They’re talking election again

OK, I’m not that familiar with British politics, but I didn’t expect it to be too complicated.

By now, I understand that an election must take place this year, by June, to be exact.  Mr. Gordon Brown will have to announce the date, and pessimists claim he will declare some national emergency to prevent it happening.

I also understand Gordon Brown is Prime Minister because Labour is in power and he is their leader.  I know that voters go to the poll and vote for their MP.  The candidate that gets the most votes wins the seat for that particular constituency.

But, there have been talk about the possibility that none of the parties will be able to establish a government if they don’t win a majority seat.  I never thought about that.  I just thought, whoever wins, wins. 

The UK system is not like the US system where you vote for the President/Vice-President, then your local representatives separately.  Here, the winning candidate becomes MP and takes a seat in the Commons.  The party with the majority (51%) of seats in the Commons gets to form a government.  That party’s leader becomes Prime Minister.

Since the polls seem to suggest that the two main parties (Labour and Conservatives) will get the most seats but neither will reach the majority, due to some seats going to other parties (Liberal Democrats, Greens, etc.), there will not be a majority government.  This, of course, will have many implications.  One being that the one with the most may seek to form a government coalition with other parties.  But, you can see with all the political wrangling that that might prove to be difficult.

The other thing I wonder about is what happens if the current party leaders lose their seats?  Has that ever happened before?  Party leaders going into an election and coming out losing their own seats?

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2 Comments on “They’re talking election again

  • The party with the majority of seats in the Commons forms the government. It doesn’t have to have an overall majority, though it almost always has had one in the past. If it doesn’t have an overall majority it would find it difficult to get any but the most non-contentious of its leglislation passed into law, because the opposition parties could always defeat it in a debate. If a government is defeated in a debate it has then to defend itself in a further debate on a motion of “no confidence”. If it is defeated in that debate, it has then to “go to the country” — in other words, call a General Election. This happened in 1979, when the Labour Government fell to the Tories under Thatcher.

    Governments can call General Elections whenever they like, though they have to do so within five years of the last one. In 1966 Harold Wilson called an election within 18 months of the election that originally brought him to power, because he had an overall majority of only four seats, too small to be really workable for a government. He increased the party’s overall majority to 96 seats, which allowed it to govern without the risk of being defeated in a debate.

    What will happen if after the next election no party has an overall majority could be one of these: (a) the party with the most seats will form a coalition government with one of the other parties, or it will (b)call another election.

    I don’t think there has ever been a case of the leader of a party losing his/her seat (they usually stand in extremely safe constituencies), but if it were to happen, they could no longer be head of their party, and their party would hold an election within itself to appoint a new leader.

  • With regard to the leader losing their seat- The party with the majority seats will still form the government, but the party will have to choose a new leader from the new parliament, who will become (with a few exceptions) the prime minister.

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