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Jun 172017
 

The election result is in, and the Tories have failed; specifically they failed to increase their majority and indeed no longer constitute a majority. Yet the alternatives have failed too.

The likelihood is that the Tories will form the next government propped up by the reactionary Unionists from Northern Ireland. We can crow over May not getting her increased majority, but she is still in number 10. Which means more years of Tory misrule.

So what went wrong?

Well we could argue that factors such as different attitudes to Brexit, doubt over the Labour leader’s leadership, etc. But there are two big factors.

Firstly the media lies by the Tory press (which seems to be pretty much most of them). Whilst the press is owned by a clique of super-rich Tory supporters, the good news is that the newsprint industry is slowly fading into irrelevance – no doubt helped by their ridiculous bias. And tasteless journalism – the sort of which led to the Sun being boycotted in Liverpool.

Secondly, and perhaps the biggest aspect is that a large segment of the working class has bought into the big Tory lie – that they support the ordinary working family and small businesses. In reality Tories support the super rich with their tax cuts, and don’t give a damn about the working class. The real working class.

Which is not what most people think of when they hear that phrase; it is not just the horned handed agricultural labourer and the worn out factory worker, but it also includes office workers, lawyers, “knowledge workers”, etc. It is everyone who works for a living, Somehow workers in the Tory heartlands are fooled into thinking that the Tories are on their side.

What the Tory alternatives need to do is to persuade these deluded workers that voting Tory helps only the super-rich, and not by painting themselves a fetching shade of blue (as New Labour did).

May 112010
 

There are those who claim that the possibility of the Tories and the Liberals combining into a coalition, or worse Labour and the Liberals combining into a coalition is undemocratic because it would not be what the public has voted for.

Perhaps, but it is no less democratic than a parliament with a clear majority. We do not have right to select the Prime Minister, just our representative in parliament. We expect our representative to vote for (actually technically it’s not vote against) the leader of his or her party. It is interesting to note that there is nothing in our system that allows for MPs changing parties – if you voted for a Labour party candidate, he gets elected and then immediately joins the Tory party, there is nothing to be done – your representative has been chosen even if you do not agree with his defection!

In reality, it is the elected MPs who decide who the Prime Minister is to be. What effectively happens is that the Queen (or King) selects a candidate Prime Minister. Although the Queen could pick whatever MP she wants as Prime Minister, in practice she selects the obvious choice – basically the leader of the majority party (or coalition). The Prime Minister then takes a “Queen’s Speech” to parliament and the MPs either vote in favour, or against – in which case the Prime Minister basically isn’t accepted by parliament so has to resign and force another election.

The key worry of those who claim that we could end up with an undemocratic result is with the possibility of a Labour-Liberal coalition – a “coalition of the defeated” – forming the next government. Is this fair ?

If you put add together the Labour, Liberal and nationalist MPs, they more than outnumber the Tory MPs, so even under our current electoral system, the hypothetical Labour-Liberal coalition is actually more representative of the will of the people than a Tory government.

After all, all the major parties have lost this election – Labour, Liberals, and Tories. The Tories have the largest number of MPs but not a majority. They cannot claim to have won this election any more than Labour can, because under our system “winning” is effectively having more than 326 MPs. And they do not.

If we end up with any coalition, it will be a coalition of the defeated. And yes the possible Tory-Liberal coalition is just as much a coalition of the defeated as a Labour-Liberal coalition would be.

May 082010
 

So after some 36 years, we have a “hung” parliament again with no party in overall control. There’s a joke in there somewhere to do with hanging politicians from lampposts, but I cannot quite see how to fit it in. Except to say that the politicians should sort out some sort of consensus government in a fairly short order.

The overall effect of the way that the public voted is that we effectively voted for a coalition government – no single party obtained a majority so the only stable government will be a coalition government. There are people going around saying that only the Tories have the moral right to form a government because they are the single largest party (on just 35% of the popular vote!); those that believe that misunderstand that we are in a “balanced parliament” situation where it is the largest coalition that has the votes to form a government.

Without second guessing the results of the negotiations, there are some obvious possibilities.

Conservatives On Their Own As  Minority Government

This is the option that could quite easily see the Conservatives in the electoral wilderness for another generation. Everyone can see that the only sensible option for a stable government would be to form a coalition to ensure a relatively stable majority. Opting to go it alone, would indicate that the Conservatives are unwilling or unable to share power with any other party despite it being in the best interests of the country.

A minority government of this kind is likely to be so unpopular with both the other politicians and the public that it would be unlikely to last for very long and quite possibly would result in the Tories being pushed to third or fourth place in the polls at the next election.

Frankly it does not seem very likely – I would expect that if the Liberals cannot get a good deal with the Conservatives, they will go across the road to Labour.

Con-Lib Pact

This combination seems a little unlikely to be honest – a coalition between unrepentant reactionaries and progressives ? The discussions are going on as I write this, and it is quite possible that some sort of agreement could result in such a coalition government. But there is a fundamental conflict between the two parties – Liberals are very interested in electoral reform, and the Conservatives are very much in favour of the current system which has seen them form the majority of governments in the 20th century.

If such a coalition forms, I see it as only lasting until electoral reform has taken place … or when the Liberals realise that the Tories promises on electoral reform were just a big con. It is also likely to be a coalition with a considerable level of bad feeling – whatever the leaders might feel, the ordinary MPs and ordinary supporters just are not going to like it very much.

Lib-Lab Pact

These two parties are almost natural allies in forming a coalition government as both are progressive parties. And the resulting coalition government is likely to be more stable than a Lib-Con coalition. There are those who would say that that such a coalition would be ignoring the will of the people who have voted Gordon Brown out.

Well, they would have a point if Labour were attempting to form a minority government, but that is not what this is about. Between them, Labour and Liberal have more than 50% of the popular vote, so can quite legitimately claim that as a coalition they have a more legitimate claim on government than the Conservatives alone who have just 35% of the popular vote.

The question would be, would the Liberals go back on their word not to work with Gordon Brown, or would Labour ditch Gordon Brown and elect a new leader to work with the Liberals ? It would certainly make some kind of sense for Gordon Brown to go as a sort of symbol of the end of the Labour government. After all, whilst nobody has “won” in the old fashioned sense of getting an overall majority, it is certainly the case that Labour has lost it’s overall majority.

But the biggest problem with a Lib-Lab pact is that it would have to be a “rainbow” coalition of essentially everyone who does not want to see the Tories back in charge. This adds up to around 329 MPs including the nationalist MPs from Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland (but ignoring Sinn Feinn who do not take up their seats). Whilst the nationalist MPs may not work with Labour on their own in their respected countries, they very well may support a rainbow coalition as the best way to prevent the Tories from getting in.

Con-Lab Coalition

Well it makes sense numerically, but can anyone really see this one being a realistic possibility ? Not likely.

It is fun to contemplate what may happen, but the only real answer to all the speculation is to wait and see what happens. There is an interesting possibility of electoral reform, which may very well be finally accomplished – if the Liberals stick to their guns and insist on it as a precondition for their membership of a coalition government.

And indeed it could well the that insistence that breaks any coalition between the Liberals and the Conservatives. Various comments leaked by the Conservatives indicate that they at least do not believe in electoral reform, or believe how important electoral reform is to those who believe it is vital.

If we end up with a coalition government (or a less formal arrangement that amounts to the same thing), we will end up with a government much more like governments in countries with less unfair and far more sensible voting systems. We will end up with a government much less likely to resort to extremist policies and a government much more likely to reflect the collective will of the people.

Apr 182010
 

There is a suspicion that the elections in the UK just might result in a hung parliament where no party has an overall majority. In other words no party has more MPs than all the other parties put together. In such a situation, a government formed from the largest party tends to be quite nervous as it can be thrown out by its enemies if they all manage to agree.

The preferred option is for a coalition to form out of two or more parties who can swing (if all their MPs obey the party whip) an overall majority.

However in either case, the government is not as stable as it would otherwise be. Hung parliaments usually have a poor reputation because they typically do not last very long and spend more time arguing amongst themselves rather than actually doing anything constructive.

At least in the UK. In Europe, hung parliaments are common enough that coalition government is the norm rather than the exception.

The Tories – after the first “presidential” TV debate where Nick Clegg was surprisingly effective – are suddenly banging on about how dangerous hung parliaments can be. Ignoring those scum-sucking lying politicians for the moment (at least as far as we can), are hung parliaments actually good or bad ?

Well the truth is that they do not happen enough in the UK for us to know. We do know that hung parliaments in Europe are quite common and that it does not appear to be a complete catastrophe there. Of course there will be those who point at countries like Italy and ask whether we want a government as unstable as they have. But I will also point at Italy’s economy and say that it doesn’t seem to have done much harm – Italy is the 7th largest country in the world in terms of GDP.

It is entirely possible that a hung parliament in the UK will cause a momentary loss of confidence by the financial markets, although those that panic are eventually going to be counter-balanced by those with cooler heads that realise that the UK is not going to go bust just because it has a potentially unstable government. It is likely that the economic effect of a certain cloud of volcanic ash will have a greater effect than a day or two of instability in the economic markets.

If we can avoid being distracted by the probably relatively minor economic problems of a hung parliament, we can look at more interesting aspects of one.

This will be an opportunity to get a government which does not let either of the old major parties (Labour and Tory) have everything their own way. Of course a coalition government will have one or other comprising the largest part, but another party – most likely the Liberals – will have a big say.

The likely result of such a hung parliament is significant electoral reform because the smaller parties are more interested in it than the old school parties who do quite well out of our archaic and undemocratic electoral system. Sure you hear of Tory and Labour plans for electoral reform, but what they plan is tinkering around the edges, and the Tory plans revolve around making the political system cheaper with the effect of making our current system even less democratic than it is at the moment.

If the thought of a hung parliament is currently making you consider one of the big two parties, perhaps you should reconsider – a hung parliament is not quite as bad as the politicians of the big two will have you believe, and the increased chance of genuine electoral reform is worth taking that risk.

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