Not hung, but guillotined. Same result.
I’ve lived in London for 30 years and still cannot understand the election system. We have a Prime Minister who was never elected. Tony Blair didn’t die of natural causes and was not assassinated. He died politically the moment he went ‘to bed’ with George Bush. And after finally reading his political obituary, he decided he’d rather go on a speaking tour and earn lots of money than be PM. He exited stage right leaving Gordon Brown to enter very much from stage left.
After a few days of press speculation over why TB left when he did and why he gave the job to someone he apparently disliked, business in the UK went on as usual. One guessed that his wife Cherie had gone to her clairvoyant (as is her practice) and been told the precise day he should quit. It was as good a guess as any.
What followed was the banking crisis, the collapse of the British economy and job losses. And all that after a hugely unpopular war. But this is a country that has survived war before, and being a resilient lot, the British persevered with the government they had. Gordon Brown faced a hostile press and a disillusioned country. ‘The people’ hated Gordon Brown, felt that Tony Blair had let them down and yet because they persevere, they do not necessarily vote for the opposing party. Labour voters switching to the Conservatives is like the American Democrats voting for Sarah Palin. That is how committed Labour supporters feel when considering voting for David Cameron, leader of the Conservatives.
Then one day at the beginning of spring, Gordon Brown decided to call an election. This is unimaginable to Americans. How can the Prime Minister decide the timing of his own re-election, or indeed demise? Does he do it at the height of his popularity or the lowest ebb of public disdain? GB seemed to have chosen the latter. Not to say that his opponent was a ‘shoo-in’: David Cameron, too, was hated. At the point the election was called, voter registration was at a record low. If people could have voted with their hearts, they might have been happy to throw the lot of them in the River Thames…
Now came the televised debates and the rise of the third party, the Lib Dems as they are called. The party no one took seriously, with a little-known politician at its head, Nick Clegg. As an outsider, one might think that the Lib Dems are somewhere between Labour and Conservatives but no, there is so little space between the parties that a third party cannot fit in the bed between mommy (Labour) and daddy (the Conservatives). So the baby ( Lib Dems) had to sleep in the cot, next to the bed, but not too far away. If you can see the difference between the policies of Mom, Dad and baby you are doing very well.
And so the first debate came amid speculation as to how much help each of the candidates had from American debate coaches. Nick Clegg, having lived in America and attended a Midwestern University for a year and worked in NYC had learned the American gift of the gab, or as we Americans like to call it, how to ‘express yourself.’ He didn’t need coaching to look relaxed and generally smarter than he was on the debating floor. He became the overnight success story. In the USA this kind of popularity might have sewn up the election, but not here.
No one expects Nick to ‘win’. That would be too simple. What they expect him to do is ‘hang parliament’. What a good idea, say the voters; what a bad idea say the two about to be hung (Brown and Cameron) .
After two more debates, and a week is a long time in politics, the small percentage of Brits who registered to vote will march to the polls. So follow me as I go to the polls (which I won’t do, American citizens even if they’ve lived here for eons do not vote in foreign elections – why I don’t know, but it is certainly easier):
Here I am going to my constituency, which in my case is Central London. I show my registration card and get a ballot. The following names appear on my ballot
|Mad Cap’n Tom||Independent|
|Jack Nunn||Pirate Party UK|
|Frank Roseman||English Democrats|
|Naomi Smith||Liberal Democrat|
|Paul Weston||UK Independence Party|
Uh oh. If I was going to vote for these people why haven’t I heard anything about them? I like the sound of Mad Cap’n Tom, since I feel mad myself. If I want to vote for Nick Clegg I vote for Naomi Smith, because she, then, will get a seat in Parliament and if the Lib Dems get enough seats Nick will win. This is why no one expects Nick Clegg to win an outright majority of seats in Parliament. They just want him to win enough seats to have a say in the government and thus be able to hang parliament.
In this case, the public will get what they were after, the politicians will not be drowned in the Thames, they will be hung in Parliament Square. That is the first thing that has made sense in British politics for years, ‘a hung parliament.’ Whoopee.