changing times

The Guardian has endorsed the Liberal Democrats:

If the Guardian had a vote it would be cast enthusiastically for the Liberal Democrats. But under our discredited electoral system some people may – hopefully for the last time – be forced to vote tactically

The first-past-the-post system is undemocratic.  But that’s not the only reason to vote Lib Dem.

It has been interesting watching both Labour and Tory alike warning of the dangers of a hung parliament, or a balanced parliament as those seeking influence in the post election fall out have taken to calling it.  Big majorities are good when things need radically changed but that doesn’t seem to be where we are.

All the major parties, and I’m including the Scottish and Welsh nationalists in that, have very little difference in policy terms between them.  If you don’t believe me look at how well the Scottish Parliament works with a minority government.  There is something grown up about having to convince other people that what you want to do is a good idea.  Governments shouldn’t have to rely on whips bullying people through the division lobby.

The Leader’s Debates have changed the face of British politics forever.  We will surely move ever closer to a presidential style election.

In many ways Nick Clegg’s rise has been a parallel of the USA’s Presidential elections where often being an unknown candidate can be a benefit.  People listen to the new guy.

I heard a commentator saying this morning that David Cameron has spent the last year encouraging people to vote for someone young and new… and then Clegg came along and Cameron has been left shouting “Not him!  I meant me!”.

Labour seems to have lost their way.  The Tories seem to have discovered their past.  But what of these Liberal Democrats?

They seem to inhabit the centre ground more comfortably than either the red or blue parties.  Perhaps a fundamental commitment to real representative democracy puts you in a place where listening, compromise and co-operation are natural ways to achieve consensus and move forward.  Clegg has even had the audacity to suggest that the next parliament work together to tackle the economic crisis.  (I wonder if secretly Brown and Cameron are quite excited about the prospect of Vince Cable being Chancellor?)

What has been missed in the razzle dazzle of the three TV debates is that there are 650 elections happening next week.  Every one of us has a choice to make and no-one will arrive at their polling station to find Brown, Cameron and Clegg on their ballot paper.  Oddly, the party leaders could lose their constituency votes.  It’s unlikely, but where would that put us?

You see the BBC, Sky and ITV don’t pick the Prime Minister.  The pollsters don’t pick the Prime Minister.  We, the voters, don’t pick the Prime Minister.  The party with the most MPs don’t even pick the Prime Minister.  The Queen can ask whoever she wants to try to form a government.  Wouldn’t it be fun if she picked George Galloway for  laugh?

Our electoral system is a joke.  In my constituency Labour will win.  They have a majority of 11,000.  Our bit of the electoral map will be staying red no matter who I choose to vote for.  And that’s the problem for the Lib Dems.  Opinion polls might not translate into votes.  Even if they do get 30% of the vote our system means that they could still end up with fewer seats than the other two big parties.

And don’t get me started on the House of Lords.

And while I’m talking about electoral reform, how long are we just going to ignore the ‘West Lothian Question’?  Surely the English are going to wake up at some point and realise that Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs are voting on education, health and law and order legislation which doesn’t apply in their countries!  Seriously England, are you ok with that?

So, whatever the election result next week, things are going to change.  Proportional Representation is coming, the House of Lords is changing and even Parliament itself might be smaller and differently formatted.

And that’s all good because it has come about because people are beginning to engage in politics again.  It was great to see a woman in the Question Time audience reminding the politicians that they work for us.  I hope that’s a sign of things to come… that we care enough to get involved.

You get the government you allow.  We have allowed people to lie and cheat us because doing something about it was too much effort.  Disengaging isn’t the answer.  We get government however few people vote.

So, on May 6th I’ll be voting.  Will you?

My vote will go to the Liberal Democrats.  It was going there before the election was called but the negativity of Labour and Conservative alike has just confirmed my choice.

But what about May 7th?  Or is an X in a box our contribution to society?  (I wonder if that’s a Big Society?)  Voting is the easy bit.  Not leaving the running of the country to someone else… well that’s a bit harder.  Fancy it?

3 thoughts on “changing times”

  1. In the US, we also face proportionality issues. These issues arise in both the party primaries and in the general election. Each party chooses its candidate at a primary or caucus in each state. The Republican presidential candidate is usually determined through a ‘winner takes all” system for the delegates in each state, while the Democratic candidate’s delegates are “winner takes all” in some states but proportional in others. In the general election, the majority of states are ‘winner takes all’.

    We have not yet had the experience of 3 party government here, with a “minority rule”, but we often have have the gridlock of one party in control of one or both houses of Congress while the other party controls the presidency. The result is often quite good for fiscal restraint and moderation, but very difficult when it comes to coping with large issues like energy policy and global warming.

    This UK election is impressive in that all three candidate are credible. I tend to agree with you that if LDP runs a strong second, then electoral reform may finally begin in the UK. The LDP seems to spend a lot of time talking about minority government configurations they would not form, but the trade they should be talking is to share power in return for electoral reform.

    Whoever wins this election, it’s appears to me that the public is less fixated on policy differences than in a desire to see politicians return to humility–in addition to electoral reform, I hope that we see ethics reform and an end to the revolving door between power and corporate influence. Among the various US electoral innovations your candidates seem to have embraced, I hope they fail to embrace the horrendous power lobbying money has in obstructing progress in this country.

  2. So, my view is…

    Hung Parliament? Yes.

    Proportional Representation? Yes. We like lists up here…

    English-only votes for matters devolved elsewhere? Yes.

    Independence for Scotland? Don’t think so.

    Lib Dems? Not so sure. A bit concerned about freedom on belief and self-expression, but we really don’t know if they know what they want…

  3. Andy: In some ways I like that Nick Clegg is an atheist with a Roman Catholic wife. That says to me that he doesn’t believe but that he sees the value of faith for those who do. I also think that the Church of England should be disestablished. The church has no place being so caught up in the state, especially in a multi cultural society.

    I worry about people who worry about their freedoms in a secular society. What is it people want the right to do, and at what point would it be in the interests of the state to interfere with that? I tend to take the view that people have the right to say what’s in their head and that I have the right to disagree.

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