After a long wait, there are now parliamentary elections in the UK . The election date is set for May 6, just under a month before what would have been the absolute deadline. According to British election laws, it can take a maximum of five years from one parliamentary election to the next. Within this period, it is up to the Prime Minister to call new elections. Gordon Brown has been waiting the longest, probably in the hope that Labor’s poor turnout in the polls would turn around. Now it gets burst or bear for Brown and the party.
- What characterizes the political system in Britain?
- Why is this choice so important?
- What can we expect from the next few weeks and after the election?
The British Parliamentary elections in 2010 seem to be one of the most exciting in recent British history. Will there be a change of government? Will there be a minority government?
2: More exciting than it used to be
A couple of weeks have passed since Prime Minister Gordon Brown paid the British queen a symbolic visit and asked for her permission to dissolve the British Parliament. With that came the official launch of what has so far been one of the most exciting election campaigns in recent British history.
If the convicted Labor (Social Democratic) party manages to retain its majority of MPs, it will mean that the party enters a historic fourth term in government offices. Above all, it would mean a redress for the government and for Gordon Brown, who has had to endure a lot of criticism in recent years.
If the Conservative Party gains a majority, it will otherwise mean that the party, led by leader David Cameron, has succeeded in a historic turnaround operation to win back voters from Labor. Until recently, it all seemed to be a short process: opinion polls had for a long time indicated a clear conservative victory, and the battle seemed to have been lost for Labor. Then the political wind turned : Labor regained some of its lost ground and the Conservatives fell back a bit. At the moment it is very even between the two.
It now also appears that Britain’s third largest party in recent years, the Liberal Democratic Party , has had its real political breakthrough. Party leader Nick Clegg has been the big surprise of the election campaign, and has so far in the election campaign succeeded well in communicating with the voters. In recent days, the party has had a sharp upswing in the polls. In several polls, the party is now on par with Labor and the Conservatives.
Thus, there is now more and more talk of a third possible outcome of the forthcoming election – one in which neither the Conservative Party nor Labor achieves a governing majority alone. If none of the parties gets more than half of the representatives – which is what is needed to form a majority government – it will mean that you get a so-called unclear or “hanging” British parliament (“hung parliament”).
The current electoral system and the division into constituencies will hardly give the Liberal Democrats full credit in the form of mandates (more on this below). Nevertheless, there are many indications that the election will give the party a historic key position. Then it will be highly relevant as a coalition partner in or – more likely – a support wheel for a government based on one of the other two parties. Then Labor is the most likely partner , because that is where the political distance is shortest.
3: Some basic features of the political system
According to GLOBALSCIENCELLC, the British Parliament consists of two separate chambers or “houses”:
- The House of Lords, which today consists of 736 noble representatives. Most are appointed by the government for life . The former system where noble titles were inherited was more or less abolished when Tony Blair ruled. Only a small group of inheritance orders, chosen by the Upper House itself, remain. The House of Lords has a formal role in shaping British law, but has, by and large, little political power vis-à-vis the House of Commons.
- The House of Commons, which since the last election has consisted of 646 directly elected representatives (from 2010: 650). The British government is based on the party or parties that have obtained a majority of the seats in the House of Commons after the election. There are elections for the House of Commons Britain is now preparing for.
This brings us to another characteristic of the British political system, namely the electoral system .
- Majority elections in one-man constituencies : Elections to the House of Commons take place on the basis of the principle of majority elections in one-man constituencies , also called First-Past-the-Post (“first person past the finish line”). In short, this means that the United Kingdom is divided into as many constituencies as there are members of the House of Commons. Each constituency elects its political representative. In this year’s elections, the number of constituencies – and thus also representatives – will be increased to 650 to reflect demographic changes (ie related to the composition, size and distribution of the population). For the same reason, the border rises for some constituencies have also been adjusted since the previous election.
- The winner gets everything:In each constituency, a representative is elected based on the principle of simple majority. This means that the party (and the candidate) that receives the most votes in a constituency wins the election and receives the mandate from that constituency – regardless of what percentage of the votes the person in question has received. In this system, it does not matter who comes second, or how many votes the candidates in the seats behind the winner get. There is only one winner, which means that the other votes in practice are worthless in terms of representation.