Michael Barone

That leaves the Conservative Party, led by David Cameron since December 2005, in the lead. Cameron rebranded the Tories as a green party and one that would share the proceeds of growth -- that is, until the recession hit. Now the budget deficit tops 10 percent of gross domestic product, and Cameron and his party have been skittish about just how much in the way of spending cuts a Conservative government would impose.

Interviews with voters in Watford, an outer London suburb where the three parties seem about evenly matched, suggest that voters in Britain, as in America, are angry with politicians of both major parties. That anger found a focus when the Daily Telegraph last year exposed multiple abuses of expense accounts by members of Parliament. It's a problem when you charge the voters for building a moat around your castle or for buying manure for your farm.

The more profound lesson from Britain, though, is that even in the toughest economic times voters do not have an appetite for an ever-larger government. Rather to the contrary. As Tony Blair's New Labor morphed into something like Old Labor under Gordon Brown, voters started looking for alternatives.

The way the district boundaries are drawn gives Labor an advantage -- it is not going to lose light-voting working-class seats. But the Conservatives' lead in the polls makes it likely they will win more seats than Labor, in which case Cameron will form a government.

The big question is whether Labor and Lib Dems will together win enough seats to deny Cameron an absolute majority and hold one themselves. If so, they may force another election in six months or next year. If not, Conservatives might hold on for four or five years.

Cameron changed the image of his party, as Blair did before him. The difference is that Cameron has aroused nothing like the enthusiasm and hope that Blair did 13 years ago. Hard slogging is ahead for Britain, whatever the voters do.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM