Thursday, May 06, 2010



Just having fun - my nerdy idea of fun - with the UK returns. As I throw thoughts out there I'll focus on the comparative aspects. BBC is streaming and tweeting live and they can do the details better than some Yank.

First impressions I hear: "looks like a bad night for Labour" but "the Conservatives may comne up just short." BBC and 538 are feuding about the exit poll accuracy.

Polls have been closed 75 minutes: they stay open till 10 PM UK time. Iowa stays open till 9 and we're one of the late states. I think New York may be the only state that stays open that late. A more urban nation I guess.

Turnout is high, and there's reports of people being turned away and counter-reports of people being locked in at the polling "station" to vote after official closing time. No one seems to know if you're allowed to vote if you're in line ("on queue") at closing time or not. (In Iowa it's clear: you are.)

Only one result in in and Labour wins but with a "swing" (word of the night) to the Tories of 8%.

Also remember if you're looking at candidates and maps: in the UK red is left and blue is right, as it should be. ("Red states" and ""blue states" is an artifact of the 2000 election.) The Lib Dems are yellow, the anti-Europe UK Independence Party is purple.

One question I haven't seen addressed yet: If the result is a close election with a hung Parliament, what kind of spin war do we see as the parties try to form coalitions?

The "presenter" just prouncounced UKIP as "You-kip" rather that "U.K.I.P."

Another result and Labour holds but with an 11.6 swing to Tories. Not. Good. "More of a swing than Blair got in 1997." I know I've said this before but they way they do results is: there's no "x% of precincts reporting." You get the final result and that's it. The candidates and their supporters all go to the local equivalent of the auditor's office to hear the result together. Then adding insult to injury, the losers have to list to the victory speech. At this result the last candidate, from the racist British National Party, got boos. And 1000 or so votes (the Labour winner had 19,000.)

Still talking about people not getting to vote. Apparantly this hasn't happened before and there are no consistent rules. "There may be challenges to results." Could this be Britain's Florida? (Stay tuned) Much like here, conservatives tend to vote earlier in the day and the working class votes after work, so people being turned away has a partisan impact.

The dispite over the swing between 538 and BBC seems to be over the issue of "uniform swing." 538 argues that the swing ina three-plus party system is multidimensional.

Tory shadow minister is starting the spin: "with this result I don't know how Labout can try to stay in power" with a hubng Parliament.

Labour keeps a third seat; wing to Tory only 5 percent in the most targeted of the three seats in the Sunderland area (that priides itself on getting the first results.) Lib Dems seem to be disappointing.

While I'm at it my Berry goes off with a poll in Iowa: Grassley 49 Conlin 40. Also Culver only down 7 to Branstad, leading BVP and Roberts.

More about that tomorrow, but back in the UK they're showing block-long lines of voters. One woman very upset about not being able to vote, as the crowd behind her shouts, Parliament style, "hear, hear." Apologies from the Sheffield "returning officer." (For some reason when they announce results they always refer to themselves as "acting returning officer.")

A lull for a while at just before midnight now that the early-early results are in. They're showing BNP leader Nick Griffin at his returning office and the BBC openly calls him "racist."

So, how much of a meltdown was the voting process? A real crisis or just something to talk about while we wait for results? Also discussed: one ok the "You-kip" (apparantly the standard pronounciation) was hurt in a light aircraft crash this morning while trying to fly a banner from the plane.

I'm assuming that anyone reading this knows at least a minimal bit about British politics.

The spin war explaines: analysts saying that Cameron can't just form a government; Brown needs to resign first. So the game is to pressure him to do that.

The worst case scenario is what happened in 1974: no stable majority and a second election in a few wonth's time. Do the polling problems increase the chances of that be delegitimizing whoever forms the government?

Waiting in line not the biggest problem: bomb threat in Norther Ireland. And a Joan Collins sighting at the Tory victory party. How Thatcher of her.

Another discussion: "If Brown loses who should be the next Labout leader?" In America we choose our party leader just before the election; in the UK the defeated party has the equivalent of primary season AFTTER the election.

Another point made about hight turnout: late results. 12:30 UK time and still just the three early bird counts. (Sort of like looking at the Dixville Notch results.)

Looking at the smaller parties: the Greens have thrown all their resouces into one seat and they think they won it. Brighton Pavilion sounds like the UK equivalent of Iowa City. Meanwhile, Cameron is stopping off at the pub for a pint before going to his result.

THe words "disgrace" and "scandal" are getting tossed about re: the voting problems. The head of the Electoral Commission (equivalent of Iowa's Secretary of State) says the law is clear: you have to have the ballot ("voting paper") in hand by 10 in otder to vote. But she says they;'ve been arguing for ages that the system is at the breaking point. Sounding more and more like Florida 2000, especially of the result is muddy.

Results now showing as 3 in Labour red and one in green. Is that Green green? Or is that one of the Republican Northern Ireland parties that also use green as a colour? (Northern Ireland is a whole nother post. Let's just say: completely different party system.) Turns out it is Irish green.

"What a tragedy that, after a campaign which engaged and energised many who were previously cynical about politics, tonight's story may be being overshadowed by the extraordinary revelation that Britain cannot competently run the most basic part of the democratic process." - Nick Robinson BBC

Surprise in Northern Ireland as the Alliance Party, the non-sectarian party, wins its first ever seat, defeating the Unionist first minister of NI. Must... avoid... Ireland... tangent. Results coming in faster now. 9 seats declared as of 12:52 UK time, won by five different parties. Tories still at zero.

"Maybe we should do it all again" is said for the first time.

For some reason NI is coming in fast (in 2005 they were last). Now the Tories are on the board and the seventh party wins a seat: Plaid Cymru, the Welsh independence party. Confusingly, Plaid's colour is not plaid, it seems to be green, which when mized with Green green and Sinn Fein green is confusing. Last election ten separate parties won seats (though the Big Three accounted for maybe 98% of that.)

More significantly, this is a Conservative gain from Labour on a 9.4% swing.

0104: The Press Association is reporting that Downing Street sources say the prime minister will try to form a coalition government in the event of a hung parliament.

Blast from the past: Neil Kinnock is on the BBC. Someone alert Joe.

Throw in another wacky Northern Ireland result: an independent but it's really more complicated. Call it eight parties with wins.

Hey, wonder what's happening at Central Committee?

Gordon Brown's been re-elected to his own seat, but that's not really what matters.

We now have our ninth party on the board: the Scottish Nationalists. "The people have spoken but we don't know quite what they said." Labor folks saying lots of nice things about Lib Dems as the spin war works on the coalition.

Yet another Northern Ireland party wins; that's 10. More mad non-voters on the BBC. About a tenth of the seats are called and the Scotland map is getting confusing; SNP is dark yellow and Lib Dem is light yellow. ?!?

Took a break; back at 2:30 UK time. About a quarter of the seats are called; Tories have taken 12 from Labour. Things now moving faster than my typing. They're only showing the key races and the contests with big names. 538: "Lib Dems look like they're having a flop of Howard Dean proportions." Yeeeeah!

Cameron's result is announced; Howling Laud Hope of the Monster Raving Loony Party ran in the same seat for fun.

3 AM and for the moment it's ties at 76 seats each Labour and Conservative. (Labour has been ahead in raw seats until now). "There;'s no sense of real drama, just everyone biting their nails and waiting, waiting." The discussion of polling place problems, as I expected, seems to have died down amongst the results.

3:30 and another celebrity Tory: retired Rolling Stone Bill Wyman. About 1/3 in; Tories with an 8 seat raw lead and gaining two dozen seats. "All the momentum is to the Tories but is it quite enough?"

Another possibility that gets mentioned: a Labour-Liberal coalition with someone other that Brown at the head?

Halfway home at 4 AM. Tories 33 seats ahead and have gained 33.

Sounds like Labour is doing a decent job targeting their most vulnerable seats and cutting their losses... and I'm starting to wear down.

Another difference because of the counting system: the close races are interspersed with the landslides. Daen breaks and the Greens win their first seat; our 11th party.

By 6:30 the pace is slowing down. Brown, Camron and the rest need sleep and so do I.

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