In the U.K.: How to Enact Austerity Policies and Pay No Price

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 6 2011 4:17 PM

In the U.K.: How to Enact Austerity Policies and Pay No Price

The solution: Let a coalition partner take the bullet for you!

The United Kingdom is counting votes in its latest local elections, which determine control of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies*. In the run-up, there was good reason to believe that the ruling Conservative Party would lose ground. It gained massively in the last few local elections. Polls show that if an election were held today, the Labour Party would have a narrow lead. The coalition government of the Tories and the Liberal Democrats is not that popular.

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But look at the results so far. The Conservatives gained 81 councillors and four councils, bringing them to 157 of 279 councils overall. Labour did fine, with 800 new councillors and 57 councils overall. It's the Liberal Democrats who imploded, losing half their councils and around 40 percent of their councillors. Progressive voters abandoned the Lib Dems in droves. Conservatives stayed with the Tories. Everyone else stayed put. Tough to read those numbers and forsee a backlash to austerity politics right now. (What you could see is a Liberal Democratic tantrum, but why on earth would they bolt the coalition and force an election that would see them wiped out nationally?)

*There was, for a time, an amusing typo here.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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