This week’s general election in the UK seems to be attracting more attention stateside than usual. It may be that the right has — or had — a chance of returning to power, or it may be how close the race is and the drama that will unfold if no party gets a majority. Whatever the attraction, political junkies are fascinated by the theater.
And what a display its been, with the first ever televised leader debates, the rise of Nick Clegg, and the infamous “bigot” episode, where the prime minister called one of his own supporters a bigot on an open microphone.
David Cameron had his 28-point lead collapse into hung parliament territory (here’s some fine analysis from Peter Hitchens on how that happened), and Cameron’s loss has been a boon to UKIP, a conservative party that finished second in the European elections. Margaret Thatcher isn’t happy with Cameron either: she will vote for him because he is a Conservative — but that is the only reason.
If there is a “hung parliament,” as most polls suggest, election night will not be the end of it. It will depend on which party has the most seats and with whom each can make a deal to push them over the top. No one will actually know a thing for a while, as these negotiations are done in private and involve lots of dealing over cabinet positions. It may be Sunday before anyone has a clue who will be running the UK for the foreseeable future.
As Cameron has ruled out an alliance with the Liberal Democrats, he might enter into a coalition with the Northern Ireland parties like the Ulster Unionists and the Democratic Unionists. There is also a belief that Gordon Brown of Labour and Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats have a deal to keep Cameron out.
Other things to look out for: Will the neo-Nazi British National Party get any seats? The socialist Greens? The Euro-skeptic, free-market, Thatcherite UKIP? The Scottish Nationalist Party? Plaid Cymru? To these parties, what matters is receiving concentrated support in certain areas rather than weak support throughout the country.