Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

The Aftermath

Well I have had at least six hours sleep, breakfast and a bit of exercise – which probably makes me more competent to pontificate than most of those on the television.

Random headlines:

  1. Caroline Lucas elected for the Greens in Brighton Pavilion – hopefully a breath of fresh air; I hope she can endure the House of Commons – she could find it a torrid friendless place. It sounds as if she is resigning her place in the European Parliament – and her replacement is to be plucked off a party list! (Not their fault, but indicative of the way that parties like to keep an iron grip on the choice of our “representatives”).
  2. Sarah Teather holds on to a seat in Brent Central after a mammoth count – a cuddly political thug – if that is not a contradiction in terms.
  3. Independents in BlaenauGwent, and Wyre Forest lose out.
  4. The Liberal Vote share rises (by about 1% at the moment), but their seats go down by about 10%.  Fits with our lottery voting system.  I suspect there was a squeeze on their support (or a lot of it stayed at home because it realised it could not elect Liberal MPs).  Plus a lot of their support is spread around – particularly outside the marginals.
  5. In places the administration has been a shambles – talk of a “Victorian system” overtaken by modern day demands.  Well as long as they do not exchange it for a modern American system with rigged registration, voting machines that are programmed by supporters of the Republicans, and which are not transparent and leave elections to be decide by “hanging chads”.  The “Victorian system” (in terms of polling stations, ballot papers, and physical counting) works well if you staff it appropriately, and can arrange for “lock-ins” for those still queuing at “the end of polling” – it is visible and transparent.  I would, however, want to see tightening of the registration and postal voting system.

So what goes?

The Tories are claiming Labour “have lost their mandate”; but, we are not electing a government and no party can get a “mandate for government” from the voters.  We have elected (however imperfectly) a hung parliament.  It should be up to that parliament to select a government and then confirm it by voting on a Queen’s speech.

The Conservatives are in a bit of a hole; they say they do not like PR because it leads to back-room discussions after an election and indecisive results.  So presumably they will not be indulging in back-room discussions and will try and use their divisive result to run a minority administration – if they get the chance.

I share the view that there is no way that the Conservatives and Liberals could agree a programme that would add up to a coalition programme for government.  Nick Clegg has said (per BBC News website, Clegg ‘disappointed’ at Lib Dem results, 7 May 2010 11:30:

“It is now for the Conservative Party to prove that it is capable of seeking to govern in the national interest,” …

And he called once again for the UK’s electoral system to be reformed, saying it was “broken” and “simply doesn’t reflect the hopes and aspirations of the British people”.

It sounds as even if Cameron was willing to grant a referendum on PR (which would stick in his throat), he could not carry his party.  I also suspect that they would not trim aspects of their programme (such as the Inheritance Tax cut for the very rich) to demonstrate that “we are all in this together”.  I cannot see him meeting Clegg’s “national interest test”

These were “fairness in our society; responsibility in providing stability and growth to an economy at a time particularly of growing uncertainty, as we have seen in recent hours and days in the economy in the world around us; and real change to the way we do politics.”

ref: Clegg as in previous reference

So I suspect that Cameron will want to go with a minority Conservative administration.  The maths currently look promising if fragile.  For a short while the Liberals could claim justification in shouting and screaming from the sidelines (and not get blamed for the economic pain).  However, if it all becomes unworkable and shambolic, and Cameron decides to “go to the country and ask for a workable majority” (shades of October 1974), he may gain just such a majority by slaughtering the Liberals.  The Liberals are in a very precarious position.

I suspect that the Press will, on the whole claim that “decisive” Government (however divisive) by a party with 36% support is better than Coalition Government by two parties commanding 52% support.  But that reflects more the prejudices of our press than any understanding of British ideas of legitimate power.

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