still waiting

I wish I could offer something insightful on the election, but any hope of that was lost after I stayed up all night watching the results come in and would have been slender anyway. Now we can only wait and see. We’re better off with Labour out, although jubilant crowds cheering on the streets were noticeable by their absence as Cameron’s Conservatives failed to sweep triumphantly into Downing Street. Now, while nobody wants PR and absolutely nobody wants to bother educating themselves on the pros and cons of any other alternative system, some sort of exploration of the options for electoral reform or, more generally, shifting the balance of power towards the people, can only be a good thing. Waiting for a Prime Minister: if this is what it would be like with PR, no thanks, although it’s a great mercy that Cameron and Clegg’s negotiating teams are taking their time, and out of the press’s eye.

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5 thoughts on “still waiting

  1. So GB is going to resign and a weak, unstable Lib-Lab coalition may be on the cards after all. Waaah!

    Meanwhile, this http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/election-2010/7697105/General-Election-2010-Did-anyone-else-notice-that-the-Lib-Dems-lost.html on how PR is precisely not the issue on everyone’s lips –

    “The Lib Dems ran on a platform whose key plank was precisely a reform of the voting system on proportional lines. And they were, by any of the standards being touted just a few days before, comprehensively thrashed. Yet Gordon Brown found it possible to say on Friday that the outcome showed “a strong demand from the electorate for far-reaching electoral reform”. Did it? How do you figure that?

    In truth, the only outright winners of this election were the present voting system and two-party politics. The people spoke, and if they said anything clearly and incontrovertibly it was this: we have no appetite for a drastic redesign of our constitutional arrangements, …”

    “Yet here we are – in just the sort of mess which a proportional voting system would guarantee to provide as the inevitable outcome of every election, without its chief proponents having made any serious headway at all.

    As I write, the electorate, whose influence is now spent, waits like the quiescent population of a tinpot dictatorship for the political class to “negotiate” its fate. The spooky silence fell late in the afternoon on Friday. My Blackberry, which had been going off at five-minute intervals for the best part of 24 hours, went quiet. The official party communicators were going to ground. Welcome to coalition land.

    I am genuinely shocked by the advocates of “progressive” politics who are now calling for – of all things – a confederation of losers to outmanoeuvre the winners: as if the combined forces of the defeated, locking arms in a grossly opportunistic alliance, could have some bizarre moral legitimacy. Is this what you thought you were demanding? I thought it was a new era of open, accountable, transparent political life. But the devotees tell us not to worry about the unedifying barters and bargains, the supplications and the secrecy: after all, they say, in countries like Belgium and Canada, the people endure weeks of this before the parties arrive at some sort of stable governing agreement. Belgium? Canada? Has it come to this?”

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  2. See also Tom Harris, quite possibly the sanest MP the contemporary Labour party has yet produced –
    http://www.tomharris.org.uk/2010/05/09/first-past-the-post-is-a-rubbish-electoral-system/

    “So, this is The New Politics, is it? This is the transparency and accountability that the reformers have been looking forward to? In almost any system other than FPTP (and, arguably, the Alternative Vote) this kind of secretive, grubby horse-trading between the parties would become an inevitable part of the electoral process. Yes, FPTP has produced this particular result – for the first time in 36 years. But as we know, this is the exception rather than the rule. Under most forms of PR this result would be replicated each and every time: the voters have had their say – now we can ignore them and negotiate away the policies they’ve just voted for in exchange for ministerial cars. Nice.”

    He also comments on the Scottish situation. Prior to the election there was the occasional wheeling out of some of our standard, low-calibre, doggedly party political Holyrood politicians, ostensibly to demosntrate how successful minority governments can be. But the Scottish experience hasn’t been great. The lesser lights of Holyrood take great delight in congratulating themselves loudly whenever they can on their superiority to Westminster, yet their plus points were either forced on them by an angry electorate (all that stuff about how there could never be an expenses scandal at Holyrood? their much-vaunted transparency only sprang into existence in the wake of a smaller but no less insulting exploitation of the taxpayer’s generosity) or else just not quite as glowingly successful as they make out (- recall the fiasco over last year’s budget: strong and stable? the minority government was anything but).

    Says Mr Harris: “In Scotland – often erroneously cited as an example of PR working effectively – the LibDems came fourth in both the 1999 and 2003 elections, yet ended up sitting round the Cabinet table. I’m not making an argument for either of the two other parties being there instead, but what’s so democratic about losers being in government while more popular parties are excluded?
    Then, once the LibDems had duly leap-frogged their more successful rivals and been given a place in government, they insisted that their senior partner – Labour – ditch their support for FPTP in local government elections in exchange for LibDem support. This we duly did, without any significant level of debate in the party and without any reference back to the voters who had just made Labour the biggest party in Holyrood. Still, what do voters know, eh? After all, such complicated subjects are just too difficult for non-politicians to get their pretty little heads round, aren’t they?
    At least under FPTP, whatever its disadvantages, the party that’s elected has to implement the policies in its manifesto. And if it doesn’t, it can be kicked out. Not so with most forms of PR.”

    “And then there’s the practical objection to PR for general elections: at a time when we’re all wringing our hands in despair at falling turn out, why make voting more complicated. And don’t bother responding by accusing me or patronising the electorate. Whenever we’ve changed the electoral system away from FPTP in Scotland, turnout at the subsequent election has fallen. In Scotland we already have four different electoral systems: proprtional list for Europe, FPTP for general elections, Additional Member System (AMS) for Holyrood and STV for local authorities. What a mess! Changing general elections to STV would actually mean us having five systems, since we would, presumably, retain FPTP for the constituency side of Holyrood elections.
    But of course there are party advantages obscuring this debate, and I’m not going to pretend that the big parties’ historic support for FPTP is entirely altruistic. Parties tend to support whichever system is most beneficial to them, and the LibDems are no different in this respect. When the SDP was formed, former Labour MPs with absolutely no track record of interest in electoral reform suddenly found themselves advocating PR in every TV interview they gave. That’s politics for you. But don’t try to tell me that the LibDems’ motives are based purely on principle and not at all on electoral advantage for them.”

    Read it all – http://www.tomharris.org.uk/2010/05/09/first-past-the-post-is-a-rubbish-electoral-system/

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