Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Shifts In The British Elections?

This is going to be a short initial piece on the fascinating (and always brief) British election season now taking place across the Pond.

Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democratic Party, traditionally a relatively small third party in British politics, scored a media coup in the first American-stye TV debate held in Britain a few days ago, and has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the UK polls. Most observers have contended the big loser as a result is David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party (Tories), who had been ahead by double digits in the polls over the current Labour government headed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown (who now is in third place in the polls).

The problem with polling in Britain is that the outcome of the election in not by popular vote, but is determined by which party has the most seats in parliament. Thus, Cameron may be ahead in the polls, Clegg in second, and Brown in third, but Brown may win the election because his party wins the most seats.

Cameron is now responding by turning his attention to the Clegg challenge, pointing out to Britons that a vote for the Liberal Democrats may well return Brown and his party for five more years, something all polls (past and present) indicate that British voters do not want. Some American commentators are suggesting that Cameron is “panicking,” and that he is making political mistake. I’m no expert on British politics, but I could not disagree more with that criticism.

The issue today in Great Britain is five more years of a Labour government or not. Clegg himself will now come under immense scrutiny, and reports indicate that has already begun with negative allegations about him. British voters will have to decide in the slightly more than two weeks left in the campaign if they want to waste their vote for a result they don’t want.

I’m going to write very soon a longer piece about why Americans need to pay attention to this contest, and why our relationship with the United Kingdom is as important, or even more so, than ever. Watch this space.

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