As the May 6 election in Britain nears, Matt Malone, S.J., reports from London on the ever tightening race to control the next parliament. Not long ago, the Conservative leader, David Cameron, was the favorite to lead his party to victory, but the recent surge of the Liberal Democrats and Nick Clegg has taken almost everyone by surprise. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gordon Brown is fighting to retain the role he assumed when Tony Blair stepped aside in 2007. The chances of a "hung parliament" are increasingly likely, and the Queen may have to step in to break the stalemate. Matt reports:
[C]ertain powers are still reserved for the Queen alone, at least officially. Among the most important of these “royal prerogatives” is the formal power to appoint the prime minister. Most of the time it’s a straightforward, perfunctory exercise.
What is likely troubling the Queen as the May 6th general election approaches, is the fact that it may not be obvious which leader she should call on the morning of May 7th, a situation she has not faced since 1974. Opinion polls reveal that the British electorate is uncharacteristically undecided and that a “hung parliament,” a kind of electoral stalemate in which no one political party has a Commons majority, is a real possibility. The stakes are indeed high: This is the first general election since Gordon Brown took over the job of prime minister from Tony Blair and the first serious threat to the governing Labour party since it came to power in a 1997 landslide. The election also comes in the latter half of the worst recession in a generation and in the midst of one the biggest political scandals in parliamentary history. In other words, the Queen’s potential constitutional headache is just one factor in what is turning out to be the most exciting British election in decades.
And for more on the election, listen to our interview with Matt, and watch "In All Things" for his report on tomorrow night's second debate.