Not as sexy as it sounds: five things the U.K. can expect from a hung parliament, from a country that’s been there many times before
Welcome, Brits, to the 21st-century club known as Lands Irked by Minor Political Fiascos Immediately Following an Election (LIMPFIFE). First, it was the Americans in Florida, then Italy in 2008, then Ottawa two winters ago, and now the United Kingdom is busy trying to figure out who, exactly, will be its next prime minister.
There’s nothing more fun than electing a “hung parliament,” the country’s delightfully naughty term for the situation in which no party wins a majority of seats in the House of Commons. Of course, Canada has had a minority government (our name for it is predictably duller and more emasculating) for years now, and along the way we’ve had plenty of opportunities to pick up some hints of what’s coming for the Brits between the chaos, bickering, and near-constant brinkmanship of a Parliament where nobody’s really in charge. Here, our top five things to watch out for after your electile dysfunction. (No need to thank us. You look pretty busy.)
1. Get set for MP musical chairs
The thing about minority governments is that they’ll take anyone who can hold a seat in Parliament. And if they can walk across the floor and bring a seat with them, even better. Ever since Belinda Stronach (remember her?) crossed the floor to save Paul Martin’s government in the summer of 2005, we’ve had any number of MPs follow suit, get booted from caucus or be re-elected as independents. We’ll never forget our first time, though. The only thing better than a power couple cracking up is when the dude fakes some tears with a borrowed pet.
2. Anything can spark an election. No, really—anything
Early in Paul Martin’s minority, he threatened to go to the polls because the opposition wanted to amend a throne speech, sending all of Ottawa into a tizzy for about 12 hours. Things have only gotten crazier since. Sure, we’ve debated matters of principle, like accountability and Parliamentary supremacy. We’ve also had election threats on issues like EI premiums and instructions to committees. We may have an election if the finale of Lost doesn’t go well.
3. Don’t be surprised if nothing much gets done
What with all the worrying over elections and floor-crossings, minority governments are not, as a rule, terribly productive. Compared to majorities, they get fewer bills passed and signed into law. (Of course, small-government types probably don’t object to this too much.) The U.K. will, however, still be in for just as much shouting as usual, if Canadian experience is any guide.
4. Believe it or not, good things can still happen
Hey, Canada’s been run this way since 2004, and the country hasn’t burned to the ground. Some things have even been middling-to-good. We legalized gay marriage, though that drives our Yankee cousins a bit bonkers. We’ve come through the global recession without having to nationalize any of our banks, and there have been no IMF riots in our streets (though the G8 and G20 summits may get a bit rambunctious).
Obviously, the country that invented lad mags needs no lessons on the objectification of women. And true, maybe this isn’t entirely the fault of a hung parliament, but between Julie Couillard and Rahim Jaffer’s three “busty hookers,” Canadian politics has been oddly fixated on women of the chestier variety in the past few years. We sincerely hope that British politics gets just as fixated, if only to help us feel less sleazy.