Friday, May 07, 2010

Britain Gets A "Hung Parliament"

Votes are counted pretty slowly in Britain, and the full results are not yet in as of this writing. But it seems clear that the Conservatives will fail to win a majority. What is also clear is that the Liberal Democrats fared much worse than expected. While they increased slightly in the popular vote, they didn't increase as much as expected and they actually lost seats due to the British electoral system.

The two "far right" parties, the U.K. Independence Party and the British National Party, both of whom strongly oppose both immigration and EU membership (with the difference being mainly that the BNP is openly racialist and views the immigration issue as more important, while the UKIP denies racial considerations and views leaving the EU as more important) both gained significantly, increasing from 2.2% and 0.7% respectively to 3.1% and 1.9%. But due to the electoral system they gained zero seats. If their voters had instead voted for candidates from the moderately immigration and EU skeptical Conservatives, then the Conservatives would have likely won, and would have been able to push through actual anti-EU and anti-immigration policy changes.

With the Conservatives having roughly the same number of seats as the combined total of Labour and Liberal Democrats, it will likely come down to smaller, usually regional parties to decide whether David Cameron or Gordon Brown will be PM. The two "far left" parties, the Green Party and the Social Democratic Party, will presumably side with Labour and the Liberal Democrats. The sympathies of the three regional separatist parties, the Scottish National Party, Sinn Fein (Northern Irish Catholic separatists) and Plaid Cymru (Welsh separatists) is less clear, but since Labour has historically been more sympathetic to regional autonomy, they are more likely to side with Labour and the Liberal Democrats. The Northern Irish Protestant Democratic Unionist Party will by contrast likely side with the Conservatives. The disposition of the one "other" seat is less clear, as is the disposition of the self-described "non-sectarian" Northern Irish Alliance Party.

To hang on to power, Gordon Brown might make concessions in terms of greater regional autonomy and the electoral system.

Another thing to note is that regardless of whether Gordon Brown or David Cameron is more successful in luring over smaller parties, their governments will be very weak. Will such a weak government be able to push through the necessary deficit reduction measures? That seems dubious to say the least, something which bodes ill for the fiscal future of Britain.