Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Friday, May 8, 2015

WTF Happened In Britain?

A political earthquake may or may not have just happened in Britain.

The reason it isn't clear is that Britain has an electoral system that awards seats in Parliament on the basis of who gets the most votes, not who gets a majority.  However, there are multiple parties running, so a minority of votes tends to get you a seat in the Commons.

The Conservatives took advantage of a divided (and poorly led) opposition to eek out a bare majority of seats, allowing Cameron to form a government.  He won a majority of seats with only about 37% of the overall vote.

Labour got killed, because the Scots are apparently not over their desire for independence.  The Scottish National Party seems to have won all but one of the seats in Scotland.  Labour's base is in Scotland.

In another shocking development, the UK Independence Party - a rightist party opposed to immigration and the European Union - won 13% of the vote (though it will only get 1-2 seats).

Cameron is now more or less pledged to hold a referendum on whether Britain will stay in the EU.  And while that 13% of UKIP - roughly the British equivalent of the Tea Party - is close to enough to force Britain out of the EU, most Conservatives want out, too.

The Liberal Democrats got crushed and Labour sorely underperformed, so their leaders - Nick Clegg and Ed Milliband respectively - will step down.  Milliband in particular was a pathetic opposition leader.

So the Conservative austerity program will continue, despite its poor results.  The Scots might bolt the Union and the Union might bolt the EU.  Overall, the results look a little like fragmentation and divisions won the day.  British pundits are decrying the success of a "fear-based" Tory campaign.  Well, Americans can tell them how well fear-based campaigns can work, sadly.

But because of the plurality election system, we can't really say that the British electorate supports any one of those programs.  They don't support austerity, the don't support Scottish independence and they don't support withdrawing from the EU.

Only their elected representatives do.

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