Thursday, May 6, 2010

If it ain't broken, don't fix it (but it is)...

Election Day is finally here.
I've read a lot of columns over the past few weeks about the possible outcomes tomorrow morning, and what they might mean. One thing, though, is for certain. People are confused right now!
But, there's one thing that should be clear, regardless of the outcome: the electoral, first-past-the-post system, is broken.
Regardless of what you think of the Lib Dems, the facts are these: in the 2005 election, Labour became the government with around 30-35% of the vote. As things stand, the Conservatives are hovering with around 35% of the vote, and stand the most likely to win the most seats in government. So, here's the thing: regardless of the party, how can ANY party with only around a third of the vote claim to be a legitimate government by itself? The two-party system, which the current system favours, no longer exists. This has been the case for at least the last twenty five years.
Of course, up to now, the two "main" parties have never seen it in their interest to support electoral reform. But now, the case is not only morally indisputable, it is also, at least for Labour, their only likely option in order to cement a governing agreement with the Lib Dems. Some people argue that this is unfair, as it keeps in power two parties that are likely to come second and third place, locking out the "most popular" party.
This is an trivial point. To begin with, a Lab-Lib government would at least reflect the views of the majority of the electorate, rather than any minority Conservative government. Furthermore, if you look at the parties in purely ideological terms, the only "truly" right-wing party are the Conservatives (regardless of what you think of Labour's record over the War On Terror). The majority of the British public, according to opinion polls, are centre-left. Therefore the government should reflect that fact. It's as simple as that.

One last thing. People in the newspapers have been chewing over the constitutional options, saying that if the Conservatives obtain a number of seats just short of a majority, they morally have the right to govern as a minority government. Well, in the event of a hung parliament, the Prime Minister has the duty/right to try to form a government with others. Any talk of the Conservatives joining with the Ulster Unionists (whoever heard of a Tory-Irish Protestant government?) seems pure speculation until Gordon Brown actually resigns, giving the Queen the obligation to offer his job to Cameron. So, unless the Conservatives get a majority, the ball is in Brown's court, as I see it. This then gives the Lib Dems the chance to offer their terms (electoral reform, a different leader as PM, etc. etc.).
So this could well work out to be a heaven-sent opportunity to bring about a well-needed plumbing job to the electoral system. And also, potentially, usher in a new age of Progressive Left consensus.

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