The United Kingdom represents an interesting parallel to what is happening in our election season. In the U.K., the Labour party has been in power since 1997, when Tony Blair crushed John Major. British voters are now heartily sick of the Labourites, and recent polls show the Conservative Party leading Labour by twenty points, with the Tories at 45%, Labour at 25%, and the Liberal Democrats at 18%. Nearly all observers expect the Tories to sweep to victory when Prime Minister Gordon Brown is finally forced to call an election.
The Prime Minister’s personal standing is even worse than his party’s, with 17% approving his performance and 78% disapproving–a worse showing than Neville Chamberlain in 1940! The Conservative Party leader, in contrast, has a net 33% positive favorability rating.
We conservatives would like to think that this swing toward the conservative party in Great Britain is due to Englishmen reading Adam Smith, Hayek and Friedman, and seeing the light. But of course it isn’t. British voters are unhappy about the same things American voters are–high energy costs, declining home prices, and so on. The difference is that the party in power in the U.K., which naturally gets blamed for these things, is the party of the Left.
It is inevitable that when a party has been in power for some years, irritations accumulate. That party will be blamed for pretty much any discontents that come along, and eventually voters become tired of the current “ins” and turn to the “outs.” That’s good news, for the moment, in the U.K.; bad news here, unfortunately.
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