50% off Democracy 2 + guide to UK politics May 6, 2010 cliffski Democracy 2 is half price today. People who aren’t in the UK may not be sure why, but it’s the UK general election today and we are all pretty excited about it. Here is a very simple digest for anyone outside the UK. Our current Prime Minister is Gordon Brown, leader of the left of center ‘Labour’ party. he was chancellor for years under that party (the current party has been in power 13 years) and then suceeded the last leader virtually unopposed. he was never won a general election as leader and was not elected to his current position. He recently got caught with his microphone on insulting a voter. Generally speaking, we have a two party system pitching Labour (left) vs Conservative (right). The specifics of our first-past-the-post electoral system have kept it a two horse race for decades. This is the first election in my lifetime where a third party is a major contender. The third party (Liberal Democrats) have suddenly rushed to high popularity due to two factors. Firstly, there was a major scandal about MP’s expenses which affected the two main parties worse than any other. Secondly, the relatively weak PM was forced into accepting live TV debates for the first time in UK history, and the leader of the libdems (nick clegg) got equal billing in those debates. Because the way our elections work, the liberal democrats have always been under-represented in parliament, relative to their popularity, as have all the other smaller parties. For a long time, the Liberal party and later the merged lib-dems would insist on electoral reform being the ‘price’ of their support in any electoral coalition. For the first time in aggggessssss it looks like no party will win an overall majority, so a coalition may be needed. The Labour and Conservative parties will likely *not* work together, making the libdem leader ‘kingmaker’. It’s likely he will extract electoral reform as the price of co-operation. Finally, this happens against a backdrop of severe economic problems in the UK. If an election had not been looming, our credit rating may already have fallen, and pretty rapid action will be needed. Simply put, we spend more than we earn, and big tax rises or public spending cuts are needed. Regardless of makeup, the next government may be unpopular. Nevertheless, this is all historic. We have no idea which party will form a government tomorrow, or even next week. And this may be the last time in our history that we have a screwed up electoral system. I’m 40 years old and my vote has never counted, as I’ve only ever lived in safe seats. It would be great to see that change. Finally, if only the current government (and previous ones) had taken me up on my offer for free copies of Democracy 2 (50% off today!), they would have seen that a public spending deficit has to be fixed in the medium term to avoid long term disaster. Why oh why won’t our politicians learn the lessons of games? For american readers, two facts that may make you grind your teeth: 1) We don’t use voting machines. Its all done on paper, the old fashioned (and harder to cheat or hack) way. 2) There are never any queues at UK polling stations. It takes under a minute to vote.