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Facts About 2010 British Election–A Hung Parliament

(Blogger’s note–Regular readers will recall this post from just a few weeks ago. In my never-ending quest for more blog traffic, I’m giving it another try as election day approaches in the U.K. You will note that links have been added since this was first posted so that folks who saw this post the first time around can learn more about the election if they so choose.)

5/7/10— Here are my initial thoughts on the outcome of the election. If you are looking to get a understanding of the election, this pre-election post still has value as a foundation to grasp what took place last night.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called an election for Great Britain for May 6, 2010. The ruling party decides when an election will be contested within the guideline that one must be held at least every five years. Elections may be called before five years if the governing party thinks they can win at a given moment.

(Above–-The chamber of the British House of Commons.)

In this election, the ruling Labor Party is looking to win a fourth consecutive term. The Conservative Party currently leads in the polls. A third party, the Liberal Democrats, will also win a number of seats in the House of Commons.

The incumbent Prime Minister is Gordon Brown of the Labor Party. If Labor wins a majority of seats, Mr. Brown will be returned to office.  The Conservative leader is David Cameron. As the leader of the second largest party in the British Parliament, Mr, Cameron is currently leader of the opposition. The leader of the Liberal Democrats is Nick Clegg.

If you click the name of the party leaders in the paragraph above, you will get a profile of each gentleman from the BBC.

(Update—4/17/10—Liberal Democrats are moving up in the polls after a strong debate showing by Nick Clegg.)

(Update–4/19/10–Liberal Democrats now lead in some polls.)

(Update–4/21/10–Conservative newspapers now attacking Liberal Democrats as they advance.)

(Update–4/26/10–A hung parliament still seems very possible.)

(Update–4/28/10–Prime Minister Brown is overheard calling a woman a bigot. The woman was obnoxious and did merit an insult from the Prime Minister. )

(Update–5/1/10–While the Tories appear to have the edge, many outcomes remain possible.)

( Update–5/1/10--Leading newspapers that have in the past endorsed Labor are now supporting the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.)

(Update–5/2/10–This British observer wonders why Labor remains so harsh in attacking the Liberal Democrats though a Labor-Liberal coalition seems the only way labor can hold onto power.)

(Update–5/3/10–Three days left and the outcome is still in doubt.)

( Update 5/4/10–Despite his rough campaign, Gordon Brown is still making his case.)

( Update 5/4/10—There is debate over how matters will be resolved if the election results in a hung parliament.)

(Update 5/5/10–Here is an excellent  7 minute audio slideshow from the BBC that looks back on British elections since 1945.)

(Update 5/5/10–The last minute view from The Washington Post.)

(Update 5/7/10—A hung parliament is the result.)

(Update 5/8/10–Talks are ongoing to form a governing coalition.)

(Update 5/10/10–As discussions continue to form a government, Prime Minister Brown has announced he will resign.)

( Update 5/11/10—A new government seems to be on the way.)

In the United Kingdom and in a parliamentary system, a vote for your local member of parliament is a vote for which party you’d like to see control the national government. In the United States, voters spilt tickets all the time. In England, if you like your local M.P. but want a Prime Minister of a different party than your M.P, you have a choice to make.

(Below–Prime Minister Brown with his wife Sarah Brown.)

There are 648 seats in the House of Commons. If you win a majority of seats, then your party runs the government. It is also possible that no party will win a majority of seats. Here is a link to what happens if no party wins a majority of seats. Here is a BBC history of Parliaments in the 20th century where no majority was won.

Here is the link to the U.K. Parliament. Here is a list of frequently asked questions about the British Parliament.

(Below–-In Wales, Labor has the edge but Conservatives did very well in elections for the European Parliament held last year. The Liberal Democrats and a Welsh nationalist party called Plaid Cymru also have boosters in Wales. Picture is of the Welsh city of Swansea.)

Here are parties with five seats or more in the current line-up of the House—

1. Labor–341

2. Conservative–193

3. Liberal Democrats–63

4. Democratic Unionist Party–8

5. Scottish National Party–7

6. Sinn Fein–7

If you click the name of a party, you’ll get the official web page for that party.

You see that the British House of Commons has many more parties than does the U.S. Congress. The Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein are parties that have to do with the politics of Northern Ireland. The Scottish National Party favors an independent Scotland.

(Update–4/20/10—The Scottish Nationalists say a hung parliament would enhance Scottish interests.)

(Below–In Scotland, Labor is the leading party, but there is also strong support for the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party. Conservatives hope to gain in Scotland in 2010. Here is a link to a story about the small Scottish Socialist Party. This party says they hope make Scotland a green socialist place. Sounds good to me. Picture is of the Isle of Skye in Scotland.)

The Liberal Democrats are the perennial third party of British politics. They are not the same as liberal democrats in the United States. Though they are sometimes—though not all the time— to the left of our Democratic Party. Click the Liberal Democrat link above and read more if you wish to understand better. The Liberal Democrats often urge reform of the practices of the House and of how campaigns are financed. It is possible that if neither Labor or the Conservatives win a majority on election day, that the Liberal Democrats could help form a coalition government in exchange for ministerial seats in the new majority.

(Below–David Cameron, in the center of the picture, on the hustings in 2006.)

The Conservatives are still seen by many in the U.K. as the party of the privileged.  That may be, and I would not vote for them if I lived in the U.K., but I do note that when I  visited their web home a few minutes ago there was a plank against the bullying of gay kids in schools and a plank in favor of the National Health Service in Great Britain.  It must be nice to have party of the right that is not fully crazy. However, on the question of British integration into the political structures of Europe, theConservatives are to the right of the center-right governments that lead Germany and France. This is a position that can lead to immigrant-bashing and Muslim-bashing rhetoric on the campaign trail.

(Below–Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg making what appears to be a campaign stop on the sun.)

Labor moved to the right with the election of Tony Blair in 1997.  Under Mr. Blair’s leadership, Labor gave up on some of the more economically socialist and militant of its positions. Some on the old left resented this, but ,on the other hand, Labor has won three elections in a row beginning in 1997 after the wilderness of the Margaret Thatcher years.

(Below–In Northern Ireland. local issues and local parties will hold sway over national issues that move the election elsewhere. Though if there is a hung parliament, all seats will matter. Picture is of Belfast City Hall.)

The BBC has comprehensive coverage of the election.

(Below–In London, it is a fight between Labor and the Conservatives with other parties playing only a small part.)

C-Span will be broadcasting debates between Mr. Brown, Mr. Cameron and Mr. Clegg. This will be the first time that British party leaders will meet in American-style debates for the top office. At the C-Span site there are also archives of the weekly Question Time sessions in the House. Watch these sessions and you can see the three leaders in action.

(4/16/10 Update—The NY Times writes about the role of immigration in the election as some blue collar British voters decide who to to support. I wish people would stop blaming immigrants for their problems.)

The left-wing Guardian newspaper is covering the election. The Guardian has a regional breakdown of the election that will fill in the facts from the regional pictures I offer in this post.

(Below–In England outside of London, Labor and the Conservatives are the leading parties. Though other parties are not conceding this important area.  The picture is of Stonehenge. The Druid vote might be important in a close contest.)

With the prospect of a change in government or of a hung parliament, the upcoming British election looks to be worth following.

If you feel this post has merit as an introduction to the U.K. election, please forward it on. A blog grows one reader at a time.

May 1, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 2 Comments

Does Anybody Know What Type Of Flowers Are In The Picture?

Does any member of the blog reading public know what kind of flowers these are?

The flowers you see above live in Downtown Houston. I took this picture last week.

These flowers smell nice when they bloom, and I’d like to know what they are called.

Thanks in advance to anybody who can help out.

Here is a link to some facts about flowers.

(Below–A picture of a flower called Retama del Teide. This flower lives in the Canary Islands. The photograph was taken by Jorg Hempel.)

May 1, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 4 Comments