Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Counting the winners and losers

Well, it's getting lively down in Westminster - the comings and goings of men in suits trying to work out how to move the country forward into what could be a fascinating new politics.

I just wish the BBC would stop talking about unelected Prime Ministers. We never elect a prime minister. In our system we elect an MP to represent the constituency in which we live. The leader of the largest party (someone we never elect unless we are a member of that party) is then asked by the queen to form a government and hence become Prime Minister.

Since the war, many party leaders have stood down and been replaced by another person who has become PM as a result - Blair, Thatcher, Wilson, Macmillan....

In the new politics we also need to stop talking in terms of largest party and begin to look at share of the vote since we need leadership that reflects what the majority of the nation wants. After all, that's how democracy is supposed to work. So on share of the vote, the numbers stack this way: 36.1% voted Tory, 29% voted Labour and 23% Lib Dem. So 52% - more than half the electorate who voted - expressed a preference for parties of the centre left. If we add votes for the nationalist parties in Scotland and Wales, that figure rises to around 55%

So who won the election? The honest answer was given by Ken Livingstone last night when he said 'everyone lost'; and he's right. Under our old broken, first-past-the-post system, no one got a governing majority.

But maybe we all won. If we get a government that reflects the views of a majority of the voters, haven't we all won in a way that the electorate haven't won in any election in recent history.

And a footnote. If Labour and the Lib Dems form a coalition and put a budget that proposes cuts in public spending aimed at reducing the deficit, are we really expected to believe that the Conservatives, who have been baying for such cuts, are really going to vote against it? What would that say about our politics?

And doesn't this show that in the new politics, MPs are going to have to vote on each issue as it arises in the best interests of the nation rather than narrow party interest (with implications for whipping the House of Commons). And if we want to learn it might look like, perhaps we should examine what's happened in Scotland and Wales since devolution. If we look carefully, we'll see that the world hasn't come to an end and that government has worked pretty effectively (even if we don't personally like every decision they have taken).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Looks to me that a Lib Lab coalition will be a coalition of losers and did the people really vote for it? and was electoral reform really in the voters minds when they voted ?
Its beginning to look pretty squalid at the moment Maybe we are all losers ?
I think that although it is a parliamentary system that given the debates and the election being fought on the basis of the 3 leaders personalities and policies ,it certainly WOULD be viewed by the electorate as undemocratic to foist a Balls or a Milliband on us before the next election via the union block vote and an ever declining Labour membership