After becoming so used to the way the US holds elections, it is difficult for me to understand other countries, including England, choosing to call elections when they want. In the US, there are general elections every four years for the presidency and every two years for governor, senate and congressional seats. Those in-between general elections where the presidency is not determined are called mid-term elections. And the date chosen is always the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. However, there may be local elections that are called as needed by local councils.
Here, I have no idea when elections will be held. There is talk that it will be next year, but that it might be moved up to this year. Who decides? The PM? In the US, because there is a time-scale to the election process, you see advertisements for political candidates starting at a specific time in the year. Here, I would find it difficult for candidates to campaign and get their message out to the people in time for them to delve into the politician’s background and beliefs. Candidates would have to campaign continuously because they may not have time to mobilise their staff once they find out the election date. As it stands now, the election could be as early as 3 months or as late as 15 months. The British public must be extremely well-informed when it comes to politics, such that they have no problems going to the polls when elections are announced.
Many people are not interested in politics, but you certainly can’t avoid it when it’s discussed everywhere. And there’s still so much I need to learn about British politics. On some levels, it is similar to the US, but on many others, it is completely different.
It’s easy to understand the election of a Member of Parliament (MP) for each constituency. That’s like voting for a Congressman or Senator. But unlike the US, the voters do not choose the Prime Minister (PM). He/she is voted for within their party. Of course, when they go to the polls, the people already have an idea who the party leaders are, and that may influence their vote for their MP. Whereas the US has Congress and the Senate, the UK has the House of Commons and the House of Lords. However, the people only vote for their MP in the House of Commons. The Lords are appointed or inherited.
One of the most notable differences is that the UK has 3 major political parties and various minor ones, some of whom have seats in parliament. The US really only has 2 parties and a load of little, almost invisible, ones. But if you look at the political affiliations of the Congress and Senate, they only belong to the 2 parties. Once in a while, you’ll get someone who decides to call himself an Independent. The party in power makes up their cabinet, just like the US president does. However, the two other parties will make their own ‘shadow cabinets’. It’s an interesting concept and it makes for some heated debate between two or three ministers who are well-versed in their roles. In the US, you have politicians forming committees and one person may be on several committees. Then, you’d have all of them acting as watchdogs for everybody else.
What I’m still trying to learn is how the UK government is tied together. It seems that England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have their own parliaments. Is there a UK parliament? Then there are issues about how the UK fits into the EU scheme of things. More to explore from that end. There are still many debates going on about whether the UK should fully integrate into the EU, stay the same, or withdraw. Other questions that have sprung up are, who gets to vote over here? It is just British citizens? There’s some talk that EU residents are allowed to vote. Is that fair? Unfair? There are arguments about ‘taxation without representation’, so it may be that EU residents can vote. Maybe someone out there knows and can enlighten me.