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Old 06-09-2017, 04:14 AM   #1
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Default UK General Election

On another thread, Soda asked why the UK had suddenly become a target for terrorists. One answer is that about 6 weeks ago, the Prime Minister called a General Election and the attacks may have been attempts to interfere with the democratic process.

After the watching the american presidential unfold, it seems remarkable that a British General Election can be put together in just six weeks. And a very odd result it is.

I've struggled to understand the american system of government and I'm sure most americans would be equally baffled by the UK system, but I'll try to explain.

  • The country is divided into 650 constituencies.
  • Each constituency is represented by one Member of Parliment (MP)
  • A registered voter gets to vote for one candidate in the constituency where the voter lives.
  • The candidate who has the most votes is elected as MP (a system known as "first passed the post").
  • Most MPs belong to a political party.
  • The two biggest political parties are the Conservative Party (also known as "Tories") and the Labour Party.
  • There are also other significant parties including the Liberal-Democrats, Green Party, Scottish Nationalist Party (only in Scotland), Plaid Cymru (only in Wales), Democratic Unionist Party (only N. Ireland), Sinn Fein (N. Ireland).
  • The leader of the party which has the most MPs will usually become the Prime Minister.
  • The party leaders are chosen by their party, not the electorate and the rules vary from one party to another.
  • To be sure of winning a vote in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister likes to have more MPs that answer to him/her than all the other MPs added together. So with 650 MPs, this means having at least 326 MPs who will answer to the Prime Minister. This is called a majority.
  • Because it is not a simple two-party system, a party can have the largest number of MPs but still be outvoted if all the other MPs vote against them.

In 2015, the Conservative Party were elected with a majority of 17 or 18 ie they had 17 or 18 more MPs than all the others put together. David Cameronwas Prime Minister. After the Brexit vote, David Cameron resigned and the Conservative Party chose Thereas May as new leader and Prime Minister.

Mrs May decided that a majority of 17 wasn't enough for what she wanted to do as she couldn't count on all of her MPs doing what she wanted. So she called a General Election in the belief that she could increase her majority. She was far ahead in the polls and it seemed possible she might achieve a landslide victory giving her maybe an additional 100 MPs.

But it went wrong. The Conservatives still have the largest number of MPs but not more than all the others put together - they are short by around 8. This is known as a "Hung Parliment". The Conservatives can still attempt to form a "minority" government but it means they will need the cooperation from at least one other party to get anything passed. The DUP seems the most likely.

In attempting to strengthen her hand, Mrs May has considerably weakened it. It seems likely it will costs her her job.
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Old 06-09-2017, 08:43 AM   #2
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Default Re: UK General Election

Thank you, UtW. Who is likely to be PM now, will it be a Conservative?

"Over here" it is reported that Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn doesn't like the U.S., never has, and is "practically a Marxist." As you can probably guess, that was on Fox News.

Last edited by NightMistBlue; 06-09-2017 at 09:06 AM.
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Old 06-09-2017, 08:44 AM   #3
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Default Re: UK General Election

Thank you so much for this information on the UK system.

Reports here have indicated surprise and confusion from the Conservatives who figured a sure victory (based on PM May's popularity at the time the election was called.)

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Old 06-09-2017, 10:20 AM   #4
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Default Re: UK General Election

One thing that has always puzzled me about the UK system is how readily and easily the UK moves from Prime Minister to Prime Minister, and how easily it seems a "new government" is formed.

Here in the US, a new party taking over means a lot of efforts to enact policy changes and political upheaval, but it seems in the UK, new elections can be called and Prime Ministers / governments can change at the drop of a hat! Transitions seem to occur quickly and often. Change seems to happen pretty smoothly but then can bounce back and forth a lot. Prime Ministers resigning is no big deal. Is this perception accurate?

Of course, one much keep reminding oneself not to make the false equivalency of Prime Minister and President; he/she is more akin to the Majority Leader in Congress, and there is no "President" figure in the UK, but considering that the Prime Minister is the "Face of the Nation" for the UK, it's hard for Americans not to make that equivalency.

Looks like May has made a big mistake, though, as you said. Still, if she didn't have the MPs the first time, perhaps it wouldn't have been much better even without the election that took away the Conservative majority.

But even the Conservatives in Britain would be considered liberal in the US, and I have often heard the government system in the UK described as relatively socialist compared to the US. Socialist is a label which is stigmatized in the US but is not considered so terrible in the UK. (Am I right? I know Corbyn embraces it.) I say "relatively" socialist because it's not textbook socialism, of course. Most people know that's unsustainable. It's just far more towards that end of the spectrum than we are in the US. Maybe I should say "Socialist Light" lol. With Labour in charge, the government wades deeper into Socialist waters. However, I defer to our British posters if the common perception of British government in the US is incorrect!

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Old 06-09-2017, 10:55 AM   #5
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Default Re: UK General Election

Thanks for the post UTW explaining it. I learned a bit about how it works over there in the UK during my government class in high school as we did spend some time learning how other systems work. Plus, I've always been fascinated with British things so that was fun learning about it and how different it is compared to ours. Plus, surprisingly a lot of UK shows I watch on PBS and others, especially "The Crown" and "Victoria" (which is crazy how many PMs both Queens had/have), have helped to explain how it works over there too. And not to mention a lot of my fav British actors and musicians posting about it on Twitter. But that is weird this election was held so quickly and that it really backfired on May from what I read.
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Old 06-09-2017, 12:17 PM   #6
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Default Re: UK General Election

UTW, thanks for explaining how the UK system works. I took Comparative Politics last semester, and our first comparison was US vs. UK. i think what amazed me the most with the UK system was the fact that there is no set election dates. The only requirement is an election every five years, which can be done at any given timepoint. In the states, senators serve six year terms (1/3 of the 100 seats go up for election every years), and all 435 house seats serve two year terms. It's set in stone. Plus, the fact that the Prime Minister is the one who determines when to call an election. I can't imagine giving our executive head (president) the power to call elections for Congress. I also must say that I enjoyed wstching some of the weekly Prime Minister- Parliament meetings, lol. The opposing MPs are brutal!

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Old 06-09-2017, 12:48 PM   #7
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Default Re: UK General Election

UTW - Thank you for explaining everything. I must say, I have always admired the fact that you can elect a new government in 6 weeks and candidates here start campaigning two years before an election. Like many others here, it amazes me how quick an election can be called and a new PM chosen.
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Old 06-09-2017, 01:06 PM   #8
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Default Re: UK General Election

Thank you for that overview, UTW. It's really interesting. I would point out that when making comparisons to the U.S., that there is quite a population difference. I looked up the U.K. population and saw that it's 62 million (and 87% white/Anglo). The U.S. population is 361 million and quite diverse; Spanish is spoken in 12% of households for example. The millennial demographic is even more diverse; if I'm not mistaken, Anglo millennials are not the majority, they are the largest minority.

I find it odd that the Prime Minister can call an election for the sole purpose of increasing her party's political power. Yet, the voters seemed to reject it this time so I guess it's as long as it's in the hands of the citizens, it works out.

Take it to the limit, one more time.
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Old 06-09-2017, 03:48 PM   #9
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Default Re: UK General Election

Yesterday was quite something. May made an absolutely horrendous mess of it all (easily the worst political campaign I've ever witnessed over here), managing not only to alienate half her party with her atrocious manifesto, but making the near-fatal error of actually saying anything at all. If she'd have kept quiet, released a bang average, unremarkable manifesto, she'd have sailed to victory. Instead, she proposes reintroduction of fox hunting (the UK equivalent of summoning Satan) and measures which absolutely screw the older generations, typically the Tories' backbone, amongst others.

She also led a very 'all about me' campaign. Obviously in the US that's the given (e.g. Vote Obama), but in the UK this is unheard of by and large: you nearly always go for the line of vote for '[local candidate of whichever party for whichever constituency]'. However, whilst doing this, she also refused to attend any of the godawful television debates the UK now has, when all other opposition leaders attended, and when she did do interviews, came across as wooden, completely at unease and frankly, bloody awful.

Comrade Corbyn managed to do something no-one else has managed in my lifetime: getting substantial youth turnout, a huge % of which vote for liberal / left-wing parties (particularly Labour in this case), skewing massively the traditional foregone conclusions of predictions and previous elections and causing a lot of what we saw yesterday.

This was very nearly the biggest case of self-immolation / suicide seen in British politics for decades. She just about held on, and thanks to the conservative unionist [British, not the labour sense] MPs from Northern Ireland just about has enough to get by. How she survived this is beyond me though. Similarly, how long this all will last is beyond me too, I don't see us going the full five years like this.
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Old 06-09-2017, 03:58 PM   #10
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Default Re: UK General Election

Another point of note from last night is that it was the Conservative's gains in Scotland which by and large saved them in the rest of the UK. It is impossible to overstate how incredible that is. In the years post-Thatcher the Conservatives pretty much died in Scotland, winning just one of 59 seats in 2015, and even that by less than 1,000 votes. Last night they won 13, softening the beating they took in England particularly. Every Tory party member in the land owes Ruth Davison, the Scottish Tory leader, big time for what she's done for them; it's unheard of.
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