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Britains Season of Despair

– Article Re-produced from Slate.com

Author: June Thomas

Judging from the media coverage of the U.K. election campaign, the Scottish National Party is the most powerful force in British politics. Yes, the nationalists lost last September’s independence referendum, but seven months later, half the stories in the English press are about SNP policies and personnel or its postelection plans—even though no one who lives outside Scotland can vote for it. Why is a party that contests only 59 of Britain’s 650 constituencies playing such an outsize role in the lead-up to the May 7 vote?


June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 

For months now, polls have shown the major parties deadlocked, and nothing anyone has said in the campaign’s debates or interviews, or in the leaders’ rare interactions with actual voters, has changed that. With only two weeks left before Election Day, Britons have a good sense of how the various parties will fare, but it’s far from clear who the next prime minister will be.

The Scottish nationalists are getting all that press because talking about them is the Conservatives’ best hope for breaking their stalemate with Labour. Those two parties have ruled Britain for more than 90 years, but current projections show the Conservatives winning 269 seats and Labour taking 271, well short of the 326 seats needed for a parliamentary majority. (It’s possible to govern Britain without a majority, but minority governments are always tentative, since they can be toppled if they lose key votes—albeit less easily now than before 2010.)