The British Election for American Dummies

For those (few) Americans following the British General Election (Professor Nathan B. Oman, I am looking at you), here’s a guide to what’s going on over here. Mostly, it’s madness. It’s not what Time magazine claims it to be, however, and if the following is representative of American reporting, then you’re being fed a load of twaddle:

Cleggmania is a sign not only of how devoutly Britons yearn for something new politically but also of how profoundly Britain itself has changed. The country’s top-down political system was devised in an age when people knew their place. Modern Britons have no such certainties. Somehow or other, they are beginning to think that Nick Clegg speaks for them.

Um, no. If the current polls are to be believed, around 30% of Britons believe Clegg speaks for them. That leaves 70% who do not believe Clegg speaks for them or who don’t give a monkey’s either way.

This, from Matthew D’Ancona is much better:

It seems to me that, distilled to their essentials, the polls in aggregate reveal four basic truths about the mood of the British public in late April 2010. First, disgusted by the expenses scandal and the financial crisis, the voters are hungry for change. Second, as a consequence, they no longer want Gordon Brown to be Prime Minister. Third, they lean towards David Cameron PM but have reservations about him, and the prospect of an undilutedly Tory government. Fourth, they have found in Nick Clegg a telegenic tribune, who articulates the nation’s grievances better than anyone else and incarnates the dynamism and freshness they yearn for.

Here’s where Britain’s indecision gets really insane: Brown’s Labour could come third in the popular vote but because they easily mop-up a swathe of urban seats, find themselves with the most seats in the Commons. To form a proper majority they’d need to make a deal with Clegg’s Liberal Democrat’s, and thus you see his importance as Kingmaker.

If the Tories do well I wouldn’t rule out a Con-Lib coalition, however. If Clegg is serious about “change” he will have no choice. But I predict Clegg will see some of the X-Factor crowd slip away in the end, thus delivering a small Conservative majority.



  1. I’d noticed that Clegg immediately became the media darling following the debate. I’ve also heard it said that he won the TV audience over by his smooth interaction with the camera but that for radio listeners Cameron came out clearly on top.


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