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In the most-important vote of the post-Thatcher era, polls show voters are undecided and flying blind.
LONDON, United Kingdom — Queen Elizabeth II helicoptered into London this morning from her suburban palace in Windsor and met with her Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, for about 20 minutes. Brown asked her to dissolve Parliament and set the date of May 6 for a general election. She said yes and choppered back out to the 'burbs.
The Queen may have a more complicated role to play after May 6 if opinion polls are to be believed.
Three months ago the assumption was the Conservatives would win easily. But, according to the latest polls, it is now possible that none of Britain's main political parties will win a majority, there will be a hung parliament and the Queen, with advice from senior civil servants, will have to choose one of the party leaders to form a minority government.
How this came to be has less to do with the arrogance and ineptitude of the Conservative Party's election managers — although they are both — than with the state of British society.
Britain is a representative democracy and so it is natural that polling on voting intentions should represent the public mood, which at the moment is confused and uncertain. People don't know which way to go.
What people are most confused about is the economy. Britain has only just come out of recession. Massive intervention by the Labour government was needed to get the economy growing but it has left the country with national debt equal to 60 percent of GDP. Is it time to get to work cutting the deficit and taxes by cutting public services, as the Conservatives have promised to do, or to continue to protect public services and perhaps continue to prime the pump to prevent a double-dip recession, as Labour wants to do?
What do you think? There are no easy answers. The reason there are no easy answers is not just because of the complexity of economic problems but because Britain has come to the end of a political era. Conservative leader David Cameron was indulging in election hyperbole when he told his first rally of the campaign, "This is the most important general election for a generation," but he was stating a simple truth. This is the first real election to take place in a generation that isn't shaped by the doctrines of Margaret Thatcher.