Political geeks, turn your eyes to the Atlantic horizon to-night

Today is election day in the United Kingdom, which is at least as much fun for American political nerds to watch as it is for baseball fans to watch the All-Star game. I am both, so I would know. There’s plenty on the internet for you to read on this topic, but not much for the American reader who only cares a tiny little bit. Allow me to fill that void. Let’s consider the advantages of watching British election coverage:

  • Three major parties, not just two. Additionally, parts of Great Britain are run by wild-eyed regional parties. It’s like an aggressive Canada, which is a really hot fantasy of mine.
  • You get to geek out over the tense reporting of early returns without contemplating the draconian hellscape that would occur if your side loses. Our side won the war, yo.
  • You get to compare poll results with actual votes after a legally limited campaign season filled with only moderately uninformed, biased speculation.
  • You get to watch people waving different colored signs scream with joy, disappointment or (in the parliamentary system) abject confusion over what it means if the Welsh nationals picked off a seat in Gwhhhylx.

Your own political ideology doesn’t matter. It’s like watching football game. If the wrong party wins, you drink a beer and watch some other country screw its own self up. And who can tell anyway? The Conservative Party in Great Britain is home to people who couldn’t win a Republican primary in America. There are two quasi-left parties, but on some issues the ruling Labour Party is to the left of the Liberal Democrats, who despite the name can be centrist on several other issues. It’s just good clean madcap fun. And as the results come in, all the candidates for parliament in a given area stand on stage and listed to the totals wearing brightly colored ribbons signifying their party affiliation. AND, even though the events of the night will determine the next prime minister, you’re really only voting for your own local representative. It’s like if the Speaker of the U.S. House was the head of state, but not really because ENGLAND IS A MONARCHY. They have a QUEEN!

It’s a beautiful thing. I’ll be watching. There’s a live feed at the BBC. C-SPAN usually carries the coverage as well. Here some additional notes as you watch tonight:

  • Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg spent a year in Minnesota attending college. That may not seem like much but when I think about it I spent a year in Dubuque, Iowa attending college and it was a pretty significant experience. I smoked, read, wrote and figured stuff out. Clegg’s election would make him the first Golden Gopher to lead Britain since Dave Winfield’s brief and controversial tenure at 10 Downing Street.
  • I am not related to Gordon Brown, so far as I know.
  • In the UK, Red=Labour, Blue=Conservative and Yellow=Liberal Democrats. In America, as you know, blue=Democratic (liberal) and red=Republican (conservative). So the colors are reversed. But here’s a question, and bonus points to the person who explains this. In the U.S., the colors were D=Red and R=Blue for many years. You can still find pre-2000 election wrap-ups that use the British political colors. Why the change? Seriously, that’s a question I’m asking.

(GIF from Social and Spatial Equalities)


  1. “abject confusion over what it means if the Welsh nationals picked off a seat in Gwhhhylx.”

    Pronounced “Ren-fru.”


    My ancestors were from Scotland, and if I lived there, I’d vote SNP, but not because I’m so big on Scottish independence.

    1) The SNP leader is Alex Salmond, an old-school untelegenic Commons brawler who’s a heck of a lot smarter than any of the three national party leaders. (Although I hear he’s stepping down.)

    2) When you put aside the Scottish nationalist stuff, the SNP’s agenda is pretty left-wing.

    3) No matter who forms the next government, drastic budget cuts are on their way. Giving a big vote to the nationalist party might scare London into not messing with the region more than it has to.

    Anyways, that’s what I’d recommend to someone from the home country. Not sure how I’d vote if I lived in Britain proper. I guess either Lib-Dem or Labour, depending on which one stood the best chance of beating the Tories in any individual constituency.

  2. I think* the color change had something to do with Nancy Reagan’s dresses.

    *Disclaimer: I was 11 at the time, and also studied Middle High German Literature in college, not Political Science.

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