Saturday, April 17, 2010

Brits Hold American-Style TV Debate

Great Britain has parliamentary elections coming up next month, and for the first-time ever the British staged a televised, “American-style” debate among the leaders of the respective parties. It might have helped the leaders of Britain’s two main parties though – Prime Minister Gordon Brown from the Labour Party and the Conservatives’ David Cameron – if they’d read up on the career of Jesse Ventura first before including Nick Clegg, head of the third-place Liberal Democrats, in the debate.

Ventura was running a quixotic campaign for governor of his home state of Minnesota as the candidate of the Independence Party in 1998 when he managed to get himself included in a televised debate with the Republican and Democratic (technically the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in Minn.) Ventura was judged the winner of the debate; the notoriety propelled him from relative obscurity into the Governor’s office. Now something similar is happening in Britain. Clegg has been picked as the clear winner in Thursday’s debate, which itself was the most-watched political program on British television, ever. Even Clegg’s fellow debaters grudgingly admit that he was the winner. And a pair of polls taken just after the debate show his Liberal Democratic Party leap-frogging over Labour into second place, trailing the Conservatives now by just a few points.

What this means for the May 6th election remains to be seen, since voters do not directly select the Prime Minister, that job usually goes to the party that wins a majority of seats. But the strong showing by the Liberal Democrats is raising the possibility of a “hung parliament”, a situation where no one party has a majority. That could either force two of the parties into a coalition government or could even trigger a second election shortly after the May 6th vote.
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