THE United Kingdom has embarked upon its version of our presidential campaign. Luckily for the British, the intense politicking will be over on May 5, the election date Prime Minister Tony Blair has set for his Labor Party to attempt to maintain its hold on Parliament.
Americans, who endure a full-blown presidential campaign that lasts at least a full year out of every four, should be so fortunate.
Instead of suffering the intellectual pain of 12 months or more of political blathering, the British choose to cut it off after 30 days. To borrow an old English expression, that's a jolly good idea.
Think of how many TV spots we would not be forced to watch, not to mention how much money we would save.
In 2004, U.S. presidential candidates of all parties spent more than $717 million in the attempt to capture 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
In 2001, the last UK election, all the British parliamentary candidates combined spent the equivalent of less than $50 million to lodge their man at 10 Downing Street.
To be sure, the British election is not a clone of the electoral process in the United States. Rather than directly choosing a new prime minister as we do the president, voters will be casting ballots for candidates for Parliament who are members of Mr. Blair's Labor party, the Conservative party led by Michael Howard, the Liberal Democrats, or any of the UK's dozens of smaller political entities.
Nonetheless, Mr. Blair, a close ally of President Bush, is the main target for the Conservatives, and opinion polls out of London show his support slipping due to public ire over the war in Iraq.
Labor now holds a 167-seat majority in the 659-member House of Commons. Polls indicate Mr. Blair's margin could be cut to just 27 seats, enough to remain prime minister, albeit greatly weakened.
For those Americans who didn't get enough politics last year, the campaign is now joined in Britain, if only as a spectator sport. Mercifully for ear and eye, it will all be over in less than a month.