Friday, May 7, 2010

It’s A Draw

The British election ended up with a “hung Parliament”:

With more than 500 general election results in out of 650, the BBC is predicting a hung Parliament with the Tories as the largest party.

Labour cannot now win a majority, but it is not clear which party will be in a position to form a government.

Tory leader David Cameron said it was “clear that the Labour government has lost its mandate to govern”.

Gordon Brown may start coalition talks with the Lib Dems, who, Nick Clegg admitted, had a “disappointing night” .

The BBC projection suggests David Cameron’s Conservatives will have 306 seats. If there are 10 Unionists elected in Northern Ireland then Mr Cameron might be able to command 316 – probably still slightly too few for him to be sure of winning a Queen’s Speech.

But Labour and the Lib Dems together would have 317 seats, according to the BBC figures, which even with three SDLP MPs would still leave them at 320 – again probably just a few votes short.

Senior Labour figures have said that under the rules of Britain’s constitution, the sitting prime minister in a hung parliament makes the first attempt at forming a ruling coalition.

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said Mr Brown had returned to Number 10, and was going to rest and “catch his breath” adding: “We have to be patient for some time more.”

“It’s not possible to make definite claims or reach final conclusions about the outcome of the election because there are results still to come in,” he said.

“You could say the electorate have voted for change but what they haven’t done is voted decisively in favour of the Conservatives.”

Andrew Sullivan has some initial analysis and in-depth coverage, but what I think is fun is to see that the Brits, who have the reputation as being stiff-upper-lip and all that, can get just as silly as we do (hello, Chris Matthews) over an election. Except they do it with a touch of inventiveness and dryness that is sorely lacking in our overly dramatic coverage on Election Night.

What the results mean for the country is anybody’s guess. American pundits are fond of saying that we like divided government; that is, the White House being held by one party and Congress held by another. They like to say that the “balance of power” is maintained that way. What they mean is that nothing gets done while everyone postures for political advantage, and I suspect that with no one having a majority of seats in Parliament, you’re going to see a lot of things not getting done in Britain without a lot of negotiating and coercion, since the divided government isn’t between No. 10 and Whitehall; it’s in Parliament itself. That’s like having the House of Representatives having 215 Republicans and 214 Democrats and 6 Independents. Good luck with that.

According to the British constitution, the Queen asks the party leader of the majority to form a government. It will be interesting to see who gets invited to the palace and what comes out of it.