“American Style” Debates Brought Even More Uncertainty to British Election

by Mike on May 4, 2010

in UK Politics

Our politically-minded British friends have a saying that goes “Oppositions don’t win elections.  Governments lose them.“  Under normal circumstances, when the Prime Minister becomes unpopular enough, the voters fire the party in power and the Leader of the Opposition takes his place.  That’s why British politicians are considered as standing for office rather than running for office.  This year is different however thanks to Nick Clegg and his Liberal Democrat Party.

For the first time in their history, the party leaders participated in a series of American-style televised debates.  (I actually thought they were better than our debates because unlike our journalist moderators, their moderators largely kept their mouths shut and let the candidates run the show).  By simply showing up to the first debate, Clegg provided his Liberal Democrats with a sense of legitimacy most third parties never enjoy.  The result was a surge in the polls for the Liberal Democrats and a political situation that made a hung Parliament even more likely than it already was.  Although David Cameron rebounded in the third debate and the Conservatives are in the lead, the televised debates may have changed British politics forever.  Instead of one alternative to an unpopular Prime Minister, the voters now have two.

Before Thursday’s election, I’ll post a poll roundup along with an explanation of the screwy dynamics that could see Gordon Brown finish third in vote totals while retaining possession of 10 Downing Street.  In the meantime, if you want to run your own British election scenarios, check out the BBC timesuck election calculator which may have SOME scientific value.

Say what you will about BBC bias, and there is plenty of bias.  There is no denying that they have the coolest election night graphics in the world.  Here’ a video of election night highlights from the 1997 landslide that swept Labour into office.  Hopefully, well see the reverse on Thursday.

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