With a giddy sequence of polls, the Liberal Democrats in the United Kingdom have risen from distant and small third party, to being in first or second in every major poll. Now it seems likely that after the best week in politics that almost any politician has had since John Major’s upset over Kinnock, and before that, perhaps Attlee in 1945, the Liberal Democrats are going to be pounded by both of the other parties, press, and even third parties who are losing share to the Liberal Democratic wave ”“Â but it is worth taking a look at what a Liberal Democratic wave election would look like, and to underline how close they are to an historic break out. While down is where they are probably going to go in the short term, it is not beyond possibility that this sprint could happen in the next election, particularly since as the Liberal Democrats rise, the more likely the present election is to yield a weak and short lived government, with the LDs given a second bite at the apple with some time in the national spotlight and seasoning in the front ranks. In otherwords, Clegg is about to take a hit, but could weather it and rise even farther.
I am using the swingometer from UK polling report, but all of the others yield the same results, since all of them are using what the British call the “Uniform National Swing.” This gets farther and farther from accurate as the swing changes, but as a rule of thumb, it provides a window on what will happen. The way the British predict their elections is to assume that most people don’t move for political reasons, which is basically true in Britain, and that they will vote the same was as last time, and shift the same percentage in each district as the national polls. The somewhat more sophisticated measures include localizing swing in the main regions: Wales, Scotland, England, Cornwall, Ulster/Northern Ireland, and to focus on the ratio between national and marginal swing, since marginals tend to swing slightly less than the country as a whole. But these caveats aside, here is a window on a future election, which might still yet be this election, or later this year.
In England there are three major parties, and several minor parties that win seats. This is in contrast to the duopoly in the United States. The UK’s system is called “First Past the Post,” which means the highest number of votes, whatever the plurality is, wins the seat, no run offs. One vote, make it count. This favors the party with largest plurality across the country, and allows strong governments even when there is not even close to a majority of voters. Pros include a vibrant political culture with several parties actually in the British Parliament, cons mean that the will of the voters, as expressed in their ballots, is often deliberately thwarted, since districts are drawn the way Republicans here want them: compact and historical, rather than competitive.
To form a government, a party needs to secure enough votes for their policy speech, which is called “The Queen’s Speech.” Usually there is no question as to which party won the election, it has a straight majority of seats. However, many Parliaments have not, and are called “hung parliaments.” But even in these, there is often little question about who the government will be as the first choice. Failing this, the Monarch, with advice from “The Three Wise Men” selects someone to form a government, who will often then turn to minor parties, and sometimes even offer the “top of the greasy pole,” that is, the Prime Ministership, to a minor party leader. These events are rare, but not a constitutional crisis in general.
Today: The Shadowlands
LD in the Mid 30’s: A New Political Balance
The High 30’s: The Once and Future King
LD in the low 40’s: Clegg’s Revolution
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