Outside the marginals

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

Archive for the tag “election”

Commissioners for Crime and Police

Do I want a “politically elected commissioner” (where did they get that phrase?) presiding over my police force? It covers 6 local authorities – five are urban and damn near Tory free zones, the remaining council can’t really decide what it is but it is rural with distinctive problems and issues. At the moment the Police Authority has representatives from all areas on it and all (major) political persuasions are represented at the top table together with a leavening of non-party members. Barring a freak of turnout the commissioner will be elected from the urban area and will (with a struggle) get their mind around most of the problems of the urban areas. Read more…

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By George (2), a Bradford Spring!

Another George is in the headlines and outside the marginals a parliamentary seat has changed hands. (Ref: George Galloway wins Bradford West by-election,). BBC News 30 Mar 2012).  Unfortunately I suspect it is a one-off, but underlying this result there may be a “crack in the dam”. Read more…

In a Pact Programme …

I am still amazed by the way that the media still can’t get their mind around the implications of having a coalition government.  Some members of the public are not doing to well either.

They seem determined to find winners and losers in the Queen’s Speech.  We seem to have two-party leaders who for better or worse (and I have my doubts) have thrown in their lot with each other. Have Cameron or Clegg betrayed their followers?  Or did the Labour leadership (by its negotiating stance) betray its followers?

No one “won” the election, (despite some Tories claiming their, almost feudal, “right” to rule,) so no one party can “have their way”.  So the alternative is either complete stalemate or a coalition and that means compromise.

Read more…

Parliament or Government?

There seems to be a lot of heat about the 55% dissolution lock, and this seems to arise from confusing a vote “of no confidence” (in the Government) and a vote “to dissolve” (Parliament). Read more…

New Politics, new parties?

Behind the Conservative Liberal Democrat Coalition, there may be a nascent political development.

This is actually a Liberal-Christian Democrat Coalition where the Social Democrats in the Liberal-Democrat party have been railroaded by the Whiggish Liberals, and the Tories in the Conservative Party have been railroaded by the Christian Democrats.  In the Liberal Democrats it looks to be the “Orange Book” Liberals running the show, and in the Conservatives Cameron was certainly trying to sound “one-nation-ish” outside Downing Street yesterday.  The “Soggies” as the old Liberal Party used to refer to the Social Democrats are no-where, ditto most of the toxic Tories.

They may all cling together to make it work, but under a reformed voting system (such as STV*), the parties could split into their constituent parts (ditto Labour between Socialists & Democratic Socialists).  Then we, the electorate, could express more precisely the flavour of representative that we want, which could lead to more comfortable coalitions.

So take your pick

  • Tebbitt Tories
  • Cameron Christian Democrats
  • Laws Liberals
  • Shirley Williams Social Democrats
  • David Miliband Democratic Socialists
  • Scargill Socialists

The stitch up or the new politics?

“Prime Ministers should be voted into 10 Downing Street by the people of Britain, not because their party has stitched up some deal”
David Cameron, in Essex – 24th April 2010

The idea that we elect a Prime Minister is a fiction (aided by X factor style debates).  We elect MPs (however imperfectly) and the Prime Minister is in effect indirectly elected by them because he or she has to command a majority in the House of Commons.  When one party has a majority we get the pre-stitched up choice of that party; when no party has the majority the stitch up has to be done after the event.

So this boils down to: Do we want:

  1. a parliamentary system, where we elected representatives and they in effect elect the government – if so how do we want to see the method of electing that parliament improved, or
  2. a genuine presidential system, where our ballot paper says Brown, Cameron, Clegg (Foggy, Compo and Cleggy) and we elect a “presiding minister” directly (who then appoints the executive) with a separate election for the legislature?

The latter could lead to a minority “presiding minister” with absolute power, or under AV, “presiding ministers” who will always be from the left or from the right. See-Saw politics with a conspiracy of acceptance between left and right because each knows they will get their inevitable turn.  That pushes me back towards favouring a parliamentary system, hopefully elected under a system that means my vote counts and I can choose to support (or not support) an individual rather than a party list*.  Then we need to be more adult in our election campaigning and get away from the cult of presentation and personality (over principle and policy) caused by X-factor style debates.

In a democracy, we must tolerate a range of views; the corollary of that is that we have to accept that governments which do not get a clear majority have to “compromise” (possibly a more appropriate term than “stitch up”).

The Aftermath III (of ?)

The press today seem to be almost uniformly condemning Gordon Brown and calling for a Conservative Government. I also understand some Sky correspondents are having a melt-down.  They seem to be of the view that 36% of the vote gives a party a near-divine right to rule and anything else is illegitimate. A conservative on the World at One (BBC Radio 4) has just described the Conservatives as “the majority party”; I think someone does not understand even the First Past the Post voting system.  They also seem to be of the view that, because Clegg said during the campaign that it would be sensible in the event of a hung parliament to talk to the largest party, he is committed to rolling over and supporting the Conservatives.

I don’t think Gordon Brown had any choice, but it has given rise to some interesting quirks. I also think that Clegg is in a no-win situation.  Both have to play out their given roles. Read more…

The Aftermath II (of ?)

So discussions are continuing and the press are baying either for a government or for Gordon Brown’s blood.  They say “the markets” will take it very badly if we have not got a government by the time they open on Monday.

I would rather we took a few days longer to get a government that may last a few months longer – which is what happens elsewhere.  Meanwhile, the press should remember that the Queen’s ministers must continue the government until a new one able to command a majority in the Commons emerges.

As for the markets, they need to seriously chill out a little. Read more…

Electoral Maths and Legitimacy

Time to push the numbers around:

Total seats in Parliament, 650
less non participating:      6 (5 Sinn Fein & the Speaker)
Participating Seats        644
Votes required for an effective majority = 644/2 : 322+1

Conservatives Seats announced 305 (BBC 306 figure includes Speaker)
plus expected to win in         1 Thirsk by-election
Subtotal                      306
plus Ulster Cons & Unionists    0 - that was a great idea!
plus DUP                        8 - here's to the pork barrel
Total poss. Conservative Camp 314 - 19 Short

Possible Opposition
Labour                        258
Liberal                        57
SDLP                            3
Alliance party of NI            1
Sub total                     319 (representing 52% of the vote)
                                  - 4 short of a majority
Scottish Nationalists 6
Plaid Cyrmu           3
Total Nationalist               9
Green                           1
Maximum Total non-Tory camp   329

(Check 329+314=643 – this compares to 644 effective votes: the difference is an Independent (anti-Tory link) Unionist who I have not allocated to either Camp)

So clearly:

  • Conservative 306, trumps Labour 258, but …
  • Labour/Liberal (and associates)  319, trumps Conservative 306, even
  • Labour/Liberal (and associates)  319, trumps Conservative + DUP 314

It comes down to how you measure legitimacy.

Does “winning” with 36% of the vote give you a “better legitimacy” than second and third place with a combined 52% of the vote?

Or does a coalition representing 52% of the popular vote have more legitimacy than any other combination?

How much weight to you give to someone who has come first?  If you argue that 36% in a predominantly three way fight is OK, is 27% legitimate in a predominantly four way fight, and 23% in a five way fight?  The Scottish Nationalist minority administration in Scotland (a predominantly four-way fight) had ~32% popular support.  Of course in Scotland the 68% non-nationalist element could (if they got their act together) vote out the Scottish Nationalist administration – because they have an approximately proportional voting system – so they hold power with the tacit consent of the representatives of the people.

36% of the popular vote giving you 47% of the seats just does not feel legitimate.  It could land us in the grease.

Polling Station Chaos

So it seems we cannot manage an election.  Faulty Ballot Papers, Insufficient Ballot Papers, Insufficient Staff to Process People Queuing, Insufficient Capacity at Polling Stations to organise a Lock-In for all those still queuing at 10:00pm.

It’s being called a scandal that people have been denied a ballot paper.  True (and embarrassingly obvious), but minor compared to the majority of us (outside the marginals) who have been given worthless ballot papers which will have no effect on the result what-so-ever.

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