Monday, June 08, 2009

Political Crisis in Britain

We Americans tend to ignore the politics of other countries to a degree that is frankly a bit embarrassing. But for those who have missed the news the British Labour Party appears to have suffered its second electoral drubbing in less than a week. Polls indicate that it has been crushed in European Parliamentary elections held yesterday by the Conservative Party and even came in behind a couple of fringe political parties. Last week Labour suffered massive losses in local elections.

This follows on the heels of a huge scandal which has rocked Britain's political establishment. It would appear that large numbers of Members of Parliament (MPs) have been abusing the official expense account for years. Charges for obviously personal items have been rung up on the public's nickel (or should that be shilling?) and the British public is livid. Making matters worse is that this scandal broke during a brutal recession which has left their working class in the same kind of pain we are feeling here in the states. The fact that the Tories (conservatives) were also up to their eyebrows in this scandal does not seem to have registered much with the voters who appear intent on punishing the party in power.

Under Britain's unwritten constitution the government (they use that word in the same sense we use the word "administration") must call for a new general election within the next year. And as one might expect the Tories smell blood in the political waters and the sharks are circling. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is now facing a revolt in his own party as Labour MPs are becoming concerned that they are political dead meat if they go into the next general election with Brown as their party leader. There have been a slew of resignations from his cabinet over the last week including one former female minister (political, not clergy) who accused Brown of using her as "window dressing."

Reading the tea leaves I think it's looking bad for the prime minister. He has been so severely damaged by members of his own party calling for him to step down, that even if he manages to hold onto power his ability to govern effectively has all but evaporated. This would seem to render his position untenable during a time of extreme economic crisis and potentially looming foreign crisis (N. Korea etc.).

If I had to make a guess I would say his chances of surviving in office are now less than 50%. The odd thing is that the Tories may have won too big in the recent elections. More than a few Conservative MPs grasp that Brown is by far the man they want to run against in a general election. If he is ousted it may not strengthen their electoral prospects unless it occurs in a way which forces an early election.

But my gut says Brown is political toast and he will be gone by the end of the week. If I am wrong and he survives this week then I think he will hold on until the general election, when the Tories will get their wish.

Stay tuned...

1 comment:

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Here in Greece, in the European parliamentary elections, citizens are REQUIRED by law to vote. However, yesterday 45% of Greek voters put a blank piece of paper into the ballot box.

SO COOL! It is indeed our duty to vote, but not for crooks. And when they're all crooks... well, I wish I could put in a blank piece of paper, too!