May 06, 2010

Election Junkie Watch: Britain

C-SPAN is showing the British election results. While it is coming up on 5 in the morning Greenwich Mean Time, Britain still doesn't know who the next PM will be and it's looking like a hung parliament. If you've never watched Brit election returns come in, you should take a gander. It's a complete hoot.

The way they announce the results reminds me of an elementary school election in the U.S.--except that no teacher would do anything so mortifying today. The returning officer in a constituency--read: parliamentary district--reads aloud the results while flanked by the candidates. The candidates all wear these absolutely ridiculous enormous rosette ribbons in the colours of their parties and must stand on and listen while they read the results and then state rather quaintly something along the lines of "And therefore I declare Doctor Doolittle the duly elected Member of Parliament for Puddleby-on-the-Marsh."

Unfortunately, Britain appears to have done away with the grand gold chain that the returning officers used to wear, even if the returning officer was an Indian woman wearing a sari. I knew that that sterling was down against the dollar but hadn't realised they were quite do desperate for funds across the pond.

Oh, the results. Looks like the Conservatives will win the most seats but looks very likely, if still not certain, that there will be a hung parliament with no party able to command a majority in the Commons. Last time, Labour won a clear majority with just 35% of the vote--the lowest in history. At this writing, the Tories have a little more than 37% of the vote but one still doesn't know if the Queen will send for the Conservative or Labour leader tomorrow. BBC says that a hung parliament is "certain" which means that the incumbent gets the first shot.

One should note that the Conservatives in Britain bear little resemblance to the Republicans Unplugged (Unhinged?) that now dominate the GOP. Indeed, former Obama campaigners have worked for both Labour and Conservatives.

The big story of the night appears to be the realignment that wasn't. Polls prior to the election projected big gains for the Liberal Democrats. So far, they are falling far short of projections that suggested they might overtake Labour with their share of the vote up by just over one percent right now.

One vast improvement our system: when a parliament is dissolved, it's done. The new parliament takes office immediately with the new PM moving in and the old one moving out the day after the election. Goodbye and thank you but don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Of course, that assumes you know who the PM will be.