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More Leaves from London

May 8, 2010

The first “hung” parliament in 36 years in the UK yields another lesson for this side of the Atlantic.

Final poll results show the Tories won 306 seats with 36 per cent of the popular vote, Labour taking 258 on 29 per cent and the Liberal Democrats winning 57 with 23 per cent. Read more at the Sun online, which played this prank on Mr. Brown, who refuses to vacate No. 10 Downing Street:

I’d say someone still has a free press–with a sense of humor to boot.

The bad news in this is that, despite the fact that Brown, who was never elected Prime Minister in the first place, is refusing to step down.

The tradition in Britain is that the winner of the election “forms the government.”  In case no one party has a majority, the party with the most votes traditionally tries to get enough parties on board to form that majority. That’s a coalition government; in Italy, the instability of such coalitions leads to frequent elections.

Tradition, but not law. Labour’s election supremo Lord Mandelson said: “The constitutional conventions are very clear. If it’s a hung parliament it is not the party with the largest number of seats that has first go.”

That statement is misleading. The country’s constitution, unlike ours, is “unwritten.” When Britons speak of their constitution, they mean documents from the Magna Carta forward, including judicial precedent. So for Lord Mandelson to say it is “clear” is itself misleading. But tradition is clearly that the party with the most votes gets first crack at it. His statement, in my opinion, betrays the left-leaning labor parties’ tendency to lean on the absolute letter of the law when it suits them and discard it when they gain power. One comment in the Sun suggested Brown had learned a lesson from Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe about holding on to power.

Remember, Labour is the party that the Democrats have been modeling themselves after since their delegate reforms of 1992.

At a minimum, I think there is one big lesson to be learned from the British election:
Not only are third parties bad for the conservative cause, they are bad for the country as a whole.

If you’re interested in reading more about the coalition possibilities, the Sun has an analysis of policies and coalition options here.

  1. May 9, 2010 10:45 am

    I couldn’t disagree with your conclusion that “Not only are third parties bad for the conservative cause, they are bad for the country as a whole” more.

    The two party system is bad for the conservative cause and the country as a whole.

    • May 9, 2010 12:24 pm

      Thanks for your comment.

      In the UK, the whole system is different. The Lib Dems have been around since the 80s, as have Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties. They are all possible because the districts are very much smaller than here in the US.

      In a winner-take-all system it naturally boils down to the two front runners–everyone else is an also-ran.

      Even before the Constitution, it was the Federalists versus the Anti-Federalists. Our best shot long term as conservatives is to take over the GOP and then re-infuse the Democrats with the spirit of the law.

      Destroy statism.

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