Outside the marginals

A commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010, 2015 & 2017 elections (and THAT referendum)

Tomorrow’s Party

The (UK) Electoral Reform society has launched a short public consultation on what tomorrow’s party should look like.

Will Brett Head of Media at the Electoral Reform Society discusses it on Democratic Audit.

My initial thoughts in answer to their three questions are:

What are political parties for?
Ensuring consistency of a political programme. (Without this you could have a parliament of independents.)
You may gather that I am not a particular fan of the current party political structure.
What does the party of the future look like?

Depends on whether we get electoral reform that gets rid of the bogey of the “split vote” and gives voters a meaningful vote that can elect a parliament that reflects the diversity of views in the country.

Without electoral reform, political parties will become more centralised and draconian as they attempt to present a “single face” to ensure electoral success. Such parties will not have credibility.

With electoral reform (particularly with preference-expressing transferable hard-working votes and multi-member electoral units) we could see a diversity of loosely associated parties:

  • several flavours of Conservative (based on libertarian vs one nation and pro vs anti Europe)
  • two or three flavours of Labour (Socialists, Democratic Socialists, Social Democrats)
  • two or three flavours of Liberal (Libertarian Orange Bookers, Traditional late 20 Century Liberals (locally focused, slightly beard and sandals), Social Democrats)
  • plus Greens, Nationalists and one issue parties.

Such smaller parties might be more appealing to the general public (fundamentally more honest) and activists might feel “more comfortable” in their chosen party.

Coalitions would be common (no SDP-Liberal Alliance type stitch-ups required) and the churn rate of parties might be quite high – why not – the continuing existence of a party should be secondary to good government.

I find the way that parties try to impose a programme on their elected representatives in places hypocritical – you end up with ministers (or shadow ministers) insisting that black is white on Newsnight as they doggedly follow a party line in which they do not believe. Smaller parties will probably have a greater level of internal agreement and their public face will be more consistent. Now we may not like the political face of some parties, but there would be others which may closer match our beliefs. We would thus be able – with a suitable electoral system (like STV) – to elect a diversity of representatives which better reflects the diversity of views in the country.

The downside of this may be that people will not like the almost inevitable resultant coalition forming process, yet we have to recognise that we currently have secret coalition forming processes all the time within each of the main political parties.

What can parties do now to reconnect with people?

Nothing, any reform in the current situation risks them losing the ability to win elections. Turkeys do not vote for Christmas.

Create a reformed electoral system and new parties will probably arise and then the existing parties can DIE!

Possibly unduly pessimistic – but I am currently feeling very disillusioned with UK politics.

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