I’ve been quite interested in the run-up to the UK election. That may come as a surprise to those of you who know me as a not-very-party-political-animal, and as even more of a surprise to UK residents who seem to have been engulfed in non-stop election fever since early March.
For us, access to the election news has been via French radio and television. We don’t buy the papers very often, but I generally hear a couple of news bulletins a day from France Inter (roughly Radio 4 equivalent), and we often watch the main evening news on France 2 (BBC1-ish channel). So this scarcely constitutes an academic study of the British elections seen through French eyes.
It’s been quite a surprise to me that for the last couple of weeks, there’s usually been something about the British elections in every main bulletin. France 2 has had a series of mini-election specials every night. These have covered everything from SamCam versus Sarah Brown (Sarah Brown won on points, because they had a library photo of her talking to Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. In that particular encounter though, they clearly thought Carla B-S won on points), to the National Front in Barking, to Boris Johnson talking in sub-O Level French (but at least he did it. I’m old enough to have memories of Ted Heath’s sabotage of the French language back in the 1970’s). Nick Clegg has the French vote sewn up, on account of his fluent French (and Dutch, German and Spanish) – he’s had several interviews on pro-European matters in the French media
Yesterday’s report on France Inter’s lunch time news covered the fact that the polling stations are open from 7.00 a.m. – 10.00 p.m, to accommodate the fact that we vote on a Thursday, a working day, unlike most of the rest of Europe, which has Sunday as Polling Day. They incorrectly stated too that churches were among the buildings used as polling stations. Then they went on to explain our first-past-the-post voting system, which they rightly find bizarre.
And today, how much more bizarre it all seems. The first-past-the-post system seems even more unacceptable now that the Liberal Democrat share of the vote is so little behind that of the Labour Party. It’s impossible to spin it in a positive way to the French who ask about it. Like most Europeans, the French are more at ease with the idea of multi-party government, and perhaps bemused at the total impasse in which the leaders find themselves.
I thought I was going to see the election story out to the end on this blog. I’ve a feeling that could involve a very long wait, though. Here is the unfinished article