Instead of worrying how to put together another coalition (or even minority) government today, David Cameron has won an outright majority:
At the time of writing, with almost all 650 seats declared, the Conservatives had 325, Labour 229, the SNP 56 and the Liberal Democrats eight. In practice 323 Members of Parliament is the number needed to form a majority government.
As Cameron drove to Buckingham Palace to notify Queen Elizabeth that she had a new government from day one, rather than the chaotic search for a viable cross-party coalition of either the right or the left, [Ed] Miliband resigned as Labour leader, shocked by the scale of his rejection by the electorate. Among the night’s casualties were a raft of senior Labour figures, including his shadow chancellor Ed Balls, defeated in Leeds.
The result was a vindication of Cameron’s much-criticized decision to run a largely negative campaign, stressing the risks to Britain’s still-fragile economic recovery of a Labour government that would overspend and drive away investors through taxes aimed at the wealthy and their tax-avoiding practices.
The majority isn't large enough to guarantee passage of the Conservative agenda in full. For one thing, Conservative back-benchers will probably agitate to pull the country out of the European Union, which would be disastrous for Britain. And with the SNP's 56-vote bloc, another referendum on Scotland seems likely in two or three years.
Europe is especially dangerous for the Conservatives. Under pressure from Eurosceptics in his party, Mr Cameron promised to spend two years renegotiating Britain’s place in the EU before holding an in-out referendum by the end of 2017. Setting such a firm deadline was foolish: there is a real risk that, in the mid-term doldrums, British voters will sever their country’s relationship with its most important trading partner. But Mr Cameron has no option but to stick with it.
The difficulty will be calibrating Britain’s demands. Ask for too much and he will come home empty-handed. Win too little from Brussels and he will lose too many of his own party for his government to survive. He should avoid all talk of treaty change (which European governments are unlikely to countenance) and focus instead on cutting red tape, extending the single market and cracking down on welfare tourism. Then he should spin every slight achievement as a mighty victory.
Scotland poses a bigger problem. The Nationalists’ triumph was almost complete and they now have a large foothold in the parliament of a country that they wish to dismember. A second independence referendum in the next few years seems increasingly likely. English resentment of Scotland is growing, and is particularly strong among Tory backbenchers. One way out of this bind is for Mr Cameron to move more boldly towards far-reaching devolution. That might restore some Scottish faith in Westminster. And the country’s rent-seeking political culture will end only when the Scottish government has power over finances.
Like a lot of Labour-leaning people, I'm curious to see how the party recover from the loss today. The Liberal Democrats have a harder time of it, though: Nick Clegg also resigned, now that the entire Lib-Dem caucus is small enough to fit in a minivan.
Polls have closed in the UK, and early exit polling suggests a Tory plurality of 316 to Labour's 239. This puts the Conservatives withing 8 seats of forming a government—though with the Liberal Democrats apparently holding onto just 10 seats, and hating every fibre of the Tory party, they will have to count on the right-wing parties to push them over the top.
I'll have more later on.
The London borough of Barking and Dagenham (yes, really) will fine you £80 if you don't clean up your dog's poop. How will they catch you? Doggy DNA:
In its pilot stage, only one or two local dog parks will be involved in the DNA testing, according to Eric Mayer, head of business development for Biopet Vet Lab. Anyone who wants to use those facilities will have to submit a canine swab, which cost about $45. (The fee will probably be split between the owner, the borough and the lab.) But by 2016, all 27 of the borough's parks and open spaces could be patrolled.
That seems a little invasive on the one hand, but on the other, it hurts dog owners everywhere when one or two lazy bastards fail to clean up after their pets. Still, who wants the job of matching samples to dogs?
The USGS has put all of their topographic maps online. All of them. Back to 1880.
It must be so sad living as a right-winger. The world keeps changing, and it's scary. They just don't understand the things they see around them, so they get scared, and say things that make people laugh at them.
Today, for example, a sizable chunk of the wingnut crowd seems to believe that the U.S. Army is trying to take over Texas. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert have, predictably, run with this paranoia. New Republic's Brian Beutler examines why:
This particular kind of theory has a unique allure. And I think it’s directly traceable to a southern—and particularly a Texan—political culture that thrives on civil war–style fantasies.
There’s a good amount of mythical and self-important thinking going on here, but there is also a very real sense in which these conservatives conceive of themselves as beleaguered, bent over a barrel by the federal government, living every day at the breaking point. It helps explain why Cruz believed a missive about using the Second Amendment as an “ultimate check against government tyranny” would make for a winning fundraising pitch, and why South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham (also running for president) had to remind him that armed insurrection didn’t work out so well for his state a while back.
But this reasoning collapses without a foil. The secessionist impulse can’t be attributable to the ebbs and flows of social policy alone. If we live our lives on the razor’s edge of rebellion, there must be an equally reactionary adversary somewhere in the middle distance threatening our autonomy. That's what gives rise to a projection of the kind we’re seeing in Texas today. Without an enemy, real or imagined, threatening our autonomy, we're not patriots. We're merely zealots.
I...I just don't know, man.
British citizens go to the polls (or, as they say, Parliament goes to the country) the day after tomorrow. At the moment, neither the ruling Conservative party nor the opposition Labour party is predicted to win the 323 seats (out of 660) necessary to form a government. Most forecasts give Labor 267 seats to the Tories' 281, which means that once again they will need to form a coalition government.
The Economist has a tool to illustrate the problem facing the two major parties. With the UK Independence Party (similar to the Tea Party, but without the grace, subtlety, or Christianity) and Democaratic Unionists (Northern Irish protestants) supporting the Tories and the Greens, Welsh, and Northern Irish Catholic parties supporting Labour, the count is still only 275 to 290 in favor of the Tories.
The likely outcome will be the Scottish National Party and its 51 seats forming up with Labour. The Liberal Democrats 26 seats won't be enough to do it—but they will almost certainly join the government no matter who forms it.
This, then, is the likely outcome Thursday:
That looks great for Ed Miliband, except for the SNP. This is simply because the SNP's raison d'être is Scottish independence. Stay tuned...
A couple days ago I sent Peet's Coffee a note:
I see that the Summer House Iced Tea blend is out of stock. Any idea when it will be back? It's the best blend I've found for iced tea.
They responded this morning:
Thank you for your interest in our tea line up, especially the Summer House Iced Tea. At the present moment we do not have specific information regarding the Summer House Iced Tea, but let me tell you why. Peet's has recently joined forces with Mighty Leaf to provide a more diverse and accessible tea experience for our customers. At this time, we are only adding Mighty Leaf Tea to Peet's, however our end goal in this merger is to have two separate brands: Mighty Leaf Tea and Peet's Coffee.
The cohabitation of our brands is still relatively new and we are actively and carefully examining the commonalities between us and the teas offered by both brands. We are not certain exactly which assortment is best for our brands which is why your questions and feedback are so valuable to us.
We will definitely keep our customers informed of further developments, including the status of the Summer House Iced Tea, as it is still a work in progress. The primary mode in which we inform our customers is though our electronic newsletter. If you do not already receive our emails and are interested, please provide your preferred email address and zip code and I will be happy to sign you up for our emailing list.
That's a great response but, unfortunately, not the outcome I wanted. I hope they'll bring the Summer House tea back. In the interim, any suggestions for good iced tea blends? I might go with Tazo Awake.
Yesterday's forecast didn't pan out exactly as plans. Afternoon rains held the temperature down to 26°C, so rather than being the warmest day since September 29th (28°C), it was the warmest day since...April 17th.
Today it's just soggy, and we're about to get a cold front. So I'm going to dash over to the nearest Whole Foods for lunch to make sure I get my steps in.
As for the concert, well, we sounded better than we did on Friday, but there were more people on stage than in the audience. That's one of the hazards of performing in Suburbistan. Our next concert is November 8th in Chicago, where we'll probably have much better turnout.
If you want this view:
...let me know. The apartment will be available July 1st. I'll post the listing once it's up.
As I mentioned yesterday, we finally have a late-spring weekend in Chicago. It got up to 24°C officially at O'Hare yesterday; today's forecast high is 27°C.
Parker got a 3=hour, 12.5 km walk, while I managed 26,000 steps and 21.4 km of my own. And we just got back from another 5,000-step walk before he gets to do his second-favorite activity: a Ride in the Car!
Apollo's final concert of the season is this afternoon, too. I'm kind of sad not to see the chorus again until rehearsals resume mid-September. But there's a lot going on this summer, including moving IDTWHQ. Stay tuned.