Gunaxin Explains: The British Election
Contrary to popular belief, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Overseas Territories (that’s code for other peoples countries) is not ruled by the Queen. I know right?! What the hell is she even for! It turns out that democracy exists (sort of) over there too! Gunaxin is going to have a go at explaining this very stupid and old and stupid system so that you, dear reader, can sound educated and informed when you next find yourself at the country club.
As you may very well have not noticed, because really why would you, they are in full blown election season over there. This is a very different beast to American election season – rather than lasting the best part of 2 years, it lasts about a month, primarily because nobody knows when the election is even going to take place until the current Prime Minister decides he wants one – the only limitation is that it has to be within 5 years of being elected – apart from that, he can call one whenever the hell he wants. Needless to say, Gordon Brown, the current Prime Minister has waited as long as possible, and this years election will take place on May 6th – precisely 5 years and 1 day since the last election. We blame February and its tricksy leap year shenanigans for that one.
Anyway, lets look at who’s trying to win the “least corrupt and posh” competition this time, and how:
The (stupid) System:
Rather than voting for a leader like America does, British voters choose a local ‘member of parliament’, or MP for short, who comes from one of the parties (or stands independently). This is sort of similar to the House of Representatives – Britain is divided into 650 constituencies, each of which chooses one MP to represent it in the House of Commons. Whichever party gets the most MP’s wins. Lovely, democracy prevails! Sort of. In reality, the party with the most seats is not necessarily the party with the most votes. This is because the ‘popular vote’ counts for approximately shit all as constituencies dont necessarily have the same number of people in them, and some MP’s might get a huge proportion of the vote in their area. This mostly only affects the Conservative party though, and to be honest, that will teach them to try and cheat.
There are only 3 parties that are worth mentioning in British politics – the Labour party, the Conservative party, and the Liberal Democrats. To talk about whether they are left or right wing is essentially redundant as they are all pretty much just the same party wearing different colours.
Supposedly, the Conservative party is right wing, Labour is left wing, and the Lib Dems are a joke that nobody takes seriously. However, we have to consider that Europe is basically a communist haven, so even the right wing Conservatives (or “Tories” as the natives would say) are still much more left wing than the Democrat party in America. In that picture above, the Republican party would probably appear where the clock face is.
The Labour party is currently lead by Gordon Brown. Interesting facts about Gordon Brown are about as numerous as interesting facts about the color brown. He does only have one eye, so there’s that. Sadly, he does not wear an eyepatch.
He is pretty much hated by the British media and, according to the British media, the public too. Curiously though, opinion polls don’t quite reflect that – he isn’t winning, but he isn’t doing too badly. It would appear that, gasp, the media might be rather biased against him. The only other thing to note is that he was never elected. He just took over after the last guy fucked off to wherever it is Tony Blair lives now.
They used to be left wing, but are basically indistinguishable from the Conservatives these days. Popular among the middle class and the working class.
The ‘Tories’ as they are affectionately/insultingly referred to, depending on the tone of voice, are the party that is nominally right wing. They have existed since around 1678, and it kind of shows sometimes. When American politicians call each other elitists, they are trying to portray people as rich, upper class, privileged and snobby. The Conservative party is what a real elitist party looks like. Their leader, David Cameron went to the private and oh-so-posh school, Eton. So did several members of his would-be government (called the shadow government) and the mayor of London. They were all part of the Oxford University ‘Bullingdon club’, which is/was a club for exceptionally rich and spoilt people. Typical activities include smashing up restaurants and then paying for the damage in cash, and spending daddy’s money.
They used to be exceptionally right wing, but over the last few centuries have pretty much moved to the centre of the political spectrum. Nonetheless, they are still popular amongst the rich and the upper classes, as well as a lot of the middle class. They are generally despised by the working class.
The Liberal Democrats:
The origins of the party can be traced back almost as far as the Tories, but the modern incarnation has only existed since 1988.
It has never been taken seriously by anyone apart from its members until about 2 weeks ago. For the first time ever, the leaders of the parties agreed to TV debates, and to everyone’s surprise and horror, the Lib Dems did shockingly well under their leader Nick Clegg. A month ago, the running joke was that nobody knew who he was, and now they still don’t, but they like him anyway seemingly because he isn’t one of the other two men.
So, who is going to win?
Not a damn clue. Sorry.
Opinion polls so far seem to be suggesting that nobody is going to outright win. Whilst in Florida this would result in several recounts and the Republicans winning, in Britain it means a ‘hung parliament’. If you dont have enough MP’s to have a majority, you can enter into an alliance with another party to make up the difference. This usually ends in tears. It happens a lot in the rest of Europe, and the result is rarely pretty, the only exception being Germany who have had a coalition government for over a decade now.
If it is a hung parliament, then everything rests on the Lib Dems and who they choose to back. It would be completely against their principles to support the Tories, so that’s probably the safe bet for what they’ll do.
We hope this clears up a confusing situation that you don’t give a damn about!