The Earth Moves in Britain

LONDON – Volcanoes have consequences – and I’m not just thinking about the chaos caused to air travel by Iceland’s unpronounceable last eruption (known to the Pentagon as E-15).

In 1783, a volcano in Iceland spewed so much ash into the atmosphere that the entire northern hemisphere was cooled for almost three years. This resulted in crop failures and famine, and some historians argue that it helped to precipitate the French Revolution.

Should we blame the “British Revolution” of 2010 on E-15? This undoubtedly would be going too far. But the agreement between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to form a coalition government does look revolutionary to many British voters. In London, governing arrangements that other countries take for granted look like a radically new type of politics.

The election produced an inconclusive result, even though the Conservative Party received 7% more of the popular vote than the second-place Labour Party. The failure to equalize electorates in different constituencies counted heavily against the winners, as it takes more votes to send a Conservative MP to Westminster than it does a Labour MP.