Current affairs and politics geeks in the UK will remember the question that was on all their lips on the 2nd of May 1997. “Were you still up for Portillo?”. I am beginning to wonder if the same sort of thing may happen on 6th November 2008 in the USA. For those too young, too foreign (in a nice way- I don’t expect you to follow every nuance of British politics), or just too disinterested at the time, allow me explain. The Conservative (aka ‘Tory’) Government of the mid/late 90’s was deeply unpopular, and deeply divided with the Europhobes threatening rebellion, and Tony Blair’s successful rebranding the Labour Party into ‘New Labour’, basically standing, in an ideological sense, as close as they could to the Tories to pick up their voters promised a landslide. What no one forsaw was the complete massacre of Tory Top Brass that happened.
Through out the night (Counting starts shortly after the polls shut at 10pm, with the first constituencies declaring at about 11pm) more and more Tory ‘heavyweights’ lost their seats. Political parties in the UK tend to try and get their most important MPs to stand in ’safe seats’, ones they would never lose. But in ‘97 deep unpopularity morphed into tactical voting, with voters for a party that would normally finish distant third throwing their votes behind the best placed non-Tory.
Then at 4am (and I stayed up to watch it) came the shock news. Micheal Portillo, a man touted as a future Tory Leader, had lost his ’safe’ Enfield seat to the unknown Stephen Twigg (Labour). Portillo had been expected to be a leading player, possibly even a leader, in the wake of the defeat every one predicted. Could this happen to the Republicans, facing not only defeat for President, but both Congress and Senate.
What follows gives me hope. Last Hussar has an intimate understanding of both British and U.S. politics, and as such is able to provide a panoramic perspective. It's good to see this election through other eyes.