Well, geez, you spend one weekend cleaning out your garage and across the pond all hell breaks loose.
What was a tightening election between the whitewashed Conservative opposition and the deeply listing Labour government became a free-for-all as the third party Liberal Democrats have surged into contention (see Polls of Polls at ConHome).
Now, first off, for anyone looking for a repeat in America this year, don’t bother. Unlike here in the US, the Liberal Democrats have long been a staple of British politics (in fact, their ancestor, the Liberal Party, was the governing party in the UK less than a century ago).
As for Britain itself, the vaguaries of the various Parliamentary districts mean Labour can actually finish third and still have more seats than anyone else – meaning they could govern with support from one of other two parties (more likely the LibDems).
The Conservatives are already talking about how this could happen, but I honestly don’t think they’ve gone far enough on this. See, one of the basic assumptions of UK politics is that if the LibDems ever get into a position where Labour or the Conservatives need them to govern, they would demand proportional representation, thus to ensure they will always have a fifth to a quarter of the seats and can effectively hold the two big parties for ransom.
I think that’s certainly true, but if the LibDems do as well as the polls are saying now, they will demand more – much, much more; and something many in Labour would be more than willing to give them would be British enrollment in the European currency (the euro).
That would be a complete disaster to the UK – especially now, with everyone in the “eurozone” forced to bailout Greece to keep the currency from collapsing, but the LibDems want it, and the people around UK PM Gordon Brown want it (especially Peter Mandelson, who is the British version of Karl Rove or C.D. Howe depending upon which side of the 49th parallel you call home), and unless the Conservatives win a majority, the LibDems + Mandy will run the show. They could easily tell Brown it is the only way he can remain as PM (Brown remains widely reviled), and I suspect Gordon will take the deal.
Here’s the problem for the LibDems, Mandy, and Gordon: if there is one thing in Britain and Northern Ireland that is hated more than Brown, or the “nasty” Conservatives of old, or troughing MPs, or politics in general, it’s the euro. That issue by itself enabled the Conservatives to win every European Parliament election for ten years (there have been three). Voters couldn’t stand William Hague (I disagreed with them), but they elected more Tories to the EP than Labour in 1999. Michael Howard was still trying (and failing) to get the party past Iain Duncan Smith (I really liked him, too, but onward), yet the Conservatives still limped to first place in 2004. Last year, not only did the Conservatives finish first, but second place went to the even more euroskeptic UKIP.
In short, all the Conservatives have to do is calmly but firmly spell out the scenario I have described above, and they will easily score the victory they so long seek.
The question i this: can David “Mr. Nice Guy” Cameron make that case to the British and Ulsterian peoples? Does he have the stomach for it?
We’ll find out over the next two weeks and change.
Cross-posted to VV