Thursday, April 15

Every vote counts

Gordon Brown, the UK’s Prime Minister, has finally announced a date for the nation’s next General Election. We go to the polls on May 6. As fate would have it, Garry and I will be on vacation in Greece on this date. We’ll miss one of the most pivotal elections since the Second World War.

For the first time in a generation, polls suggest the vote will result in a hung parliament. A poll out today reveals that 32 per cent of the public actually want a hung parliament (as opposed to expecting one). In other words, no major party will receive enough votes to secure a governing majority. Instead, one of the two largest parties will be forced to lead a minority government and govern in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, traditionally the nation’s third largest party. The Lib Dems received 22.6% of the popular vote during the last election, which translated into 62 seats in the House of Commons.

Tomorrow also marks another historical milestone. Tomorrow evening, for the first time in a UK election, a televised debate will be held between the leaders of the major parties. I find it fascinating that a major democracy has never had television debates. They’ve been a regular feature in Australia for several decades, and the first such debate in the USA was broadcast fifty years ago.

An estimated 20 million viewers are expected to tune in for tomorrow’s 90-minute debate between Labour leader Gordon Brown, Conservative leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg. Two more debates will follow on April 22 and April 29. Months of negotiation has generated 76 specific terms and conditions on the conduct of each debate. For example, cameras aren’t permitted to film close-ups of individual audience members while a leader is speaking. Applause is also not permitted during the debate.

Another poll out today found that 42% of those contacted expect David Cameron to win the debate, compared with 22% who thought Gordon Brown would be the winner. As the Times said today, “Mr Cameron faces a real problem: It is all for him to lose. He may perform very well but that is what everyone expects and so he may not gain any great bonus from his performance. On the other hand, such are the low expectations of Mr Brown that he need only deliver a decent performance to come across as a relative Emmy award nominee.”

Australian research has shown that television debates in that country influenced the final vote by up to 2%. With Labour and the Conservatives more than three points apart in current polls, television debates could make all the difference in this election.

PS: I was interviewed by the BBC today for a lunch time busines show. The segment that went to air positioned my company as a progressive employer.

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