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Clive Crook

Britain's Election Gets Weird

The U.K. can't live with coalition government, and can't live without it.
Not-so-Great Britain.

Not-so-Great Britain.

Photographer: Carl Court

As the British election approaches -- the vote is on Thursday -- opinion polls in Britain suggest that support may be shifting to the Tories. Surprises are possible: Many voters say they're undecided, and small changes in voting intentions, acting on closely contested seats, can move the balance of power in Westminster a lot. Still, at the moment, neither Labour nor the Conservatives seem likely to get a parliamentary majority.

That's awkward in a system that takes one-party rule for granted -- but it gets worse. Consider a very plausible outcome. England rejects Labour and elects a Tory majority. Scotland also rejects Labour, and elects the Scottish National Party in a landslide. Thus, the United Kingdom gets a Labour government.