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Election Day In The United Kingdom Is May 6—Facts About The U.K. Election

This post has been updated elsewhere on the blog. Thank you for reading Texas Liberal.

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.)

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, the Conservatives 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.

April 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Japanese Elections Shift Power And Move Japan To The Left

Elections in Japan have resulted in, to some degree, a shift to the left. Beyond ideological issues, the long-standing ruling party has been booted out and a more competitive two-party system for Japan may be in the offing.

( Above—A Buddhist Temple in Kyoto. Japan. Here is information about visiting Kyoto.)  

The Democrats have soundly defeated the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Do not view these party names through the prism of American party labels. The Liberal Democrats are the party of the right. The LDP has held power in Japan for all but a few months since the end of World War II.

A good explanation of what was at stake in Japanese elections can be found in this post at the blog World Elections. 

The blog Observing Japan has comprehensive posts on the political situation in Japan.

The new Prime Minister of Japan in likely to be Yukio Hatoyama. Here is his profile in the BBC.   

From that profile—

“In his manifesto, Mr Hatoyama said he wanted to improve people’s lives through increased welfare spending. “I want to approach policy from the perspective of the citizen, not leaving it to the hands of bureaucracy,” he wrote. “I want to create a horizontal society bound by human ties, not a vertically-connected society of vested interests.” Mr Hatoyama says he wants to raise spending on healthcare, child support and subsidies for farmers. But he has ruled out raising taxes to do this – prompting critics to ask where the money will come from.”

( Above –Japan as seen from space.)

In regards to the ideological shift as it impacts international policy, Democrats say they will reevaluate the Japanese military relationship with the United States and may no longer assist in the refueling of American ships headed to the War in Iraq. Japan may now look more towards it’s Asian neighbors and less towards the United States on security issues.  

Here is the New York Times story on the election.

Domestically, the ideological shift is caught up with what is the larger story of the election. The excerpt from Mr. Hatoyama’s profile gives some sense of what has been promised. Japan’s economy has been stagnant for many years and people in Japan are concerned about the impact of globalization.

Here is a Q & A from the BBC about policy differences between Democrats and the LDP. 

Yet articles I have read about the election suggest that weariness with the long-ruling LDP and a desire for a more competitive political system are a big reason why the Democrats have won. There is a widespread belief—seemingly correct—that the LDP has held power for too long and that the political system is rigged to a favor a certain few over the needs of the many.

For this desire for change to have real meaning, it will soon enough have to be accompanied by policy changes and a greater transparency in how Japan is governed.

Here are some basic facts about Japan. The population of Japan is approximately 128 million people.

(Below–Sapporo, Japan. Here is information about visiting Sapporo. )

August 31, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment