Thursday, May 7, 2015


I’m always amazed by the way in which politicians and electorates behave.  Democracy is indeed the worst system except for all the others, as Churchill famously said.  As I write this, the UK is going to the polls in an election whose outcome is as unclear as any that I can remember.  At the same time, Netanyahu announced that he is forming a government.  Really?  I thought that was over months ago.

Nicola Sturgeon giving the others the finger
The truth is that I’ve been so focused on the British election that I haven’t paid any attention to writing a blog.  So this is a case of making a virtue of necessity.  From the benefit of being a hemisphere away, the outcome of the election looks pretty clear to me.  Labour is losing most (if not all) of its seats in Scotland to the SNP (the Scottish National Party, which campaigned unsuccessfully for an independent Scotland about eight months ago).  The polls suggest that about half the electors in Scotland will vote for the SNP under its charismatic new leader, Nicola Sturgeon .  Why not?  About 40% voted for an independent country and now – with the union safe at least for the time being – the doubters can vote for making Westminster deliver on its promises.  Furthermore - as I understand it – the social philosophy of the SNP is not very far away from that of the Labour Party in any case.  Thus previous Labour voters can switch without the sort of heartburn which might arise from voting for a conservative Scottish nationalist party.  Okay, so this makes sense.  However, all the English politicians seem to be totally amazed by this development.  Even the pollsters make comments suggesting that, even though they say they will, many people won’t really vote for the SNP, which makes a bit of a joke of their profession.

Ed Miliband doing his Frankenstein impersonation
This is why I’m puzzled.  The leader of the Labor Party – Ed Miliband – seems to be in the pound seat.  The SNP is crying out for a deal with him and will bring back all those lost Labor seats in Scotland and then some from the Liberals as well.  His reaction to this approach – which would've had Netanyahu drooling – is to rule out any deal with them.  Of course, the explanation might be that the Conservatives are holding this alliance up as a huge threat to England, so he has to pretend he has no interest in the deal.

Nick Clegg - and this picture was taken
BEFORE the election!
In the meanwhile the Liberals – the small party that put the Conservatives into power five years ago by forming a coalition – look like losing lots of seats.  They are very surprised by this and, of course, strongly deny that it’s going to happen.  Well, why not? Their left leaning supporters are burned by the party backing the Conservatives through five years of austerity that hasn’t produced the economic miracle that no one expected it to produce.  The prize for the Liberals was a referendum on proportional representation.  The voters rejected that and the party leader, Nick Clegg, described it as a “miserable compromise.”  But he’s expecting all the voters to turn out and vote for him again?  I guess I’m missing something here.

As for Labour, looking back over a long period in power as a middle of the road party, and seeing the nation moving to the right with the Conservative/Liberal coalition, they elected a left-leaning leader after the last elections.  Although the party will match the Conservatives in the number of seats won, it won’t get near the numbers to grab the government.

David Cameron suddenly remembering that he has a head
Finally we have the Conservatives.  Well, they are at a big disadvantage. They are the incumbents so everything that’s wrong can now be blamed on them.  Furthermore, the party seems well right of the electorate.  They plan a referendum on whether to leave the EU in the next couple of years.  Hang on. Isn’t membership of the EU what everyone wants?  Even a lot of businesses will be nervous of that idea with huge financial institution HSBC talking about relocating from the UK.

So the poor electorate is left to make sense of this lot.  Most will just vote as they always do.  The rest will be thinking about Greens, and Liberals, and UKIPs, and others too esoteric to mention, although it does look as though Labour will pick up quite a few seats from voters dissatisfied with five Conservative years.

So I’m going to do what none of the pundits seem willing to do: make a prediction.  I base my prediction on  political expediency taking over the moment the last vote is cast.

  • 1.       Labour wins a small number of votes more than the Conservatives and about the same number of seats.  It claims “victory”;
  • 2.       The Liberals lose lots of seats and Nick Clegg doesn’t resign as party leader;
  • 3.       The SNP does just as well as the polls predicted;
  • 4.       Labour and SNP after a decent period to allow the electorate to forget Miliband’s rejection of them – say a day – will announce an alliance (not a coalition) which involves them in setting up a coalition (but not a coalition).

Now this is where it gets interesting. Will that be enough seats? Maybe not.  If it isn’t, Britain can look forward to a new election pretty soon.

Tomorrow, Caro will explain in her incisive and amusing way not only that I was wrong, but why it was quite obvious that I’d be wrong.  I’m looking forward to it!

Michael – Thursday.


  1. Yeesh. And I thought the US political system was in a mess! I still say it's going to take a MASSIVELY ugly upheavel (ala WW II, but not necessarily war) in the next 10-20 years to straighten out the ugly mess we (the world) have gotten ourselves into. I don't look forward to it.

  2. I have a headache thinking this through.

  3. Well, I seem to have been close on the Liberals and the SNP, but not so much on Labour...

  4. I just arrived today (Friday) in Greece, where your description, Michael, of the pre-vote UK parliamentary government make-u[ sounded eerily similar to that of Greece's BEFORE its elections last January. Greek conservatives and liberals had hammered together a government blamed by the never-before-in-power far left for years of austerity, and the voters believed them, electing a strange bedfellows coalition of 140 or so Far Leftists (once elected the description was capitalized) and enough votes from a minor pretty far right party to exceed the 151 vote majority.

    One would think a similar fate awaited UK's Conservatives, but what actually happened surprised a heck of a lot of UK pollsters. But should it have? .... To be continued on Caro's post of Friday.