POWERS: Possible implications of Britain’s 2010 election

Curtis Powers

For the first time in almost seventy years, neither of the two main parties, Labour and Conservative, won a parliamentary majority in the British elections held a week ago.

That’s important because the majority determines the executive branch, namely the prime minister and cabinet.

Largely, this failure to garner a majority by either party was due to a very dissatisfied electorate. The British people were upset about the economy, huge budget deficits and lackluster leadership.

A minority party, the Liberal Democrats – led by charismatic leader Nick Clegg – was able to capitalize on public frustration. They won enough votes to force a main party to make concessions and form a coalition government.

Tthe Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats announced an agreement Wednesday to form a coalition. In the announcement, Conservative leader David Cameron said, “It will be an administration united behind three key principles: freedom, fairness and responsibility.”

So what does this mean for the upcoming November mid-term elections in the U.S.?

Public anger about the economy and federal budget deficits will likely have a significant effect upon the elections. As seen in Britain, those issues helped galvanize an electorate and caused a three percent increase in voter turnout. It ‘s hard to say, though, who that favors here. It should favor the Republicans since they are generally seen as a party that supports smaller government and is pro-business.

However, many are dissatisfied with both parties right now, since it seems neither have solutions to the growing problems the federal government is currently facing. So it likely depends on what happens with the Tea Party movement which was borne out of all the current frustration with the federal government.

Will it become its own political party? Will its supporters vote Republican or even vote Libertarian? From early results, it seems the movement has changed the landscape of the Republican Party within some states.

Currently, Senator Bob Bennett, R-Utah, has served three terms, and already lost in a bid for a fourth term in the Republican primary. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a moderate Republican, left the Republican primary for Senate to run as an independent. He was deemed not conservative enough by many Republicans.

“The reason Crist lost the GOP nomination was because he supported the Obama stimulus, then denied he supported it – and lost a lot of his following because of this,” said Sean Hannity, conservative talk show host.

So it seems, from early indicators, most in the Tea Party movement believe it is better to work within an existing party and not form a third party. They have created change by throwing out those not ideologically pure enough for them.

However, if a third party can produce a charismatic leader, much like Nick Clegg in Britain or Ross Perot in the 1990s, there is no reason to believe it couldn’t have a measure of success at the national level. If it can happen in a country like Great Britain, it can certainly happen in the United States, despite the different political and voting systems.