Absolute-ism

Let me declare some interests.  I’d vote LibDem.  I think First Past the Post (FPTP) is wrong.  I failed to vote because I’m on my Masters and was pushing deadlines as the registration deadline came around.  I’m going to volunteer to help in the next election as a neutral counter/admin person if they’ll let me.  (So, I will not be able to canvass/distribute leaflets I think, but of course no-one would interfere with my right to vote of have an opinion as long as I didn’t try to influence others during any volunteering time.  Fair enough).

I should also say that I learned the hard way, in Student Politics, that I’m not actually very sophisticated about politics.  In this area I am simple.

I see a problem in British Politics that I had heretofore not perceived.  It is the absolutist approach.  It is clear to me now that a party in power, that is, to be clear, one with a majority in parliament, expects to be able to carry out its programme without interference, simply because it has a majority in parliament.

Let’s examine this a little more closely.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/election2010/results/ shows the 2010 results.  (Tabled also here for convenience).

FULL UK SCOREBOARD

Party Seats Gain Loss Net Votes % +/-%
Conservative 306 100 3 +97 10,706,647 36.1 +3.8
Labour 258 3 94 -91 8,604,358 29.0 -6.2
Liberal Democrat 57 8 13 -5 6,827,938 23.0 +1.0
Democratic Unionist Party 8 0 1 -1 168,216 0.6 -0.3
Scottish National Party 6 0 0 0 491,386 1.7 +0.1
Sinn Fein 5 0 0 0 171,942 0.6 -0.1
Plaid Cymru 3 1 0 +1 165,394 0.6 -0.1
Social Democratic & Labour Party 3 0 0 0 110,970 0.4 -0.1
Green 1 1 0 +1 285,616 1.0 -0.1
Alliance Party 1 1 0 +1 42,762 0.1 +0.0
UK Independence Party 0 0 0 0 917,832 3.1 +0.9
British National Party 0 0 0 0 563,743 1.9 +1.2
Ulster Conservatives and Unionists – New Force 0 0 1 -1 102,361 0.3 -0.1
English Democrats 0 0 0 0 64,826 0.2 +0.2
Respect-Unity Coalition 0 0 1 -1 33,251 0.1 -0.1
Traditional Unionist Voice 0 0 0 0 26,300 0.1
Christian Party 0 0 0 0 18,623 0.1
Independent Community and Health Concern 0 0 1 -1 16,150 0.1 +0.0
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition 0 0 0 0 12,275 0.0
Scottish Socialist Party 0 0 0 0 3,157 0.0 -0.1
Others 1 1 1 0 319,891 1.1 0.0
Turnout 29,653,638 65.1 4.0

After 649 of 650 seats declared.

Now, thing is, nobody, no one party that is, won. They did not get the majority needed to for a majority government.  The Conservatives got 36.1% of the popular vote, so they are the largest by seats and by vote share.

We are told that that under FPTP, they usually have a 42% or 43% share of the vote.  At that point they have a majority of the seats too, and can force through whatever legislation they want.

That does not seem like good government to me.  (I’d be saying this the other way around as well, if it were Labour, so it’s not about not wanting the Tories, which I don’t, see declaration of interests above, this is about the numbers, about democracy and government).  It hardly seems to be the democratic ideal that the minority get to foist their opinion on the majority, who don’t want it.  Yet, we seems to have had this system for years.  It is what all the journos call “strong government.”  Ah, strong government is the euphemism for the tyranny of the few against the majority.  I.E. the markets and bankers know where they are at because there is a single more or less unstoppable political force in charge.

Alright, so I don’t like that idea.  It is the absolute-ism that I refereed to in the title of this piece.  And the parties want it, because they can get their way.  Bad.

So, what is the alternative?

It seems to be a so called “Rainbow Alliance”.  It would be “everyone else”, those who attend and can be counted, against the Tories.  numerically this is better, it could account for 52%-53% of the popular vote.  And it would be a multitude of voices.  But it has been critisised because it would give smaller parties, a disproportionate voice.  That remains to be seen, but it seems, from commentators, (again, on the BBC), that the nationalist parties would seek to ringfence cuts in spending to just England.  Is that right, would they be so irresponsible?  Wales and Scotland both have minority government, in as far as they have it and they seem to get on ok.  In fact, they seem to get on better than ok, Scotland has no Student fees, for example, and makes moves to look after the elderly from the public purse.  Putting aside the rights and wrong of these measures, they must be doing ok if they can do this.  (Remember that Scotland spend 10x as much on its parliament building as it meant to so it’s no bed of roses, nothing is perfect.)

But when all is said and done, it would be a majority of the population that voted for whatever came out of it.  Is this any better?

I suggest not.

I suggest that even when 50% of the population is voting for one party, we are disenfranchising the rest.  We are subjecting them to a disempowerment that is inappropriate in a 21st century democracy. Every time we empower a party to act without regard for the rest of the population, we are leaving half of the country behind in disagreement.  There is no redress, no compromise, no conciliation.

In this respect, the parties, all of them, act like spoiled children, they must have it their way or not at all.  There is no clearer demonstration of this than the current negotiations, and Clegg is right in there.

While I take a position on say Alternative Voting (AV), I realise that despite Tweets asking the LibDems not to vote for it, there is a compromise, and AV might be it.

Parties seems to be unable to make compromises.  They want it their way.

Well here is a thing Political Parties.  We the people want it our way.  We don’t vote presidentially, we vote for our local MP.  We want a multitude of voices, arguing until agreement in parliament.  (Obviously that is my opinion about what “we the people” want, maybe it is wrong.)

Maybe that means compromise.  Maybe that means having a government that is shaped like a lot of other governments in the world, a government of real votes in parliament and real compromise.

Welcome to a whole new world.

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