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Steve Wisdom

5/06/2005
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, by Steve Wisdom

Last night I watched a couple of hours of BBC's UK election-night broadcast. Quite entertaining, especially seen with fresh eyes, having watched only US coverage in the past.

In general, the MP candidates are much less spit 'n polish than US Congressionals. Less grooming, makeup, blow-drying. Perhaps politics is less TV-driven in the UK.

In each constituency, all the candidates line up, spelling-bee style, while an announcer reads off the totals and declares a winner. In Tony Blair's home constituency there were several independents running as ad-hoc anti-Blair parties, so during the lineup the PM had to endure a reading of "Blair Must Go Party, 943; We Hate Blair Party, 471; ..."

Surprisingly high turnover; big percent swings versus prior results in many constituencies, so the aggregate can change materially in a single election. A contrast to US Congressmen, who generally serve Papal terms in office because of gerrymandering and special-interest money.

Beeb coverage was openly lefty in tone. At every opportunity, presenters peppered Labour MP's with "isn't it true you lost much support because of the Iraq war!" After a while Jack Straw was reduced to pretending his earpiece didn't work in order to shut off the flow. And the commentators gleefully described Blair's expression as "a rictus, not a smile".

But when all's said and done, Labour won a third term with a big majority, despite the government's being long-in-the-tooth, and despite Iraq. It's a beautiful bit of triangulation, that Cigarman would die for. The Tories chip away from the right, and the Liberal Democrats from the left, but Labour has staked out a comfy spot in the "center."

Tim Hewson adds:

Don't know if you have silly election candidates in the US such as the UK's Monster Raving Looney Party, whose manifesto includes:

Steve Wisdom, a Pennsylvania-born Harvard graduate, has been Victor Niederhoffer's chief for more than 15 years. He also has been associated with Trout Trading, Societ Generale and Deephaven Fund.