The waiting is almost over. According to each and every major newspaper in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Today, Prime Minister Gordon Brown is going to barge into the Queen's office and tell her, politely, to dissolve Parliament and issue writs of election for May the Ninth.
Thus, the number number two most anticipated election -- next to the US's presidential one -- in the world gets going for real.
Here's how it will work:
After Brown visits the Queen, the Palace will announce that there's going to be an election on May the 9th. Then every member of the old Parliament will start packing, as the dissolution writ means they all lose their jobs as MPs. As they've been there almost five years and there's a lot of stuff to box up before they get out of Dodge. There's a short session between tomorrow and the 12th allowing everyone to pass a few last bills and finish packing.
April 12th: The House of Commons ceases to exist for a month and formal writs of election are issued by Her Majesty, and by this time, everyone is out on the hustings.
April 15th: While Americans are filing their taxes, the Brits are sitting in front of the telly to watch the first of three leadership debates between Brown, Tory David Cameron and Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg. The Nationalists, Neo-Fascists, and Monster Raving Loonies have not been invited, although all but the last might actually win some seats.
April 20th: Formal nomination papers must be submitted by this date, plus each nomination is accompanied by a deposit, which is refundable if the candidate makes a decent showing. Losing one's deposit is considered shameful.
Aprill 22nd: The Second debate.
April 27th: Absentee ballots must by applied for by this date.
April 29th: Another debate.
May 5th: Polling day! The Queen now has to decide what to do according the results.
Labour majority: She does nothing. Brown reshuffles his cabinet.
Conservative majority: Brown arrives at the palace and tenders his resignation, suggesting to her Majesty that Cameron should be called to form a government.
Liberal Democratic Majority: Brown and Cameron are in total shock, but the Prime Minister is forced to suggest Clegg as his replacement.
Now it gets fun:
Hung Parliament: This is where nobody gets a majority. Brown will probably quit in any case, but it's possible that he'll call Clegg and ask him to form a coalition government, something that hasn't happened since 1964, when the Tories were in coalition with the moribund, and soon to be extinct, National Liberal party.
If Clegg tells him to shove it, then Brown has two choices, form a minority government and hope the Liberal Democrats support him anyway, or bribe those parties that weren't invited to the debates to support him. That means supporting stuff like a referendum on granting Scotland independence, and more boodles for the Ulster Unionists.
If Cameron comes in first, but doesn't have a majority, Brown may resign and let him have a go, or actually decide to hang on.
If this is the case, the Queen herself can step in and work out a power-sharing agreement with the various parties. King George V actually did this in 1931, and Her Majesty nearly had to do it in 1974. Everyone will be glad the Old Broad's still there and Chuckie's not in charge.
But you can be sure that between now and May, it's going to get very interesting.
Let the games begin.
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