Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Brits Go for Election

Today British Prime Minister Gordon Brown drove to Buckingham Palace to ask the Queen to dissolve the UK Parliament. There will be a General Election in Britain on Thursday May 6.

On that day, most likely, the 13 year reign of New Labour will come to an end. Yet as of right now, it is not certain that the disastrous rule of Labour will terminate. The center-right Conservative Party is only 4 to 10 points ahead of Labour, and probably needs at least 10 points to get a majority in Parliament.

How is it possible that a Labour Party that has nearly wrecked the economy, running a substantial deficit in the boom years of the mid 2000s is that close to winning?

The answer probably is that Britain is a center-left country. People want and expect "public services," meaning mainly the National Health Service, and they have a horror of ever having to pay for those services themselves. As my daughter told me of the French a decade ago: "Dad, these people are married to the state."

But David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, has a bold agenda. He proposes to reform the school system with the Swedish Plan. It's a reform put in place by conservatives in Sweden that allows almost anyone to open a school and get government money for it. About 15 percent of schools operate under this plan, and that's all it's taken to put the fear of God into the other 85 percent.

Then Cameron has a plan to mend "Broken Britain." There's a vast underclass in Britain that has never had a job and never intends to. You can read about it in Inspector Gadget's Police Inspector Blog. About 15 percent of the adult labor force is on "incapacity benefit," i.e., have been certified as unable to work. The dreadful harm that this widespread idleness has had on Britain is almost incalculable, and the US is heading that way.

Will the Brits take the plunge and elect a Conservative government? Probably. But Cameron has to be careful. The Labour Party has built up a huge client state, including welfare and incapacity beneficiaries, teachers, health workers, and the regulatory state, the so-called "quangocrats" in quasi-governmental agencies. Asking them to vote for change is like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas.

My prognostication is that the Cameroons have been holding fire for several months, waiting for the short election campaign before firing their muskets in a devastating volley. I think we'll see substantial movement in the poll numbers over the next few weeks.

And then there's turnout. Just as Obamis in the US surged out to vote in 2008 while Republicans stayed home, discouraged, I think we will see that Conservative turnout will be substantial while Labour turnout will be reduced.

But there will be plenty of nail-biting before the result is announced on the first Thursday of May.

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