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1) I actually cooked tonight: seared tuna steak, organic couscous with pesto, baby green cabbage and some kind of outrageously expensive Spanish red peppers that taste heavenly. I feel so accomplished, given that toast is usually as far as my culinary adventures extend.

2) I have just taken my first swig of over-the-counter, laden-with-codeiney-goodness cough syrup and I plan to be cheerfully bombed on it all weekend. I won't be able to drive but I won't be coughing either. Huzzah! I plan to listen to the footie on Radio 5, call people up to wig them out with my lovely Harvey Fierstein voice and watch Extreme Makeover: Home Edition while playing the "Oh!My!Gosh!" drinking game. And read a lot.

3) I flipped past American Idol while I was eating dinner. America, as arrogant, arse-chinned and truly dreadful as Constantine was when he tried to pull a Chad Kroeger, I can't believe you preferred to boot him out rather than the smug, wall-eyed, god-bothering serial killer-in-waiting that is Scott Thingywotsit. If he's genuinely humble then I'm a teapot called Eric.

4) Some time ago leadensky said I was getting the impression that all the polls were running a 15 to 20 point difference, favor Labor (or whatever Blair's party is) and that nobody was taking odds for the Tories, much less anyone one else. Is there some reason to expect a Spain-style upset?



There's not much reason to expect a Spain-style upset because the parties are not *that* close in the polls that something like the Madrid bombing and the subsequent festival of lying, panicking and misdirection engaged in by the Aznar government could tip the vote the other way.

As in Spain, the involvement in Iraq is, barring something dreadful happening next week, an issue which impacts in different ways across the electorate. I don't know whether this has been reported at all in the media outside Britain, but the secret advice on the legality of the war which was given by the attorney general has been slowly leaked over the course of the election campaign. It proves that contrary to what Blair advised parliament, the case for war was not cut and dried and it is likely that Britain engaged in a war which was illegal according to international law. This actually matters in Britain, which is a signatory to a number of treaties on the subject and, in general, has historically been a proponent of creating a useful framework of international law.

For most people it's way down the priority list compared to say, issues of healthcare, education, taxation and immigration (the main areas of argument this election)

But for others, hardcore Labourites, Iraq was one break of faith too far from Blair, who is a centre-right social democrat when most of his party span the spectrum from social democrat to socialist. They despised him for other reasons of policy but the Iraq war is what convinced them that the compromise under which leftwingers united behind and supported someone from the right of their party because he was electable was not worth it. (Labour was out of power for 18 years before Blair, and it was scarred by the experience) Iraq was the issue that broke that particular devil's covenant for them.

However, the main opposition party, the Conservatives (AKA, the Tories), also supported the war in Iraq, so there's no leverage for them in that issue. It is led by Michael Howard, a former home secretary of frighteningly rightwing, illiberal views, who is now trying to come across as Mr Everyman. Michael Howard is the lawyer son of immigrants from Romania who fled the Nazis, and in that respect, a huge success story. However, he has chosen to run on a very tricksy platform in which the issue of stopping immigration is heavily foregrounded in a way which plays to the basest, most racist impulses of the electorate. Most hardcore Labour voters would rather drown themselves in a bowl of lentil stew than vote for him.

The voting situation is further complicated by a third main party, the Liberal Democrats. They were a midpoint between the Conservatives and Labour but now stand slightly to the left and side of Labour, supporting higher taxes to be ploughed into education and healthcare and an ethical foreign policy which would have permitted, say, the intervention in Bosnia but not the intervention in Iraq.

There are also a number of smaller parties, mostly operating on single issue tickets, the most odious of which are
(1) Veritas, a party which exists only for a permatanned former talk show host to parade his anti-Muslim and anti-European integration views;

(2) UKIP, The UK independence party, which is anti-European integration and would pull Britain out of its European alliances in favour of transatlanticism. This party took a huge bite out of the rightwing vote in the previous election but is now in disarray because Europe is no longer a live issue (this is because the French referendum on the EU constitution on May 29 appears likely to reject its adoption, and oh my god will that put the cat among the pigeons);

(3) The British National Party. Like Aryan Nation, only a wee bit brighter and in suits. They target poor wards and constituencies with large minority ethnic populations and target the white working class vote by playing on their fears. Words cannot express how much I despise these people. Unfortunately, they will probably make gains this election.

The UK has a majoritarian system of government that works like this: the country is divided into constituencies, some 646-odd of them, each of which returns an MP -- the person who has the most votes even if they've won by only 33 votes (which is the smallest majority in the country at present). The party with the most MPs at the end of Thursday night forms the government and the leader of that party is prime minister. Winner takes all, everyone else has to sit down and shut up.

The third party means that tactical voting assumes a large importance in the UK whereas it does not in the US, which also has a majoritarian system of government and bicameral legislature but elects them much more directly.

Labour won by a landslide in 1997, when the electorate administered an unheard of spanking to the loathed Tories. This was accomplished by tactical voting: hardcore Labour voters switching allegiance to the Liberal Democrats in seats which Labour could not possibly win and Liberal Democrats voting for Labour where their candidate could not possibly win.

In 2001, UKIP split the Tory vote and delivered a 167 seat majority to Blair, which allowed him to push through as much legislation as he liked without having to negotiate a huge amount of opposition, except on issues like Iraq and university fees.

The real battlegrounds are probably fewer than 200 constituencies where the vote is close. These marginals are where the parties pour most of their money and where tactical voting makes the contest the most volatile.

It would take a huge swing for the Conservatives to retake the seats they lost in 1997 and that requires a huge swing away from Labour. While Blair's numbers show that he is both distrusted and disliked, they also say that the country thinks he is doing a reasonably good job as PM. The Conservatives cannot win this election, barring a miracle or a terrorist disaster, because Labour has (though it pains me to admit it) been a fairly good government in many areas. And the electorate is content and apathetic.

Yet the Conservative vote is very strong this year, with up to 80% of those who identify as Tories likely to vote while only 64% of those who identify as Labour voters are likely to actually turn out on Thursday.

Therefore the twin-pronged Conservative strategy is this: (1) you depress the Labour turnout by admitting that the election looks lost. This means that weak Labour supporters won't bother voting because they don't think the Conservatives could possibly win.

(2) You tell the furious Labour voters who hate Blair to send a message by voting *against* Labour as a vote against Blair, weakening his position in the party and possibly forcing him to stand down at some point in the next term.

This has the side effect of encouraging slackness of allegiance and discouraging anti-Tory tactical voting. In a tight race, the Green party supporter, for example, might vote for Labour as the least-worst option, but when he/she believes Labour are sure to win, that person will vote with their conscience and go Green. In 2001 this slackness of allegiance hurt the Conservatives -- their voters were sure they would not win and so voted for UKIP to express their anger at the European policy of the main parties.

This differential turnout is hard to calculate in polling data and means that while the official lead for Labour in most polls is 5-8 points, when you count only the responses of those who are certain to vote, it drops to around 2 points, a very manageable swing.

And this is why electoral volatility should have made this an exciting election. Somehow, though, it hasn't been. I'm hoping for a lot of surprise victories for the Liberal Democrats and a much-reduced majority for the Labour party. It's not healthy for one party to have a majority in parliament of more than 100. It encourages dictatorial government.

My tribal loyalty is to Labour but not so much that I won't vote for someone else (who is not a bloody Tory)

Questions? Comments? Yawns?

***

matociquala may be interested in this article from today's Grauniad about 'Ryanair-style'-publishing in which the author receives no advance and bears all costs of professional editing. Looks like there's a division between those hoping it gets more people published and a large number who are appalled at authors getting an ever-smaller sliver of the pie.

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Comments

( 46 comments — Leave a comment )
coffeeandink
Apr. 30th, 2005 01:21 am (UTC)
Questions? Comments? Yawns?

Just a thank you for the explanation, as I've always meant to look up more about the structure of the UK gov't (which looks fairly confusing to me) and never done it. Which is shameful, but there you go.
infinitemonkeys
Apr. 30th, 2005 01:08 pm (UTC)
I think it *is* fairly confusing because it evolved very slowly rather than being written and agreed upon like the constitutions of other countries and also because there is no written constitution or bill of rights etc. British democracy still has its vestigial tail. *g*
leadensky
Apr. 30th, 2005 01:38 am (UTC)
Going to try to be as moderate as possible here, 'cause you're a drug-laden sickee and I'm taking an "over the hump" evening off and am currently two ciders down and counting. *g*

Thank you ever so for the explaination. I had the impression that the split was much further apart, and was not aware of the difference in voter turn out.

BTW - what is the "core constituancy" of Labor, LD, and the Tories? Not the stereotypes, but something close to reality, if you can. And do you have regional variations? And what percentage of the population is "hard core"?

My tribal loyalty is to Labour but not so much that I won't vote for someone else (who is not a bloody Tory)

Hmmm. Coming from the bi-partisan USA, I can understand a conservative/liberal split, but get lost on the third party. And I would have thought you more a LD, given:

supporting higher taxes to be ploughed into education and healthcare and an ethical foreign policy which would have permitted, say, the intervention in Bosnia but not the intervention in Iraq

(I will ask, some other time, if this means they actually *did* support (on-going) intervention in Bosnia, and what they say about intervention in the Sudan and where they would get the money to spend on education and hc from.)

You mentioned Greens - what is that party?

And I understand that the MP from a district isn't a resident, but whoever the party decided should run there - is this right? How do the residents of that district decide who to vote for, then?

And one last thing I'm fuzzy on - the election results (back on Thursday night? So fast?) determine the winning party. If Labor wins, does that mean Blair is in for sure, or can they pick someone else (like the Tories did with Thatcher? I think?)

(And are they offically the Conservatives? Whence comes this "Tories"? I could look it up but it's more fun to ask you, and then look it up.)

- hg




infinitemonkeys
Apr. 30th, 2005 02:13 am (UTC)
Going to try to be as moderate as possible here, 'cause you're a drug-laden sickee and I'm taking an "over the hump" evening off and am currently two ciders down and counting. *g*

Thank you kindly *cough*

BTW - what is the "core constituancy" of Labor, LD, and the Tories? Not the stereotypes, but something close to reality, if you can. And do you have regional variations? And what percentage of the population is "hard core"?

The "core constituency" splits sort of like Republican/Democrat in the US except religion is *not at all* a factor most of the time, except when it comes to the Muslim vote

Conservatives = Reaganite republicans, in favour of privatising services, reducing taxes, letting the market have free reign. Very old party, nicknamed the Tories (which is I believe an Irish word for a brigand or horse thief. Why they came to be called that I don't know without looking it up)
Current leader is Michael Howard. Traditionally supported by businessmen, the wealthy, landowners, the aristocracy, the jingoistic working class.

Their heartlands tend to be rural and rich areas. In the 1980s they held on to power because they took huge swathes of the south of England, leading to a situation where the industrial north, which suffered disproportionately from loss of jobs under Thatcher, was entirely red (Labour), as was Scotland, but their electoral wishes meant nothing because the south wanted the Tories (blue). These days their rural heartlands are under threat from the Liberals, mostly, I suspect, because the liberals have proved very adept in local government there and are translating this into national power.

Labour = slightly to the left of the Democrats but not by much. Believe in the NHS (as does about 90% of the population btw), a social safety net, tax breaks for families. Traditionally tied to the unions but not so much any more.

In the 1980s, Labour switched to hard leftism as Margaret Thatcher took power, to the extent that its 1983 manifesto was described by a Labour moderate, Denis Healey, as "the longest suicide note in history". Many of its moderates pulled away to form a new party called the SDP, which eventually merged with the Liberals (whigs)

By 1987, it had managed to pull away from its near-Communist stance and move to the mainstream. The key events in the recent past were (1) its abandonment of Clause 4 of its manifesto, which was about redistribution to the workers;
(2) The 1992 election, in which the Tories sneaked into power by a thin majority when it seemed as though Labour would win, a bitter setback which paved the way for Tony Blair to move the party rightwards;
(3) The unexpected death of the Labour leader John Smith, the last of the respected old-guard Socialist moderates, which led to Gordon Brown and Tony Blair taking control of the party.
Labour is now firmly among the mainstream Social Democratic parties of Europe, ie only leftwing by US standards, given that the US is, overall, a rightwing-dominated country.

Labour's heartland is those parts of Scotland not won by the Scottish Nationalists, the north of Britain and the cities. It's very much seen as an urban party, particularly after the fox-hunting ban.

infinitemonkeys
Apr. 30th, 2005 02:18 am (UTC)
Part II
The Liberal Democrats are the third party. It used to be the second party of British politics, before the founding of the Labour party in about 1900. The Liberals were the Whigs of the history books. These days they tend to be the party most closely attuned to the Green movement, to tax-and-spend economists etc etc. It's the kind of party supported by teachers and so on.

Whereas Labour and the Tories usually poll between 30-40% of the vote, depending on who is winning, the Lib Dems hover at about 18-23%. Leader is Charles Kennedy, tremendously affable and bright but not convincing as a possible prime minister. Their policies tend to be somewhat lacking in detail because they have not been close to power for years. They're moderately left, favouring a strong health service and education, paid for by tax hikes for the very rich. Pro-European, pro-conservation.,

The Liberals have no real heartland, they take what they can. Their biggest successes have come on the fringes of the cities where people are slightly wealthier but not as rich as Tories, and in socially mobile rural areas.

I will ask, some other time, if this means they actually *did* support (on-going) intervention in Bosnia, and what they say about intervention in the Sudan and where they would get the money to spend on education and hc from.

I can't remember if they did or did not. I know that some of their core constituency is pacifist, but tthey were led at the time by Paddy Ashdown, (formerly the British equivalent of a SEAL) who later became the UN High Commissioner in Bosnia. They support humanitarian intervention but could probably argue about the criteria all day. They pay for it all through tax hikes. The only one they're committed to at the moment, IIRC, is the 49% tax rate for those earning more than £100,000 a year.

You mentioned Greens - what is that party?

The Green party are pro-conservation, anti-pollution, anti-free market economics where it impacts on the planet ... basically a party based on ecological awareness. They're very powerful across Europe (Germany, for example, has a Red-green coalition government) but not so much here.

And I understand that the MP from a district isn't a resident, but whoever the party decided should run there - is this right? How do the residents of that district decide who to vote for, then?

Correct. It's often someone from the area but not always. The parties tend to parachute their bright, young hopefuls into safe seats even if they have no local connections. This may not go down well with the local party but the electorate seldom cares. We vote on national party lines rather than on local issues.

This is a general rule, it doesn't always work. Sometimes local issues do come to the forefront and then you get very interesting races. (examples given on request *g*)

Re: Part II - cazling - Apr. 30th, 2005 08:49 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Part II - infinitemonkeys - Apr. 30th, 2005 01:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
infinitemonkeys
Apr. 30th, 2005 02:25 am (UTC)
III
And one last thing I'm fuzzy on - the election results (back on Thursday night? So fast?) determine the winning party. If Labor wins, does that mean Blair is in for sure, or can they pick someone else (like the Tories did with Thatcher? I think?)

Well, yes. We tend to get the first result about 11pm. usually from Sunderland, and the last ones, (from northern Ireland) tend to appear by about 4pm the following day, recounts permitting. We have no electronic voting. Everything is counted by hand. Exit polls should show who has won by 10pm but we should *know* who has won by about 4am, even if the result is close.

One possible wrinkle this year -- the postal ballot has been gradually introduced in the past five years or so and this year applications are up hugely.

The only problem is that they are not fraud-proof. There was one recent case in brighton of voter fraud through postal ballots when the judge, during his summing up, said the UK now had a voting system that was so susceptible to tampering that it "would disgrace a banana republic"

For that reason there may be some argy bargy about results. So far, it's Labour that mostly stands accused of malpractice w/r/t postal voting so we shall see.

If Labour wins, it's all about the size of the majority. If it's small, Tony Blair is likely to go. If the party believes its leader is an electoral liability or they just cannot stand them to be in charge any more, they chuck them out, as happened to Thatcher in 1990. If the majority is small, Blair will go at some point in the next parliament, I think.

If his majority is over 100, he'll probably survive this term in office.

Okay. Done. *g*
Re: III - leadensky - Apr. 30th, 2005 02:43 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: III - cazling - Apr. 30th, 2005 08:45 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: III - leadensky - Apr. 30th, 2005 02:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: III - cazling - Apr. 30th, 2005 02:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
hmmmm - leadensky - Apr. 30th, 2005 03:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: hmmmm - cazling - Apr. 30th, 2005 04:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: hmmmm - leadensky - Apr. 30th, 2005 06:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: hmmmm - cazling - May. 1st, 2005 10:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: hmmmm - infinitemonkeys - Apr. 30th, 2005 08:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: hmmmm - cazling - May. 1st, 2005 10:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: hmmmm - leadensky - May. 2nd, 2005 09:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: hmmmm - cazling - May. 2nd, 2005 09:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Re: III - se_parsons - May. 2nd, 2005 05:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: III - leadensky - May. 2nd, 2005 08:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: III - marakara - Apr. 30th, 2005 04:06 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: III - loligo - Apr. 30th, 2005 01:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Re: III - leadensky - Apr. 30th, 2005 02:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: III - infinitemonkeys - Apr. 30th, 2005 05:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: III - leadensky - Apr. 30th, 2005 06:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: III - cazling - May. 1st, 2005 10:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: III - se_parsons - May. 2nd, 2005 05:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: III - leadensky - May. 2nd, 2005 08:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: III - marakara - May. 1st, 2005 02:16 am (UTC) - Expand
qowf
Apr. 30th, 2005 04:06 am (UTC)
I'm not talking about the government. I'm talking about American Idol.

There's a site, votefortheworst.com (may be hyphenated between words) that is telling folks to vote for Scott the Body. He is AWFUL.

However, Carrie wasn't good last week either but her country people vote for her. Right now, it should be my man Bo, Vonzel and Carrie.

Bo. BO. Oh my. You see how puerile I've become.
qowf
Apr. 30th, 2005 04:07 am (UTC)
And I'm still glad Constantine is gone. Arrogant with a capital "A" and butchered Nickleback. That's saying something, right there.

More idiocy. Look. More icons.
(no subject) - infinitemonkeys - Apr. 30th, 2005 05:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - se_parsons - May. 2nd, 2005 05:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
matociquala
Apr. 30th, 2005 04:30 am (UTC)
Scaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaam.

This is MacMillan getting desperate writers to bear the cost of producing their own work, in the hopes that MacMillan may get something for nothing, essentially. If the book takes off, they make money, If not, they cut their losses.

I'd say if you're willing to take a small or no advance, you're better off going with a reputable small press publisher like St. Martin's.
cazling
Apr. 30th, 2005 08:53 am (UTC)
This is my first election living in a totally safe seat and it's so bloody dull. No bugger has tried to canvass me at all. Labour got about 50% of the vote in Ealing Southall last time and I bet there won't be much swing at all towards the Lib Dems this time round. *sigh*
leadensky
Apr. 30th, 2005 03:27 pm (UTC)
PS
I thought you might get a giggle out of this.

Be sure you read the comments.

Or maybe if we push Blair, they will think we want the Tories and are trying to get them to vote Liberal Democrat to split votes so they will in the end vote for the Welsh Separtists.

(Which is another party you didn't mention...*g*)

Rest assured that I won't be sending any emails.

- hg
infinitemonkeys
Apr. 30th, 2005 05:43 pm (UTC)
Re: PS
(Which is another party you didn't mention...*g*)

Yes, yes, I'm sorry I didn't mention Plaid Cymru, the DUP, the Ulster Unionists, the SNP, the SDLP and the Monster Raving Loony Party *g*

Actually, I did see the Monmouth Voter Project and thought it was pretty funny. They had the geezer behind the Clark County project on the radio the other day to talk about it, I think. They were like "Explain yourself!" *g*

I particularly loved the comment from the indignant Welsh nationalist. Do you think he maybe didn't get the joke?
Re: PS - leadensky - Apr. 30th, 2005 06:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: PS - infinitemonkeys - Apr. 30th, 2005 08:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
raincitygirl
Mar. 1st, 2006 05:19 am (UTC)
Excellent summary. I now understand the situation much better.
raincitygirl
Jul. 25th, 2006 07:11 am (UTC)
Good explanation. I'm already in a parliamentary system, but the stuff about how tactical voting works on specific British parties was very interesting.

So, do you have a credible Lib Dem who might win your constituency, or will you be casting a protest for anybody who isn't Labour or Tory? Not that I can figure out what the Lib Dems actually stand for. Like most third parties, they seem primarily to stand for "We're not the other guys. Or that other set of other guys."
raincitygirl
Jul. 25th, 2006 07:31 am (UTC)
Okay, I have no idea what happened here. I was positive this entry came up as a result of me clicking through on my friends page. So I replied to it as though it had just been posted, because I thought it HAD just been posted. And then I started thinking "Wait a second, I'm sure if there were another election happening in the UK it would've been in the papers. I mean, we're in the colonies, not on Mars". So I checked Yahoo News, and no sign of an election. And then I hit the back button to get back to this post, and realize it's one you wrote a long time ago. Which would at any rate explain the mystery election. I swear it came up on my flist! But when I reloaded my flist, it had vanished, and the only recent post from you was re: the Dr. Who spinoff.
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