Thursday, May 6, 2010

Election day

For the second time in as many years, I am watching a major political campaign come to an end. It's been absolutely fascinating, as an American, to watch this campaign, as it is so different and yet somehow familiar at the same time.

First big difference: length of campaign. Unlike the States, where the Presidential campaign basically begins right after the mid-term elections (and therefore lasts about two years), the British elections were announced in February. The campaign is a whopping six weeks long (plus or minus). I cannot begin to express how refreshing this is. Although, I will admit to being very entertained by the caption on the front page of the Metro this morning, referencing the apparent exhaustion of the party leaders (my internal dialogue: Pussies! Have a latte and get over it) after their extensive campaigning. Given that the articles also reference the end of the campaign as being yesterday, I have not much sympathy - in the US the campaign seems to continue on, even after the polls have closed on election day.

Second big difference: campaign? What campaign? Maybe it's because we live in a solidly Conservative* constituency, but this campaign has been invisble. No one puts signs on their lawns**, no one accosts you on the street, there aren't any big rallies. We have gotten a few leaflets through the letter box, but most of those have been from the whackadoos***. It's all very restrained and polite and British.

Third big difference: if you ask someone which party they'll be voting for, they will lie. Well, first of all, you never ask how someone will vote. But if asked, they may tell you the exact opposite of what they intend. Or say they're undecided. Or slam the door in your face. Which makes the polls that everyone keeps referring to more or less completely useless. That, however, is not that different from the US.

Fourth big difference: voting for a party, not a candidate. This explains why the campaigns can be so short - people vote for a party. The public face of that party is the person most likely to be Prime Minister if that party wins an outright majority in Parliament, but they personally are not running. This year's campaign seems to be inducing some cognitive dissonance in the voting public however, as it is the first time there have been televised debates. The rationale behind this in the past was the desire to avoid having the election come down to personalities instead of party manifestos (which are extensive). The debates may have changed the dynamic of the election, but most people seem to have enjoyed them.

Fifth (big) difference: today's Metro include the odds on the parties from several different bookmakers. Hunh?

However, there are a number of things that have been quite familiar, in a kind of heartwarming way. Like "bigot-gate". And the swooning over Nick Clegg, which sounds so much like the rhetoric about Obama that it's a bit eerie. The general consensus is that the likely result is a hung Parliament, which means that some of the smaller parties may end up with quite a bit of influence over who becomes Prime Minister. In any event, I'm finding it quite fascinating, and I will be watching the results roll in tonight with great interest.

* The three major political parties are Labour (current leading party), the Conservatives (aka Tories) and the Liberal Democrats. From the American perspective, they're all Democrats and, in some instances, outright flaming Socialists.
** Lawns, walls, front gardens, what have you. Nobody really has a lawn.
*** the four hundred teensy tiny parties, including Plaid Cymru, the UK Independence Party, the Scottish National Party, the Green Party, the BNP (scary!), etc, etc.

1 comment:

  1. Porpoise:
    I've always wondered a bit about the elections across the pond, as it always seemed a bit confusing but kind of rollicking. Calling elections? What the heck?
    And I have often thought that if ALL of our Presidents had to stand up in front of Congress and be mocked, raspberried and generally yelled at as they gave a speech, more people would pay attention. Although I suppose we're approaching that at some of our State of the Unions now, aren't we?
    I've been following BBragg on Twitter and his take on the elections, etc and I can't say it's been particularly illumninating. But at least someone, somewhere is pissed off at the bankers enough to truly organize. Oh how I wish our election season was a quick 6 weeks. But then where would all that money go?

    Nice post, sweets.