Gordon Brown, Prime Minister UK, Labour Party

I read several articles about a Tory surge in the polls in the UK, but this Guardian article says it might be overplayed. Brown dissolved Parliament and an election has been set for 6 May, a mercifully short election season, when compared to the US. Labour, in power since 1997, back in the heady days when Tony Blair was the face of a new Labour party, ending the 18-year run of the Conservatives. I’ve read that after 18 years in power, the tories were in disarray and parallels have been drawn between the Thatcher-Major era and W’s 2000-2008 presidencies.

Labour is saddled with a sagging UK economy and the public is tired of politicians and being perceived as an outsider will be beneficial. The economy is the major issue, although immigration, unemployment, and the deficit are also issues voters care about. The overall voting intent paints a grim picture, but the election will hinge upon what happens in the ridings and which party gets a majority of seats::

If no party gets a majority, the result will be a hung parliament and parties working in coalitions, which some say makes investors uneasy and can make enacting economy-fixing policy difficult. This article echoes these sentiments and interprets the polls as pointing to a hung Parliament.

The expectation is the election to be hotly contested and there will be American-style televised debates for the first time. There will be three themed debates in different parts of the country. Frontrunners typically eschew elections. Since Labour is behind in the polls, allowing debates may allow Labour to redefine itself and come across as “outsiders” out to reform government. The scuttlebutt says that Conservative Leader, David Cameron, has a winsome manner in the spirit of Blair, with a message of compassionate conservatism. {The Conservatives have tried to shed the reputation of being “nasty” and have embraced gays, women, and ethnic minoriries, at least at the surface.} Brown has the reputation of being scholarly and a tad dry. This may remind Canadians of Stéphane Dion, the immediate-past Liberal Leader.

Without digging deep into the poll numbers, my 40,000′ take is the winner will be the party who appears most credible with the economy. The financial crisis stung the UK and rank-and-file workers are still fuming about “fat cats”. Given this, a Keynesian approach {addressing unemployment} in concert with finance reform should give Labour quite a bit of mileage. Both the Labour and Conservative parties supports involvement in Afghanistan, which may be increasingly tough sells, given domestic spending and deficit concerns.

Update {6 April 2010, 6:10PM EDT}:: My blog post on rhizomicon has video clips of PMQs, where Cameron and Brown are going toe-to-toe in a Q&A.

Twitterversion:: @gordonbrown’s Labour {UK}, in for a fight with upcoming elections against David Cameron’s @conservatives#ThickCulture @Prof_K

Song:: George Michael-‘Shoot the Dog’ {2002}, backstory here.