Anchor Marco Werman speaks with The World’s Laura Lynch in London about today’s British elections.
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MARCO WERMAN: I’m Marco Werman, this is The World, a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. It’s Election Day in Britain. Voters there have been casting their ballots in one of the closet British elections in recent memory. The World’s Laura Lynch is outside the Houses of Parliament in London. Laura, why has this become such a close race?
LAURA LYNCH: It’s become a close race because it is a three way race and you just don’t see that very often in British politics. Usually it’s a battle between the Labour Party and the Conservative Party, but this time around the third party, the Liberal Democrats, have come up through the middle and has caused a split in the votes across the country. The reason why, is largely because of the U.S. style election debates which they’ve had in this country for the very first time and Marco, it was a game changer. It gave new attention to the leader of that third party, Nick Clegg, and has caused a surge in support for the party. And that’s why no one really knows what is going to happen when the polls close tonight.
WERMAN: Incredible, a little device like debates and everything changes. Tell us what the mood in London is like Laura and from what you can tell, what the scene at the polls is like.
LYNCH: Well, it’s interesting. I read an article this morning that described it just perfectly and it was after all of the noise and the hubbub of the last four weeks of intense campaigning, it’s as though a quiet has descended upon the city. Now you may not hear that considering I’m beside a very busy river, but if you walk around the city it is very quiet. There is none of that intensity of campaigning going on. I did go to a polling station this morning and there was a steady stream of voters going through there, very patient, waiting to get in and it’s been reported that there’s exactly that same kind of steady turnout across the country. And Marco, you’ve got to understand, polling stations in this country are a little bit different. There are some that are pretty typical in recreation centers and schools and that sort of thing, but there are polling stations in pubs, so you can pull a pint while you cast your vote.
WERMAN: No way.
LYNCH: There’s a polling station in a castle. There is a polling station in someone’s home, they cleared out the son’s room in order to get the poll in there. And they’ve also even turned over some containers on their sides in order to put polls in there for people to go in there for people to go in and vote. But that’s the way they do it here. They’ve got 650 constituencies that they’re dealing with.
WERMAN: I’m going to complain the next time I have to vote in a school cafeteria. When are we going to hear the first results Laura?
LYNCH: They will be coming out as of 5:00 eastern time in the United States, that’s 10:00 here. That’s when the polls close. Now, initially what you’re going to hear are unofficial exit polls and nobody’s quite sure whether the exit poll is actually going to reflect accurately this time. It did in the last election, it was bang on predicting a 66 seat majority for the Labour government. This time around people are saying they’re not so sure the science is going to work again because of the emergence of the third party and the way the electoral system works. So wait until 6:00 eastern time in the United States and you’ll start hearing the first official election results. Then you might start getting an idea of how this night is going to go. Wherever it goes though, it’s going to go into the very early hours of Friday morning.
WERMAN: Laura, finally, remind us what the biggest issue has been at play in this general election in the U.K.
LYNCH: The top issue throughout he campaign has been the economy and that is no surprise considering how much Britain is still struggling to come out of the depths of the economic crisis. It has struggled more than many developed nations and it’s got enormous deficits that it’s trying to come to grips with, but all three parties, major parties, have been accused by experts of not coming clean with the public, of not giving them enough detail about how they’re going to achieve it. They simply say they’re not being realistic about that and that the reason why is because they know that the degree of cuts and tax increases that they’ll have to impose are going to be so unpopular. Even the governor of the Central Bank in England was reported to have said last week that whoever wins this election and has to grapple with those spending cuts is going to be unelectable for a generation.
WERMAN: Okay, we’ll leave it there. Thank you Laura.
LYNCH: You’re welcome.
WERMAN: The World’s Laura Lynch speaking to us from outside the Houses of Parliament in London.
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