UK votes today


The United Kingdom is holding a general election and local elections today. The polls are closed, and the first results are expected to be declared at about 5:30 p.m. CDT. Iain Murray will be live-blogging the election. Writer and Conservative MP Boris Johnson has a list of key constituencies and when they are expected to be declared. (British Summer Time is one hour ahead of GMT, six hours ahead of CDT.) The University of Keele has a comprehensive page of British politics links, including links to results and party manifestoes (platforms) from past elections. The BBC news website has comprehensive election coverage, but I can't get to it right now.

There was a time when I followed British politics very closely. In the run-up to the 1992 general election, I read through a book analyzing the electorate in every one of the 659 constituencies and made my own guesses as to the outcome. Labour, led by Neal Kinnock, had their first real chance to beat the Tories, in power since 1979, but torn apart over Margaret Thatcher's ouster and Britain's relationship with the European Union. I was especially interested in the fortunes of Michael W. Bates, a Conservative running for the second time in a seat with the lovely name of Langbaurgh. (It was changed before the next election.)

C-SPAN was going to carry the BBC's election night coverage, but in Tulsa it would be preempted by the live broadcast of the City Council, so I called around and determined that C-SPAN would be on uninterrupted in Claremore. I found a place I could watch the broadcast, but when I arrived I discovered to my disappointment that while C-SPAN had not been preempted, the BBC broadcast had been -- the House of Representatives was in the middle of a lengthy debate. I returned home and listened to some of the coverage on BBC World Service, which the cable company offered through a special FM antenna adapter. (This was in the days before the World Wide Web.) C-SPAN ran the BBC TV election special late that night; I taped it and watched it the next night and rejoiced to learn that Michael Bates had won.

John Major and the Tories won, too, just barely, and they spent the next five years crumbling: Financial scandals, sex scandals, deepening divisions over Europe. With the advent of the web, I was able to follow the decline via the Electronic Telegraph. The Tories were blown out of the water in 1997, did a little better in 2001. The Tories began to resemble the '62 Mets, and my interest in following their fortunes faded.

They've made some impressive showings in other elections -- in the June 2004 European Parliament elections, the Conservatives received the most votes of any party, and they made significant gains in local elections on the same date. Tony Blair has been under a fierce media attack over the UK's involvement in Iraq, and after eight years any politician has begun to wear out his welcome with the voters, so you might think that the Conservatives would be competitive this time around, but the expectation is that Labour will be returned to power for a third time, but with a smaller majority.

A British general election is really 646 separate contests, like our biennal battle for control of the US House of Representatives. The only people who can vote for or against Tony Blair live in his constituency of Sedgefield. Nevertheless, campaigns are waged on a national scale, and British voters are more aware than Americans of the national impact of their vote.

I had a browse through the manifestoes for this year's election. What's striking is the absence of America's hot-button social issues in the campaign literature of the three major parties. One of the reasons I think the Tories have failed to generate much enthusiasm of the voters is that they've accepted certain issues as settled matters, despite significant numbers of potential voters who care passionately about those issues and are looking for a major party to take them seriously. Should Britain continue as a member of the European Union? Are abortion laws too liberal? Are government welfare policies undermining families? What is the impact of mass immigration on British society? Where the major parties are silent, minor parties have sprung up to respond. The UK Independence Party came in third in the 2004 European Parliament elections, ahead of the usual third-place finisher, the Liberal Democrats.

I came across the website of a new minor party, the Christian Peoples Alliance, which is trying to address some of those issues, but I'm off to a baseball game -- more about that later.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 5, 2005 5:35 PM.

District 5 questionnaire online; Medlock endorses Harer was the previous entry in this blog.

Jeremy Paxman v. George Galloway -- wish they both could lose is the next entry in this blog.

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