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Thursday, 6 May 2010

The UK Election, and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies



May 6th.

Election day.

If you're one of my British readers, you've probably already voted. (If you haven't yet - please don't forget before the polls close at 10pm!) On the other hand, for my many overseas readers, it's possible that the details of the UK General Election have completely passed you by.

I don't generally talk about politics on this blog, and I'm not really about to start - I'm certainly not going to tell you who I'm voting for - but I've noticed something interesting this year that I wanted to explore.

You see, it's the first election in recent times (certainly the first one in my adult life) where the pundits and journalists are talking seriously about the possibility of a hung parliament.

One consequence of this is that a lot more coverage and air-time is being devoted to the parties who might be instrumental in forming a coalition. In the last couple of elections where I've voted, the newspapers and radio have really only talked about Labour (the present government) and Conservatives (the Opposition). Now they're giving equal time to the Liberal Democrats, and some level of coverage to a number of smaller parties.

I can't help wondering if a hung parliament might become a self-fulfilling prophecy at this rate. The more it's talked about, the more coverage is given to minor parties - and (one might reasonably assume) greater exposure might make it more likely that people vote for them. Also, there's a common perception in some circles that a vote for a minor party is a vote "wasted" - but if the media are taking the idea of a hung parliament seriously, this perception may be diluted enough to influence voter behaviour.

From a linguistic perspective, another interesting fact is that the televised debates (the first time we've had these in the UK!) are being referred to as the "Prime Ministerial Debates" - with a striking implication that here are the three men who could be Prime Minister. And the debates have featured not just the leaders of the Conservative and Labour parties, but also the Liberal Democrat leader.

One way or another, this is going to be a very interesting night. Some of my friends are having a party, so I'll be doing my best to stay up for a result; follow me on Twitter to see whether I make it through to morning!

This is a non-partisan blog. Please refrain from party-political comments.

22 comments:

Tabor said...

Yes, I have been following your election although only superficially...just the gossip stuff. That is all that we Americans can absorb.

Christine said...

To the contrary, we, at least are following developments avidly from Oz. It certainly looks like the result is to be a cliff-hanger with the interesting prospect of a hung parliament etc. As Europe moves into the twentyfirst century how it places itself in relation to US and, increasingly the emerging powers of China and India if not the Pacific means that the British election, now, is an important event. It is about 06.15 now, which is about 21.15 UK time. We will know soon,,,

ScoMan said...

We have a hung parliament here at the moment.

I think Labor has two seats over the Liberals, but there are three independants.. two of whom almost always vote against Labor.

Which makes Nick Xenophon, some guy that nobody would have ever heard of (and who certainly wouldn't have 366 Facebook fans) if Labor had a 4 seat margin, the most powerful man in the country.

Whichever way he votes, that's what happens.

Louiz said...

The amount of canvassing this year has driven me mad - and caused me to shout at the TV: "hung parliament? They should be!"

Will be interesting to see how it turns out tomorrow.

Mademoiselle Poirot said...

Weirdly, I've agonized about who I'd vote for...and I'm not even allowed to vote because I'm not a British national... Love from London x

erin - heart in ireland said...

i love british elections! (and how the lead up is only a few months). i'll be keeping an eye on it across the pond, but it looks really interesting. especially with the huge turnout and some people not getting to vote.

Melissa B. said...

I've been following your campaign, especially the debates. Do you think candidates for PM will try this oh-so-very-American tactic again?

BECKY said...

Hi Rachel. I really enjoyed reading about your election.(I'm pretty sure that Tabor, in the first comment, was only kidding about Americans!) I know we Americans DO seem like a bunch of idiotic, self-absorbed, celebrity-news craving junkies, but the majority of us ARE NOT!....Sheesh! I didn't intend on starting a political rant on your blog! I'll be anxious to read how your elections end up! Thanks for sharing!

Writing Without Periods! said...

I've been following your election...I'd much rather follow yours than ours! :-)
Mary

Kazzy said...

Wow, first televised debates. That's cool!

A Cuban In London said...

Good post with a measured tone. I already wrote one about the election and it will come out on Sunday. I voted and will continue to vote for as long as I live in this country. I loved your linguistic observation. It'd completely escaped. You're right.

Many thanks for your thoughts. Much appreciated.

Greetings from London.

Tabor said...

Yes, all, I WAS being facetious.

smilla4blogs said...

I've followed your tweets, so I know you had a long night!!!

Had no idea this was the first campaign with televised debates in the U.K. !

Carl said...

Interesting post.

I am waiting for the results from Dunny on the Wold (sp) I am rooting for the standing in the back and waving wildly party!

CS

liliannattel said...

Our best governments have been minority governments (Canadian for hung parliament) with the exception of the current one, as our tories refuse to cooperate and the other parties have been reluctant to bring on yet another election as neither of them have a chance at winning with the current leadership configuration. The good thing about a minority gov't/hung parliament is that it softens the extremes.

Dedene said...

Now that the votes have been cast and there is indeed a hung government, I'd love to hear your explanation for how on earth they're going to figure this all out.
Will the Queen decide?

Christine said...

Constitutionally in the Westminster system the incumbent prime minister remains in office. The Queen will ask him to form a government, If he cannot then he resigns...

Elizabeth Braun said...

I've just realised that part of my last note won't have made any sense as I've just been re-reading some blog comments and saw that it was a totally different Rachel who made comments about drawing courses with the OCA!!! So, I haven't gone mad, just got my Rachel's mixed up.=)

Lynda said...

Even over here in Africa, we're waiting to see the outcome ...

Magimom said...

Very interesting - I believe in self-fulfilling prophesies and it sounds as if that's pretty much what's going on!
Happy Saturday SITS Sharefest! Thank you so much for your lovely comment on my blog!

Miel Abeille said...

Hi Rachel, I found you through the SITS Saturday sharefest, and I'll be following you. Cheers!

Jacqueline said...

Well it happened, now to see what happens next. I am very nervous about the whole thing. At least more people got out and voted.

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