Britain’s Silent Election

LONDON – Other people’s elections are usually baffling and boring, which is certainly true of the United Kingdom’s coming vote on May 7; indeed, many Britons share the sentiment. The longest election campaign in UK history has been strikingly short of focus. Nonetheless, the campaign contains three important pointers for other Western democracies.

The first pointer is that Bill Clinton’s famous campaign slogan from 1992 – “It’s the economy, stupid” – is itself stupid, or at least insufficient. If it was the economy that would decide Britain’s election, Prime Minister David Cameron would be leading a much more confident campaign.

For the past 18 months or so, the UK has had Europe’s fastest-growing economy, and at times has even outpaced the United States. The unemployment rate, now 5.6%, has fallen to less than half that of the eurozone.

But favorable economic indicators have made little difference to the standing of Cameron’s Conservatives in opinion polls, and have done nothing to save their coalition partner, the centrist Liberal Democrats, from a severe slump. Too many voters, it seems, still do not feel better off, and for good reason: average incomes have barely begun to rise, following seven painful years.