Brits Place Their Bets on a General Election

As we in the US slog through another tedious (but very important) election cycle, the British accelerate the process with Gordon Brown calling an election on 6 May 2010.

There’s a lot to say about this but let’s start with the fun observation.  The Times has a way cool interactive election chart which is a wonderful way to waste a lot of time with.  But, if you look carefully, there’s more to the fun.  In the US, when we want to get election predictions, we turn to these serious pollsters: Gallup, Rasmussen, Zogby, etc.  In the UK, who does the Times turn to?  Ladbrokes, the betting house, of course!  Not since Ron Faucheux, the “Political Oddsmaker,” have Americans seen it done this way, and Ladbrokes deals with real money.   (Appropriate: South Louisiana, Faucheux’s home, is a place where people have been living on the edge for 300 years.)

In spite of the Obama Administration’s attempt to ditch the “special relationship” between the UK and the US, the two countries are, in many ways, tied together in fate more now than ever.  Both have been on a quarter century run of prosperity that has only solidified the Anglophone world’s dominance of things.  Both are now in the aftermath of that run, deeply in debt and uncertain of the future.  In many ways, the sharks are circling both countries; both are headed for a major disaster at their current course.  (If my American readers want to get a feel for how many issues are shared, they should take the “Vote Match” survey from the Telegraph.)

The big difference is that the “left” party has been in the saddle in the UK since the last millennium, while in the US it’s only been two years, so they still think they can blame their opposition for the problems.

That being said, and given Gordon Brown’s lack of charisma, it’s amazing how close the UK election really is.  Cameron and the Tories should be having a romp, but they’re not.  This tells me that the UK electorate is realising that real electoral choice, in terms of the quality of the outcome, is very limited these days.  To some extent, the outcome of the 2010 contests in the US will gauge whether the American voters have come to this conclusion or not.

It’s one thing to have the form of representative government, but to lack its power and reality is a major delegitimisation for both countries.

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