UK general election, May 6, 2010

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British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called a general election for Thursday, May 6, 2010, just a few weeks shy of the fifth anniversary of the previous election. This will be the first election in which Brown will carry the Labour Party's banner; Labour won the 1997, 2001, and 2005 elections with Tony Blair as leader.

The Conservative Party, under David Cameron's leadership, has a good chance of winning a majority for the first time since 1992, a close victory for John Major who, like Brown, took over as PM in between elections and followed a charismatic long-serving leader -- Major succeeding Margaret Thatcher, Brown succeeding Blair. After floundering in opposition for many years, the Tories have performed very well in recent elections for local councils and the European Parliament, regaining ground in parts of the UK thought forever lost to Labour.

Complicating the picture are a number of other parties, including the Liberal Democrats, the product of a late 1980s merger of the historic Liberal Party and a dissident group of Labourites who had formed the Social Democratic Party. There are nationalist parties in Wales (Plaid Cymru) and Scotland (Scottish National Party). The UK Independence Party favors withdrawal from the European Union and has done well, ironically, in European Parliament elections (which are elected by proportional representation), but holds no seats in the House of Commons, where MPs are elected by plurality -- "first-past-the-post." In 2005, Labour won a solid majority of seats in the House of Commons with only about 36% of the national popular vote.

Northern Ireland is its own world politically, with parties representing the cause of ongoing union with Britain and reunion with the Republic of Ireland. It's been many years since one of the UK-wide parties has won a parliamentary seat in the province. The Democratic Unionist Party, founded by the Rev. Ian Paisley, has the fourth largest delegation at Westminster, with 8 seats.

A British general election is like a presidential and congressional election combined. Like a congressional election, control of the government depends on aggregate of the results in each constituency (district). But like a presidential election, national issues almost always outweigh local concerns; British voters are choosing a party as much as they are a Member of Parliament.

Some British election links:

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Steve McDonald said:

I have been reading Peter Hitchens's wonderful blog at the Mail online. He urges conservatives not to vote Tory as Cameron has no plans to reverse any of the damage done by Blairism. A Tory win would continue the status quo, while a defeat might lead to a serious new party arising from the ashes. His views are fascinating, especially on religion and society. Well worth reading.

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