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Parliamentary Frenzy on the North Side
Yes, I just finished watching (checks watch) four solid hours of BBC coverage of the British national election. I have, finally and incontrovertibly, exposed myself as both an election wonk and an Anglophile. I know. Restrain your expostulations of surprise.

Things that occurred to me whilst watching:
  •  I think all the electoral candidates in every Canadian and American election race should have to stand next to each other, wearing badges and ribbons of indecent size and florid design, while someone stands at a microphone with the results, and gives their full name (family name first, given last), and the amount of votes, and declares one of them the winner, while the others look stoic, blank, 'luuded or, in the case of the Monster Raving Loony, etc. Party, gleefully goofy. I think it would do a great deal to advance a sense of humility on the part of North American politicians.
  • British pundits and journalists (at least the live media types) are far more sophisticated, witty and - to the people they're interviewing - heel-rockingly rude than I am used to seeing in election coverage. They also get to interview slightly tipsy aging Tory supporters like gazillionaire once-upon-a-time rocker Bill Wyman. (Tory. Christ.) It was all quite impressive and bracing. And I'm saying that seriously.
  • Those pundits and journalists are also pretty damned sturdy. The same guys (most of whom looked ever-so-slightly professorially frail) just soldiered on, hour after hour - remember, this was at 3 a.m., 4 a.m., 4:30 a.m. and straight on 'til morning their time - with only the occasional stumble or flash of inevitably wittily-expressed irritation, and a just-noticeable growth in some five (a.m.) o'clock shadow. I mean, our television gangs over here have nothing on them.
  • I have to admit I'd never thought of it as a "hung parliament." In Canada, where I grew up, minority governments were, if not commonplace, definitely not rare. And that's what we called them. A hung parliament sounds ... racy.
  • And the turnouts; 68 percent; 77 percent; higher in other places - that's nothing to be laughed at. I kept looking at those percentages and saying to myself, when the hell are we going to start getting anywhere near those numbers? Damn.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 7th, 2010 07:40 am (UTC)
The turnout figures appear to have taken lots of the polling stations by surprise, too, with the shambolic results that you saw in some places.

And yes, election night coverage is always high entertainment even in the initial few hours when hardly anything is happening - which is why till 2 am today I was sat on the sofa next to the Resident Geek with a laptop each, one TV channel on the telly and another on each laptop, FBing, LJing *and* Skypeing simultaneously in various online election night parties! (gods, we are far too geeky...)
May. 7th, 2010 04:04 pm (UTC)
You are an election geek after my own heart!

I was watching the reports of polling station craziness, and found myself feeling for each station's operators; here, the polls close at 7 p.m., but if you're in line when the clock hits 7 p.m., they still have to keep the poll open until everyone in line at that point has voted. From what I understand your system (at least last night), keeps the polls open longer - 10 p.m., I think I heard someone say - but even if you're in line outside the station at that time, you can't vote unless you have some paper in hand, and I couldn't catch what paper that was. So ... longer hours, tighter line regulation on your side of the pond, it seems.

Anyhow, I hope to god that whatever coalition comes to pass that the oft-touted wish for a stable government happens, although it could be a fool's hope. In most minority government situations in Canada, a new general election tended to be called within two years, and I think that's what I remember with the minority government situations in Britain in the 1970s. Good luck.
May. 7th, 2010 07:21 pm (UTC)
The idea of long queues late in the evening is pretty unprecedented, hence I imagine the fact that not all the polling stations seemed to be clear on the law, which apparently says: 1) Polling stations must close at 10 pm, ie at 10 pm you must lock the doors. 2) You may not give out ballot papers (the things we mark our crosses on - yes, still with stubby bits of pencil - after 10 pm. 3) However, anybody who has been given a ballot paper by 10 may fill it in and post it after 10 and you count that vote.

The giving out of ballot papers is slowed by the requirement to ask everyone for their name and address and manually check them off on a list to make sure they haven't voted already.

So different polling stations took different approaches: keep the polling station open late (understandable but illegal): just tell everyone still in the queue at 10 that they can't vote (unimaginative); or, as the most clued-up with this problem seem to have done; before 10 pm, get everyone still queuing *inside* the polling station, and prioritise giving out ballot papers over actual voting. Then at 10, lock the doors, and there is then no huge rush to get the actual ballots cast. But you had to be pretty familiar with the minutiae - which returning officers *should* be, to be fair- to get that right.

Just to add to the entertainment, all those people have a prima facie case against the local authorities involved for a breach of their right to vote under our Human Rights Act...
May. 7th, 2010 12:12 pm (UTC)
Double Exposure
The comment about hung parliaments had me thinking some not nice thoughts about our current minority government but then the combination of humour and Canadian politics reminded me that that Double Exposure is back and available as podcasts.
May. 7th, 2010 04:09 pm (UTC)
Re: Double Exposure
Is Double Exposure the same comedy troupe I remember making great fun of Trudeau and Joe Clarke back in the 1980s? If so, the current batch is heir to comedic royalty. That group (whatever its name) used to make me laugh myself sick sometimes.

As to the current Canadian government, yeah, I can hardly think "hung," in the naughty sense of the word, would apply to that (you should pardon the term) prick Harper.

Do I betray my mislike? Yes, yes I do.
May. 7th, 2010 05:55 pm (UTC)
Re: Double Exposure
I believe they are the same two people.
May. 8th, 2010 06:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Double Exposure
Thanks for letting me know.
May. 7th, 2010 05:48 pm (UTC)
Hell, I'd settle for a Monster Raving Loony Party who weren't actually monstrous loonies.
May. 7th, 2010 05:55 pm (UTC)
My anti-virus does not like that site.
May. 8th, 2010 06:34 pm (UTC)
The link reminds me that yellow is a terrible background color on teh Intarwebz. Not a fan of yellow, me.

May. 7th, 2010 07:20 pm (UTC)
A hung parliament is the stage between the end of the election and a minority or coalition government. [Like a hung jury, I suppose.]
May. 8th, 2010 06:29 pm (UTC)
Except, of course, that a hung jury goes nowhere, and a hung parliament, by your definition, is a transitional term. Thanks for the information; I appreciate it.
May. 8th, 2010 12:14 am (UTC)
I love UK election coverage, and watching it online last night just reminded me of how much I miss Jeremy Paxman. (He used to be known as the thinking woman's crumpet ;) ).

But, yes, this election is unusual in many ways. The hung parliament, for one; it's the first time in 36 years that this has happened, and it's looking like the Tories may actually enter a coalition for the first time since WWII. Second, the turnout was almost unprecedently high. The last UK election I participated in (2002, perhaps? Can't remember exactly), turnout had dropped to under 40%. I think it was even lower last time around. High turnout certainly says the voters wanted something important; but unfortunately for them they've ended up with a complete mess. (And, yes, it's a hung parliament until either a coalition or a minority government with some kind of tacit support is worked out).

Personally, I hope that one of the consequences of this is electoral reform - but then I'm a lifelong supporter of proportional representation, whatever method is used. I grew up with Single Transferable Vote, and while that system may make it more difficult to get overall majorities voters don't end up feeling that there's no point in voting (or in voting for their preferred candidate) because X is always going to win. And that's one reason why tactical voting started to take off in a big way in the UK in the 1990s and is still around now: people will vote for the candidate most likely to unseat (or defeat) the representative of the party they hate.

So, yes, now we're into shenanigans and negotiation, and it's definitely amusing to watch, given how unused politicians, the media and the general public in the UK is to this kind of situation :)
May. 8th, 2010 06:59 pm (UTC)
... and it's looking like the Tories may actually enter a coalition for the first time since WWII. I've been amazed that the Lib Dems would even think of entering a coalition with the Conservatives, even if Cameron were to promise on his sainted Aunt Fanny that he'd seriously try to change the electoral system.

I'm not sure how I feel about proportional voting, but a lot of people do seem to think it's important to at least take a look at it.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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