British Elections: Long Night, Long Days Ahead

If you are as incorrigible a political animal as I am, elections anywhere are a treat, so long as there are ways to make the results intelligible. British elections qualify automatically, and since our country and theirs share a lot of challenges at the moment, and do still have a “special relationship,” what happens actually matters to us, at least a bit.

In any event, I suggest you consult a handy timeline and “explainer” from The Guardian if you are interested in following the results. The time difference presently is a mere five hours for those of you in EDT. That means the polls will close at 5:00 PM EDT, with a BBC exit poll being released shortly thereafter (it doesn’t have the best record of accuracy, BTW). Returns will roll in slowly–mostly after 3:00 AM local time–following the UK’s charming habit of on-site tabulations, complete with little “declaration” ceremonies where candidates face the music on-stage together, with cameras whirring.

While most of the results will be in by tomorrow morning (British time), the extremely high likelihood of a “hung parliament” (no single party having a majority of the 650 seats in the House of Commons at risk today) means additional uncertainty that could go on for days or even weeks. The most common scenarios are for a Labour goverment in coalition with the Greens and/or the Scottish National Party, or for another Tory government in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. But there are tensions among potential coalition partners on both sides, and some technical complications–e.g., if the Tories have the most seats, they can choose to stay in office until deposed by a no-confidence vote or a clear demonstration of a Labour-based majority.

At any rate, as the Guardian guide notes, the whole spectacle will be on BBC World, and I believe CSPAN will have live coverage late tonight. There are also plenty of liveblogs available. So if you have no pressing obligations early Friday, stay up and enjoy the slightly alternative universe of Election Night in the UK.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.