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In Rochdale just outside

In Rochdale, just outside of Manchester, Lorna Fitzsimons -- a Labour MP looking for a third term -- was facing a tough challenge from the Lib Dems. So, who did the Labour high command send to help? Karen Hicks, Howard Dean’s campaign manager in the New Hampshire primary and the field director at the DNC in the general election. Fitzsimons, apparently not well-versed in recent American political history, told the New York Times that: "Karen is my ace in the hole."

Well, the Lib Dem candidate, Paul Rowen, must have had a royal flush because he’s the new MP from Rochdale.

Word just came in

<$NoAd$>Word just came in that the far-far-far left, Islamist candidate George Galloway has defeated Oona King -- daughter of an ex-pat African-American civil rights activist and Jewish mother -- in the east London constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow. Galloway is not just anti-war and anti-American, he is pro-Saddam. Read what James Forsythe wrote in the New Republic Online about Galloway:

Galloway, dubbed "Gorgeous George," has been an MP since 1987 and is regarded as one of the House of Commons' most gifted orators. He is also one of its most hardened leftists. "I did support the Soviet Union, and I think the disappearance of the Soviet Union is the biggest catastrophe of my life," he told the Guardian in 2002. The signature issue of his political career, however, has been the Middle East. Even before he was elected to Parliament, Galloway managed to persuade his hometown of Dundee in Scotland to symbolically partner with the West Bank city of Nablus. Since Blair became party leader in 1994, Galloway has been a constant thorn in the side of New Labour. His support for Saddam--he earned the nickname "the member for Baghdad Central" and in 2002 he wrote of his experience on "the crowded dance floor of a North African nightclub ... dancing with Tariq Aziz, the deputy prime minister of Iraq"--stretched the relationship to its breaking point. In November 2003 he was expelled from the party for what Labour Chairman Ian McCartney described as inciting "foreign forces to rise up against British troops."


As Forsythe goes on to explain, a Galloway win could spark a backlash against Muslims as: ”it could lead many Britons to conclude that Muslims threaten the country's liberal political culture.” Galloway’s win is a loss for us all.

I have BBC coming

I have BBC coming over cable, and my former housemate from Oxford on the IM (his Scottish better half has generously surrendered him). And there’s been a lot of cool graphics and the swingometer has done things I never thought it could do. But so far, only a dozen or so results have come in and almost all of them are from safe Labour seats. What we’re seeing is that in the rock-solid Labour constituencies, turnout is down and there’s about a 6 percent swing to the Lib Dems -- but Labour still wins. Clearly, Labour supporters are punishing Blair. What really matters is what happens in the battleground, and the only marginal to have come in is Putney in western London (number 53 on the Tories' target list). The swing was 6 percent to the Tories. If that’s indicative of anything, it will be a longer night for Labour supporters than the exit polls led anyone to believe.

In 1994 Tony Blair

In 1994, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown met at the chic Islington restaurant, Granita, and hammered out the bargain that made Blair party leader and set into motion the rise of New Labour.

As the polls closed in Britain tonight, two of my favorite ex-pat journalist friends decided to honor the evening by supping at this famous eatery. Yet, Granita has since closed and is now a Tex-Mex place called “Desperados.”

Yes, the joke writes itself.

My margarita-swilling correspondents report that the BBC was there looking for comments, but the only people eating at a Tex-Mex restaurant in London on election day were other journalists and Americans. With nothing to learn, they scarfed down their queso and headed to the polling place across the street. The workers there told them that turnout was at about 50 percent -- way off from the usual turnout in the mid-60’s. Odds are that the Islington left either stayed home or voted Lib Dem. Not a good sign for that healthy majority Blair needs.

And this just in: the BBC/ITV exit polls predict a Labour majority of 66. Wow. Blair may be a desperado by the time dawn breaks.

The polls close in

The polls close in Britain in just under two hours. C-SPAN 2 will be running BBC One’s coverage of the returns, and if you like political theater, I highly recommend tuning in.

First, there’s Peter Snow of BBC and his swingometer (again, nothing to do with Austin Powers). Snow is an institution. He frenetically runs across the BBC set commenting on each seat as it comes in, while at the same time giving viewers the overall electoral picture. Backing up snow is the BBC’s graphics that put the red-and-blue maps of US networks to shame.

Second, election coverage in Britain is more reality TV than public affairs TV. In each individual constituency, all the candidates hear the results at the same time and in the same place. Gathered in what looks like a junior high gym or a fire hall, the candidates stand together on stage with big colored ribbons on their chests. Then, without any hint of inflection in their voice, an election monitor calmly reads the results. I’ll never forget in 1997 watching government minister after government minister see their political careers go down the toilet as upstart Labourites beat them (the shock on Michael Portillo’s face -- and on Stephen Twigg’s -- when the young Labourite Twigg beat the Defense Minister in Enfield Southgate was priceless). And all they could do was grin and shake hands.

All night, BBC will go from constituency to constituency to get the results. I’ll be watching and blogging the results as they come in.

Ive never been a

<$NoAd$>I’ve never been a big fan of institutionalizing constituency groups within political parties, even when they claim to represent me. But let’s hand it to the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) for sticking it to Senator George Allen.

Allen, whose eye is on 2008, is scheduled to give the commencement address at Pat Robertson’s Regent University this weekend. The NJDC called on Allen to condemn Robertson’s remarks on “This Week” this past Sunday in which the good Reverend reaffirmed his belief that the “out-of-control” judiciary is a bigger threat to the United States than al-Qaeda -– and even bigger than the Nazi threat of six decades ago. Allen’s spokesman dismissed the NJDC release saying that it “takes Robertson's remark totally out of context.”

Let’s roll the tape:

10:50:15 GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (OC) But, sir, let me just stop you there. How can you say that these judges are a more serious threat than Islamic terrorists who slammed into the World Trade Center?

10:50:23 PAT ROBERTSON It depends on how you look at culture. If you look over the course of a hundred years, I think the gradual erosion of the consensus that's held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings.


Putting it into context, how can the Republicans be strong in the war against terror, but embrace those who seek to belittle it?

Putting politics aside Id

<$NoAd$>Putting politics aside, I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that today is Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. Sixty years ago this year, the Nazi death camps were liberated by Allied forces, and the full extent of the genocide was made known. Many of us have read the books, seen the movies, and gone to the museums, but as this event fades further and further into the past, it becomes ancient history to too many -- or trivialized too often.

While the day has a special significance in Israel and to Jews all over the world, there’s a more universal resonance to this day of remembrance: a day to reflect on humans’ capacity for evil -- and capacity for inaction in its face. Recognizing those frailties one day a year, hopefully could go a long way to stiffening our resolve when confronted with such barbarism in our own times.

I punched the data

I punched the data into the seat calculator and consulted a swingometer, but I overlooked one thing: the gamblers. While no one in political punditry puts their money where their mouth is, these guys do. And what do the bettors say? The average spread for the size of the Labour majority is 89 seats. Above the danger zone for Blair, but since it’s below the expectations of the polls which are putting the majority in the triple digits, it could mean trouble for Blair with his own backbenchers.

So what’s going on?

A friend of mine at a major British paper tells me that the senior editors at his august publication are not encouraged with the "mood on the ground" reports they're getting from their correspondents from various constituencies this morning. Like the gamblers, most of the editors are predicting a majority in the 80s, with one guessing it could be as low as 60.

Of course, this could be lingering resentment toward Blair that these editors are hearing in their own Islington echo-chambers (how many of your friends on the Upper West Side were convinced that Kerry was going to win?). But, take the reports from the ground, add in the wisdom of the market, and the targeted campaigns that the Tories and Lib Dems ran, and it could be a rough next few weeks for Blair -– and a rougher one for Howard. The reports in today’s papers are that the Lib Dems are making in-roads in Tory constituencies, meaning that like in 2001, they may be the biggest winners.

A battered Tony Blair, an invigorated anti-war Lib Dem party -– it has the makings of a bad day for President Bush.

Polls open in the

Polls open in the UK in a couple of hours, but at the end of the last day of campaigning, a friend in the Labour boiler room sent me their compendium of all the latest public polls. They averaged the numbers from all the public polls conducted over the last three days, and came up with: Labour at 37.2 percent, Conservatives at 32.5, and Lib Dems at 22.8. Compared to 2001 totals, it appears that the Tory base has come home, and Labour has bled a little –- about 4 percentage points –- to the Lib Dems. Of course, what matters is what happens in the “marginals” or swing seats where the campaign has really been fought. Nonetheless, Brits obsess over the “swing” and use the swing in the overall vote total to figure out who will win what in Parliament.

Going to the BBC’s handy seat calculator -- which is almost as cool as its “swingometer,” which I assure you has nothing to do with Austin Powers -- we find that these numbers would result in a Labour majority of 118 seats, and Tony Blair would rest easy. But to stress again, it’s not how many runs your score, it’s how many games you win (Exhibit A: Gore 2000). This fight tomorrow will be a ground war fought in marginals all across Britain. It’s a turnout game now.

One of those guys slogging it out in the marginals is Steve Morgan. I have to give him and the folks at Morgan Allen Moore a million thanks for their invaluable election night guide. Democratic politicos know Steve as the guy who handles the foreign press at any major Democratic event -– New Hampshire primary night, the Convention, etc. At home, he’s the Michael Whouley of British politics (so much so, that their companies merged), the foremost Welsh expert on American football, and as of last week, the father of Cai. Congratulations, Steve.

Back to the British

Back to the British election primer.

The Dynamics to Watch: Blair vs. Bush. The absolutely single-biggest liability for Tony Blair is that voters think that he is George W. Bush’s “poodle” and that he lied about Iraq. In fact, the latest Financial Times poll found that 62 percent of British adults believe Blair lied about Iraq; another poll for the Guardian found a majority who say he’s not trustworthy. The Lib Dems have been relentless in whacking Blair on this, and in recent days, the Tories (who supported the war, but have a lingering odor of imperial anti-Americanism) have joined in. While Blair’s support for the war and defense of his decision in the face of withering and personal opposition is admirable, his lack of personal support has dampened Labour enthusiasm. If Blair suffers for Iraq, he only has Bush to thank. If Blair is toppled, there could be a noticeable cooling of US-UK relations.

Blair vs. Brown. The tension between these one-time parliamentary officemates got particularly intense in the months leading up to the election. Years ago, Blair made a deal with Brown: he would stand for party leader, make Brown a very powerful Chancellor, and eventually step aside for Brown to take over. Their tensions reflect the tensions within the party: to many Labourites, Brown is one of them –- not the slippery Blair who “sold out” Labour principles. After jockeying with Brown and allowing the distance to grow, the Blairites realized that because of Iraq, Blair needed Brown to bring home the base. Since then, they have been inseparable on the campaign trail. Yet, there are enough Labour rebels that if the margin of victory dips below the triple digits and gets anywhere close to 50, the pressure on Blair to give way to Brown will be great.

Blair vs. Howard. The other night, after flipping between the Daily Show and that new HBO movie about FDR and his struggle with polio, I caught one of the BBC’s top political advisers being interviewed on C-SPAN. He made the key point to remember about Michael Howard: “Not only was he a member of the most unpopular cabinet in postwar British history, he was the most unpopular member of the most unpopular cabinet in postwar British history.” The nasty tone the Tory campaign has taken in the final few weeks has only underscored that point. Labour wants to make the choice between them and the Tories one between forward vs. back; Labour success vs. Tory failure. Check out this Labour party election broadcast (scroll down to “Remember?”); it’s the best use of Barbra Streisand in a political campaign since her November 2000 robo-calls to gay households in South Beach!

Update: TPM readers are just verklepmt over my reference to Barbra Streisand above. Yes, it's not Streisand's recording of the "The Way We Were" in the Labour party election broadcast linked above. However, since the song was written for her, first recorded by her, and inextricably tied up with her, I referenced it as a Streisand song. Thanks to all the readers who wrote in.

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