The results of the United Kingdom's municipal council elections sent tremors of change through the ruling Labor Party and Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Labor, in power nationally for 11 years, finished a weak third in the overall vote with 24 percent, after the Conservative Party, which received 44 percent, and the normally "third" party, the Liberal Democrats, with 25 percent.
Even Labor's two-term mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, was defeated by a brash, upstart former journalist, Boris Johnson.
The significance of the results is still bouncing around the pool table of British politics. The defeat does not necessarily signify the end of the Labor Party in British politics. National elections are not required to be held until 2010, and Britons have shown before that they are capable of dealing a party a slashing blow in local elections only to boost its power in national elections.
The signs for Mr. Brown were, of course, bad. These were the first elections since he replaced Tony Blair as prime minister and head of the Labor Party last year. Winning elections is, in the end, all there is for British party heads. If the party doesn't win under their leadership, out they go.
The primary issue for the voters was the economy. Whether it was the infection within the American economy spreading to the United Kingdom or whether Britain's economic problems are primarily homegrown, they are there. Since the British government was obliged to take over one big bank, Northern Rock, because of its tottering over dicey mortgages, contagion spreading from the United States is likely one cause of Britain's economic woes.
The British public still has a bad taste in its mouth over the Blair Labor government's slavish adherence to the line of President Bush over the Iraq war. Mr. Brown has tried to wriggle away from that association, but not with great success. British troops are still in Iraq.
Extrapolating from the United Kingdom to the U.S. elections, perhaps it's not enough of a change for the British electorate to be rid of only Mr. Blair and maybe they are in the process of claiming the current head of the Labor Party as well. It may be the case that Americans, similarly, will not be satisfied to see the last of only Mr. Bush and so will reject the Republican Party in November.
The parallels are not perfect, but they are worth considering.
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