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May 07 2015

So you want a Parliamentary System?

We’re still waiting for the final results but certain trends are clear.  Voters are rejecting the Tories (Conservatives) and their austerity policies in droves and it’s highly unlikely that they will gain more than 35% of the popular vote.  Now the tricky bit is that voters are also rejecting Labour and their neo-Liberal austerity programme (Yes, we are slightly less evil) and they also look like they will have less than 35%.  The Liberal Democrats are going to take a pasting from their slavish, Quisling-like coalition with the Tories and will hardly be a party at all.  The Scottish National Party, despite their failure to achieve independence in last year’s referendum is probably going to win every single Scots seat (there are about 49) because of their populist economic platform (far to the left of Labor).  The neo-Facist, anti-immigrant UK Independence Party will take some seats where people don’t think the Tories are conservative enough.

Because of the physical layout of the Constituencies (which is what those silly British call Districts), and you could call it gerrymandering except that most of the divisions are hundreds and hundreds of years old, it is a distinct possibility that Labour could win the popular vote and end up with less seats in Parliament.

How this differs from Florida in 2000 is that there are minor parties and no Electoral College.  What happens when the main parties don’t have a flat majority is that they do deals with the minor parties until they have a coalition with a majority and then they go to the Queen and say ta-da, we have a government.

Except it’s not even that simple.

You see, the Queen has some discretion in who she chooses to form a government.  She selects a (putative) Prime Minister and his party writes what is called The Queen’s Speech which lays out the broad agenda for the next 5 years (presuming there’s not a crisis in confidence and a new election).  Parliament then votes to approve, or disapprove The Queen’s speech.  Disapproval usually results in shameful (in the sense that the leadership of the party feels shame for putting forth a proposal that does not have majority support) resignation(s) and a change in government as the leader of the largest party in opposition is invited to form a government.

The inside skivvy is that if the election is as close as it appears to be David Cameron, the leader of the Tories, will proclaim victory and squat in Downing Street until he’s escorted out by the Bobbies.  He will draft a Queen’s Speech and submit it.

It is already being bandied about that instead of reading the speech herself the Queen will simply submit a written copy to be read by someone else as was customary until modern times.  Not exactly a vote of confidence.

So regardless of today’s results there will be two or three weeks of fierce political maneuvering in Britain.

Save some popcorn for me.

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