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12 October 2013 @ 08:07 am
I wished we had the British system so we could quick call an election before vast chunks of the electorate forget what turds the Republicans are, but I learned that the British don't have the British system anymore.
tx_cronopiotx_cronopio on October 12th, 2013 12:23 pm (UTC)
HA. So perfect.

I kind of want to go buy that bird columnist a beer.
tx_cronopiotx_cronopio on October 12th, 2013 12:34 pm (UTC)
oops. And I obviously put this comment in the wrong place.

What? I'm still on my first cup of coffee!
Luke McGuffholyoutlaw on October 12th, 2013 09:41 pm (UTC)
But I know what you're talking about.
nojaynojay on October 12th, 2013 12:37 pm (UTC)
The "British system" is an agreement by the current Con/Lib coalition that they will let the current government run for five years and not call a snap election before then. It's possible the next government might make the same pledge but they're not bound to do so by any sort of fixed rule. Parliament could write fixed election periods into law but the next Parliament could overturn it as easily. Indeed the current Parliament could vote no confidence in the government and force it to call an immediate election before the five years are up but that's separate from the government suddenly deciding to call an election and "go to the country" as we say over here.

It's one of the many advantages to not having a written Constitution, we're not hobbled by a set of Parliamentary rules a bunch of male white property-holders (and slaveowners too, in the main) wrote for their own benefit 250 years ago.
Andrew Duckerandrewducker on October 12th, 2013 01:09 pm (UTC)
That's not correct - The Fixed Term Parliament Act was passed in 2011.

The next government could repeal it, of course, but doing so would look pretty bad, IMHO.
nojaynojay on October 12th, 2013 01:35 pm (UTC)
I could envisage a situation where under fixed-term elections the incumbent government loses a bunch of backbenchers to a teaparty-type insurrection but the opposition in a similar state of disarray can't or won't call a no-confidence vote. The government can't govern and can't pass laws because of its dissident wing and they can't go to the country to call a halt to it by hitting the big Reset button because of the laws already on the books. Even if the entire Cabinet resigned there wouldn't be an election called.
Andrew Duckerandrewducker on October 12th, 2013 01:37 pm (UTC)
I can envisage many, many situations.

But one where one party falls into complete disarray, and the other isn't able to take advantage of it, seems remarkably unlikely. Getting into a state where they middle of the two main parties can't get together to fix it seems beyond the bounds of likelihood to me.

Whereas "The party in power chooses the election date in order to give themselves an advantage" seems rather more likely.
nojaynojay on October 12th, 2013 01:45 pm (UTC)
A combination of the mid-70s Tories and the early-80s Labour would fit my scenario. If anti-Europeanism in the Tories takes an uptick driven by the UKIP (and we're seeing faint signs of that at the moment) then Call Me Dave could be in trouble but Labour and the Libs would have to support the Tory xenophobes to realistically get that vote of no confidence tabled, something that would be hard to justify as other than political posturing and expediency.
Andrew Duckerandrewducker on October 12th, 2013 01:47 pm (UTC)
If the Conservatives couldn't govern then the cabinet could either sulk, or they could call for a vote of no confidence in themselves, have it passed with the support of everyone else, and call an election that way.
Andrew Duckerandrewducker on October 12th, 2013 01:29 pm (UTC)
The problem with the British method was that whoever was in charge had more control over when to call an election, which made it easier for them to hang on to power by playing political games.

Presumably in the US you'd have to get it past both the Senate and the House, and right now they wouldn't be able to do so.
nojaynojay on October 12th, 2013 01:40 pm (UTC)
How often did calling a snap election in the UK actually work for anyone who actually tried it? Maybe one of Maggie's elections was won that way but the other snap elections I have recollections of it was the case that the incumbents were in trouble and decided to roll the dice and they lost, sometimes badly. If things are running smoothly then the temptation to call an election just isn't there, if times are bad and you're being blamed for it then holding an election is going to get you turfed out. The only advantage is when the five-year clock is running out, they can decide to go now if the conditions are good (unemployment low, good wages, no big problems, good weather forecasts) rather than wait until the last minute when things might have changed.
Andrew Duckerandrewducker on October 12th, 2013 01:44 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, I agree. It's not the "We'll call an election after two years" that does it, it's the "We'll call an election at some point in the last 18 months of the term, at the point that's most likely for us to win".
Kalimackalimac on October 12th, 2013 02:09 pm (UTC)
"Striking when the iron was hot" certainly worked in the Khaki Election of 1900, the Coupon Election of 1918, and most famously in the election of 1931 which was called by a coalition government that had come into office promising not to call an election. Also on several later occasions, most notably for Labour in 1966 and 1974, when elections weren't anywhere near due.

Edited at 2013-10-12 02:10 pm (UTC)
John M. Burtjohn_m_burthotm on October 12th, 2013 06:21 pm (UTC)
So, a "snap" election is a lot like a revolution: just because you started it doesn't mean you get to finish it.
Or as they used to say in Russia, a time to separate the mensheviks from the boysheviks.*

*Credit to Richard Armour.

Edited at 2013-10-12 06:22 pm (UTC)
nojaynojay on October 12th, 2013 06:37 pm (UTC)
Occasionally, reading what some incumbents wrote afterwards in their tell-all books, the snap election is a decision that all hope is lost and it's time to give up and go home. They still go through the motions of pretending to want to win the election they just called because that's what they do but sometimes they just know there's no reshuffle or new policy initiative that will stop the pain, the voters aren't going to forgive them and it's time to quit and hand the keys to the Other Guys.
dd-bdd_b on October 14th, 2013 07:39 pm (UTC)
Wait, you mean some of your politicians actually have some insight into how much damage they can do, and care about the health of the country they govern?

How weird!
nojaynojay on October 14th, 2013 07:52 pm (UTC)
Most representatives (aka members of the polity or politicians) are competent, intelligent people who care about what they do and the people they represent. I've seen a few folks comment on how they hate and despise all politicians, apart from their own representative who they think does a decent job in a very tough world since they've actually met them, had them deal with a problem for them, heard them speak at a meeting etc. but as for the rest, well... of course other folks who don't know them regard the same politician as being a stupid hack while giving their own MP or Congressman a pat on the back.

A given politician may have the wrong idea about what their support or opposition for a position will achieve or may be deluding themselves and some are raging egomaniacs and self-publicists but they stand out as exceptions and rarely last. It's not usual for British politicians to be there for the monetary rewards -- an MP's salary is about half that of a US Congressman's and getting elected and being an MP means a lot of hours spent both in the House as well as attending to constituency business. Mostly if they're competent enough to get elected they'd probably do quite well in business or commercial positions earning a lot more with less effort and greater job security.
Maia Cmaiac on October 12th, 2013 02:13 pm (UTC)
The Canadians still have that system. The opposition parties last brought down the government in 2011. Unfortunately, the voters put Stephen Harper (a.k.a. "Bush's Mini-Me") back in power.
The Weasel King: pic#32302970theweaselking on October 12th, 2013 05:26 pm (UTC)
It was an impressive combination of gerrymandering, message discipline so that CPC (non-communist) members aren't actually allowed to speak, and people who are terrible at math voting against their own interests.

Also, a demonstration the downsides of sticking a Bush Republican as the leader of the only serious non-CPC party.

There were dozens of ridings, enough to flip the election, where idiotic third-party voting put CPC (non-communist) MPs into office despite them receiving only 30-40% of the actual votes.
Kalimackalimac on October 12th, 2013 05:41 pm (UTC)
And in Canada, short-term snap elections have proved both very successful (1958, 1974) as well as complete disasters (1963, 1980) for the incumbents.