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Most of the 34,500,000 registered voters in Great Britain will today choose 625 members of Parliament from 1,864 assorted candidates. Each voter will make one mark on a paper ballot which lists names but no party affiliations, and drop that ballot into a sealed box. The man he chooses may live and vote in another constituency, but will certainly not be a lord, a member of the clergy, an employe of the government, a lunatic, an alien, or a government contractor.
After the voting, all the ballot boxes of a constituency will be brought to a central counting office, the votes tabulated, and the candidate with the most votes (no majority is necessary) declared the winner. Should there be a tie, the Returning Officer will decide the winner by lot. All this is certain.
The question is who will be in Parliament when all these formalities are over. The Parliament chosen in 1945 had 393 Laborites, 197 Conservatives, and a smattering of Liberals, Communists, and others. For five years, Labor has had a healthy majority to carry through its program: nationalization of basic industries, socialized medicine, strict rationing, high taxation, tight restrictions on business and foreign trade, and democratization of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
If Labor wins again, it will probably not continue nationalization beyond the iron and steel industry (the bill is currently suffering delays in the House of Lords), unless economic conditions worsen considerably. The party is firmly pledged to continue all of the "welfare state" projects, and is expected to push ahead with its colonial development scheme for African agriculture. This plan, it is hoped, will be a long-range solution to Britain's food problems. Thus far it has absorbed much money and produced few peanuts. The Labor campaign has stressed social benefits, housing progress, and the full employment which has been maintained since the war.
If the Conservatives are returned to power, their first act will be to repeal the iron-steel nationalization bill. Then they will attempt to mitigate some of the high taxes and "controls" on business, and bring about a gradual end to rationing. There will probably be little revision in the government health or insurance plans, both of which have wide popular support. No attempt will be made to give industries already nationalized back to private owners, but there will be no more socialization and private enterprise will be given encouragement. The Tory campaign has emphasized that only American aid has saved the country from unemployment, a point on which Sir Stafford Cripps, Labor's Chancellor of the Exchequer, concurs.
Future British foreign policy will depend little on which party is in power. Though Winston Churchill, the Conservative leader, is a strong backer of a European political union, he would probably be no more amenable to integrating Britain's economy with that of the rest of Western Europe than is the present cabinet. The only point on which the Tories have seriously attacked Ernest Bevin's foreign policy is the granting of independence to India and Burma, which could hardly be revised now.
Mr. Churchill's recent proposal for top-level talks between the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union before a hydrogen-bomb race begins, has tended to obscure his general agreement with the "tough" foreign policy followed by Mr. Bevin and Secretary of State Dean Acheson. The proposal was surprising, since the Russians have continually labelled Mr. Churchill as a "warmonger." Mr. Bevin has called the whole idea campaign "stunt."
The Liberal Party, out of power for thirty years, is offering the voters a "middle way" between conservatism and socialism. Clement Davies, the Liberal head, has been asking Conservative voters: "Would you rather have the Liberals or the Laborites?" and Labor voters: "Would you rather have the Liberals or the Tories?" Though the logic of this argument is undeniable, it is unlikely that the Liberals will carry many of the 478 constituencies in which they are entered.
By tomorrow, England will have decided whether to follow New Zealand and Australia in turning the Laborites out, or stick with its present government. The result will be watched closely by all nations endeavoring to find the best balancing point between socialism and capitalism.
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