Editor’s Note: This was originally published in the November 1 edition of CNN’s Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Sign up here to receive it every weekday morning.
It’s finally happening. Three and a half years after the UK sent itself into Brexit-induced political paralysis, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is trying to break through by calling an election in December.
And if you know anything at all about British politics, right about now, you’re thinking: “Wait, what? An election … in December?” Yes, it’s the first time in nearly a century that Brits will vote this late in the year.
The UK doesn’t have a fixed election date – like so many other British things, election timing is a matter of tradition more than law – but 11 of the last 13 general elections have been in the spring. Nobody under the age of 70 has much memory of voting while surrounded by Christmas trees, mangers and reindeer decorations in a village hall or school.
There’s a reason for that. The UK is dark in December. Really dark. On December 12, London will have less than eight hours of daylight, with sunrise just before 8 a.m. and sunset at a few minutes to 4 p.m. It’ll be even darker in Scotland, with Edinburgh managing just over seven hours of sunshine. And that’s IF the sun shines at all; the stereotype about London’s constant clouds isn’t entirely true, but it’s not NOT true either, especially in the winter.
Will voters really trudge through the dark and cold to cast their ballots, when they could be Christmas shopping? Remember, more than 4 out of 5 British voters cast their ballots in person, marking their X’s by hand in the boxes next to their preferred candidates’ names.
At least Parliament did stick with one convention when setting the election date: They chose a Thursday.
But even that could come back to haunt them – because ballots are counted overnight by hand, the election results will come in on Friday the 13th. Ho, ho, ho.