Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Good Election To Lose?

I've just read another of those infuriating articles which assert that this would be a good election to lose. Cobblers. This particular article is written by someone who ought to know better, Professor Norman Stone.

I think Professor Stone has been spending too much time in Turkey. The sun has clearly got to him.

If the Tories lose this election to a Lib/Lab coalition, the first thing a new government would do is to introduce PR. Not just AV, but full STV. Clegg would demand it and Brown would have to agree. And if that happened the British people can look forward to a semi permanent left of centre government.

So, no, Professor Stone, this would not be a good election for the Tories to lose. Not at all.


Unknown said...

Well it looks like we have got PR to look forward to then, doesn't it? The Tory campaign is pathetic and no surprise in that.

Tom King said...

Aside from Labour not being even a centre-left party any more, the thrust of your comment about STV is essentially that it would be terrible for the British people to have what they consistently vote for.

It's good to see the Tories continuing to fail utterly to hold the electorate in any sort of esteem - chimes well with the 'big society' idea. Not.

javelin said...

Totally agree. The worse the situation the greater the need to rectify the incumbants errors.

Michael Heaver said...

A voting system that takes Britain into the 21st century would be a very good thing.

Having grown up in New Labour's Britain with a very "strong" government, I think the prospect of coalition government is a very attractive prospect, as do many other young people I know.

Curmudgeon said...

Well, if more than 50% of the British electorate vote for a left-of-centre government, shouldn't they have one?

In reality, under an STV system, I would expect to see a major shift in voting patterns as votes for parties like the Greens, UKIP and BNP would no longer be seen as wasted, so all bets would be off.

Anonymous said...

I suppose even under STV people could vote Conservative but refuse to cast a transfer vote.

The Jenkins Commission rejected the STV system as well as the AV system - so it would be interesting to see Clegg, if ever put in that situation, accept something the former LibDem, Jenkins, ruled out.

Also apparently the counting of votes in STV is "incontestably opaque" and different counting systems can produce different results. Well that should suit Gordon then ...

Antisthenes said...

Look on the bright side if Labour Lib-Dem form the next government then when it all goes pear shape and even more so with them in charge and it will they will take the flak and could be destroyed for decades.

It is better that Labour reap what they have sown rather than the Conservatives.

Ian M said...

It would be interesting to see if such a proposal would need to be ratified by a referendum- I'm not sure they could win it because if such a coalition emerged after May 6th, the economy would go into such a downturn, the Government would be seriously unpopular by the autumn.

Oh I forgot the the Lib Dems and Labour don't do referendums they might lose

Anonymous said...

Don't be bloody ridiculous, Iain! If there were STV and the Tories gained the largest share of the vote, they'd have the automatic right to try and form a government - unlike under FPTP, when they can still be the largest party in terms of votes but second to Labour in terms of seats.

And, according to you, Nick Clegg used to be a Tory, so he might be well disposed to entering a coalition with Cameron's progressive Conservatives.

Cate Munro said...

A fate too horrific to contemplate!

Think This said...

Do you really think people would put up with a permanent left of centre gov?

No they wouldn't - if there was a proper PR system then other parties would flourish and the big 3 would fracture. UKIP would no doubt do better and the Tories and Labour may well split.

PR would be bad, but people would still be willing to vote out govs.

Unknown said...

"And if that happened the British people can look forward to a semi permanent left of centre government."

Err... as is their will. Last time I looked about 60% of the electorate were intending to vote for a centre left party (if you consider Labour to be centre left...).

wild said...

A party (namely the Liberal Democrats) who only ever get engaged and passionate about one issue, namely a change in the voting system that would put them permanently in power, does not even count as a single issue party, it is a party that is completely morally bankrupt.

Anthony Z said...

No election is a good election to lose, if you support your political party.

Whether this one is particularly bad because of the possibility of PR, I don't know. I suspect that the next Labour government will introduce PR in Westminster, whether it's on May 7th or after four terms of David Cameron.

In the long run, the Tories will lose, we will get PR, and the Conservative Party will have to start thinking about how to move closer to the centre to handle the consequences of that.

Derek Beesley said...

Imagination boggles! The only saving grace in prospect is a Conservative victory, however difficult that may now appear to be. With a LibLab pact in control not only would a new election be held up until legislation on PR had gone through, but we could also find ourselves more closely tied in to Europe - with no possibility in sight of that changing within a decade.
As a retired military man, what frightens me more is the thought of our strategic defence being delegated to the French.
Derek Beesley

Mulligan said...

Goodbye UK, hello the EUSSR regions formerly known as the UK. Funny how all these "Professors" are so incredibly stupid.

Anonymous said...

"the British people can look forward to a semi permanent left of centre government."


delanda-est said...

dear iain, in these tortured days what would be better. (i) a hung parliament or (ii) a narrow labour majority. I'm beginning to think the second for the reasons you note in this piece: though that way madness lies...

Simon Gardner said...

I’ve got news for you Iain: The majority of the British people have pretty much permanently VOTED “left of centre”.

Anonymous said...

I agree that STV or another system wouldn't be a good thing, but I dont buy that it would result in semi-permanent left of centre government. Part of the reason, IMHO why the Conservative party has done so well over the last 70 years is that the right is, in relative terms, united.

PR would have to change that, we already have UKIP as a force of sorts. Would it not be more likely that we would go from an option of Conservative or Labour to an option of Conservative/UKIP of Labour/Lib Dem?

Salmondnet said...

Sorry Iain, but even as a small (and, pre-Cameron, large) "c" conservative I think that is a staggering admission. You are tacitly acknowledging that the United Kingdom has, and will always have, a left wing majority.

If we do get PR from a Lib/Lab coalition it will be one good outcome from an otherwise dismal situation. There will have then to be a realignment on the right and a serious attempt from the right to defend and sell right wing values and policies rather than compromise them. If it can't, well that's democracy.

Should the electoral outcome be a hung Parliament the Conservatives (not Cameron, because he will be toast)would be well advised to offer The LibDems full PR immediately, with the proviso that the deal must include an English Parliament (in which the left wing majority, even with PR, would be much less certain).

Bardirect said...

Serendipity!I had the article in my left hand. Seething, I typed up the url for your blog with my right for something different and the old fool is mentioned again.

He's lost the plot!

awkwardgadgee said...

Are you sure there is a permanent left of centre majority out there in the country? Because I am not. In Fact full PR, so to speak would encourage many on "the right" who at present see no one articulating their concerns to engage and vote, although a political realignment may be needed for this to happen.

Tory, Ukip, and others could very easily mushroom in numbers after the financial carnage which would follow either a hung parliament or a LIb Lab gov, or indeed anything with the, at times, rather extreme left wing Libs involved.

Whilst I can understand your reaction to this, he might be right. Very bad news is coming along, and the messenger will be shot.

Unknown said...

I'm sorry Iain, but you're not getting away with this crap.

Lets say the votes are actually the following:-

Conservative: 35%
Labour: 30%
Lib Dem: 27%
Other: 8%

That means that over half of the voting public, 57% in fact, voted for a Centre Left government.

You're saying they shouldn't have one? The 35% should be able to override the wishes of the majority and install a centre right government?

I think you're looking for Zimbabwe Iain, and its thataway ----------> *points*

Anonymous said...

Now that Nick Boyle has won the Britain Has Got Political Talent contest, Paddy Pantsdown is promoting Nick Boyle as British Obama. The Times on-line says younger voters are excited about Nick Boyle, but as usual these young idiots forgot about the Old Men and Old Women surrounding Nick Boyle: Ming Campbell, Vince Cable, Simon Hughes, Susan Kramer, Lynn Featherstone-these are not spring chickens.

Newmania said...

Surely there would have to be a referendum ?

Silent Hunter said...

So let me get this straight?

If more than half of the electorate want a particular party, then that is somehow 'undemocratic'? More undemocratic than 25% of the electorate forcing a majority government on us all; a government that 75% of the people did NOT want.

Are you really saying that?

The clear will of the people should be ignored because it prevents the "centre-right" (whoever they might be) from ever holding power again?

Perhaps if the "centre-right" had policies that "the majority" could agree with then they would also be able to form a government - or are you admitting that the "centre-right" DON'T have that many popular policies and so are doomed to perennial opposition.

That is the arrogance that is making the LibDems so popular and you guys and Labour just can't accept it or even see it dangling in front of your faces.

The electorate are fed up with the whole pointless cycle of two old parties swapping power using a skewed voting system designed to prevent any fresh ideas being given a chance. Designed to keep us all in a continual cycle of elected dictatorship.

There's your problem guys - right there.

BTW - as an aside - ain't it great to see the sleazy, warmongering party that is Labour crumbling to dust in the bright light of of the election - reminds me of the old Christopher Lee, Dracula films where Van Cleggsing rips the curtains from the windows and the sunlight pours onto Count Gordon Brown as he thrashes around for a policy that the electorate can support and fails to grasp it as his fingers crumble into bonedust.

I love seeing the old horrors . . . Gordon Brown, Harriet HarmMen, Bella LuBallsey. Yvette Creeper, King Kongiband and the like all meet their sticky ends.

Fab! :o)

Cantstandcant said...

There you go again, to quote President Reagan. Can't have the voters getting what they want, can we? I thought it was left of centre parties that were supposed to be elitist.

sagenz said...

Iain - You are talking tosh. I generally agree with you but in this respect you are very far from the mark. Currently a Conservatives voter is worth substantially less than a Labour voter.

New Zealand and australia provide fine examples of power transferring between left and right under partly proportional systems.

Add UKIP, UUP and a Lib Dem that splits between the fiscally conservative, socially liberal and the nanny staters and you would certainly get Conservative lead governments.

Sobers said...

The reason so many people vote for left of centre parties is that they have never been held responsible for the problems their ideas and policies cause. Usually a Tory govt has to pick up the pieces and play 'Bad Dad' to the electorate's teenage tearaway. Which is what everyone was expecting would happen this time. Left of centre govt spends and borrows too much, virtually bankrupts the nation, Tories have to pick up the pieces.

Well I agree with Prof Stone. Best for the Tories to be well out of it for the next five years. Can you see a Lib/Lab pact actually cutting spending? Or not having to raise taxes massively? Or presiding over a funding crisis and sterling going through the floor?

I can see all of these happening. The Tories need to position themselves for what will come, and propound NOW the policies that will be required when the money runs out. Smaller State, lower flat rate taxes, lower regulation, leave the EU even (we won't be able to afford it) etc etc. It won't be popular now, but they will be in a prime position (whatever the voting system) to step in and implement their plans when the roof falls in (as it definitely will if we have 5 more years of Brown + Clegg).

Andy JS said...

Cameron is toast if he polls a lower share of the vote than Michael Howard did in 2005. What will have been the point of changing the party so much if you do worse than before?

FF said...

The Conservatives could of course do their own deal with the Liberals, including PR/STV etc etc.

They are not absolutely obliged to opt out of political reality.

Jabba the Cat said...

@ canvas said...

"the British people can look forward to a semi permanent left of centre government."


Permanently printing money and endlessly passing round bits of paper for ticking.

Happy as pigs in shit.

Oh what joy!

Jimmy said...

"This particular article is written by someone who ought to know better, Professor Norman Stone. "

I think you may be the first person ever to write that sentence.

Anonymous said...

"The latest YouGov poll added this question: “How would you vote on May 6 if you thought the Liberal Democrats had a significant chance of winning the election”.

The responses: Lib Dem 49%, Conservative 25%, Labour 19%.

On the assumption of uniform national swing, there would be 548 Lib Dem MPs, 41 Labour MPs and just 25 Tories.

This is obviously on the extreme end of the scale. But it's a truth from the history of the Liberal Democrats that about half of the British population WOULD vote for them IF they thought it would get them anywhere.

And of course, the paradox is that if everyone tried it just once, LibDems win by a massive landslide."

Craig Ranapia said...

I have to chucked at you naive Brits who think changing your electoral system is going to magically lead to a renaissance of trust in politicians and the political process.

Down here in New Zealand, we've had MMP for forteen years and I do (on the whole) support the status quo. But, still, politicians enjoy only slightly higher public esteem than prostitutes, used car salesmen and journalists. :)

There are arguments for proportional representation, but magical thinking shouldn't be among them.

Man in a Shed said...

What we need now is nerves of steel.

We should refuse any coalition with the Lib Dems - now before election day - and leave the [public to chose which prime minister they want, without Nick Clegg being able to play the field of possibilities.

STV would be bad and irreversible, but not a disaster. All systems develop their own equilibrium.

The left should realise that both the Lib Dems and Labour would break up under STV, as perhaps might the Conservatives.

We end up with the politics of Italy - and a bankrupt economy to match.

jailhouselawyer said...

Gobble, gobble. A good election for the Tories to lose. Turkey may soon become a Council of Europe member.

Anonymous said...

There are better versions of PR out there than STV. Take the German and NZ mixed systems for example, half the politicians in their lower houses are elected on a bog-standard single-member constituency-based FPTP system, and the remaining half are party list, so you get the benefits of constituency link *and* political expertise / party loyalty.

Also, Italy and South America offer an increasingly promising examples of how PR can be made to deliver empowered + decisive government using 'reinforced' PR - 10% of seats reserved as a 'victory premium' for the party with the highest vote share.

If there's one thing the UK needs in the way of electoral reform, it is probably mixed PR-FPTP. Oh, and a weaker whipping system and stronger committees. Just to throw that out there...

Anonymous said...

There are better versions of PR out there than STV. Take the German and NZ mixed systems for example, half the politicians in their lower houses are elected on a bog-standard single-member constituency-based FPTP system, and the remaining half are party list, so you get the benefits of constituency link *and* political expertise / party loyalty.

Also, Italy and South America offer an increasingly promising examples of how PR can be made to deliver empowered + decisive government using 'reinforced' PR - 10% of seats reserved as a 'victory premium' for the party with the highest vote share.

If there's one thing the UK needs in the way of electoral reform, it is probably mixed PR-FPTP. Oh, and a weaker whipping system and stronger committees. Just to throw that out there...

RJF said...


Three comments:

First: your commentators are generally right: the will of the people is the important thing. Unfortunately, we have to accept that people do vote for stupid things.

Second: there is no way that the current situation remains static under such circumstances. There are right wing folk in the Labour Party (albeit dangerously authoritarian in some cases...) and the Lib Dems, UKIP would gain a political voice, representation and so on.

Third: the economic horror story that is unfolding means that whoever wins risks long-term oblivion anyway. It's better to lose battles to win wars.

Look at this way: 35-36% of the population is rock solid Tory, 3-4% is UKIP, some of us (2-3%?) vote tactically to keep Labour out (Scotland and Lib Dem constituencies are good examples). So, under straight PR, where your vote really counts, the Centre-Right could be at 43% immediately. Throw in an economic crisis, the total collapse of the Labour Party and a Conservative Party which believes in conservative values. You telling me there aren't any Lib-Lab opportunists who won't migrate to the right rather than the Left? In fact, you could be looking at the return to a two-party system quicker under FPTP than under STV and all the other PR formulae.

This is an excellent election to lose - unless you are the Labour Party.

Silent Hunter said...

Man in a shed:

We end up with the politics of Italy - and a bankrupt economy to match.

No No! NO!!!

Why is that some folk ALWAYS point to Italy as the paradigm of PR . . . surely not because it ISN'T?

Why not point to Germany or Norway or Sweden or . . . get my drift?

But then; that wouldn't suit your hidden agenda now would it.

People want PR because they're sick to death of the ludicrously undemocratic FPTP system which allows a 100+ seat majority government on just 25% of the votes.

Fot Gods sake grow up and lets have a bloody adult debate about it rather than saying. . . . "Oooo; Italy have PR - Italy are corrupt - PR must therefore be crap"

tvstudies said...

Hi Mr Dale, something has to be done about our painfully unfair electoral system. Labour could still get most seats, despite being a number of percentage points below the Conservatives, and having anything below 50% of the popular vote and taking power in this first past the post system also takes the Michael somewhat. In the last election nearly two thirds of the electorate voted against Labour, but Labour still got in. In 1997, it was 54%. That isn't democracy in my book.

Roddy said...

C'mon Iain, you can't tell me you really believe that a voting system that could feasibly give one party the most seats when they come third is in any way a system woth hanging on to.

I'm afraid your views on this one are the politics of self (party) interest. But then again, aren't they all?

Unknown said...

Analysis of the '05 election shows that the Tories do no worse under STV than under FPTP - in fact, they get a better geographical distribution with the terribly disenfranchised Cornish and Scottish Tories finally getting some local representation.

The main thing that happens is 100 seats pass from Labour to the Lib Dems.

Tories have nothing to fear from STV. It was a tactical error not to support the Lib Dem amendment to the referendum bill.

And let's face it, a lot of the current problems in parliament can be attributed at least in part to bed-blocking MPs in safe seats thinking they are entitled to do as they want.

neil craig said...

The assumption that given a democratic electoral system the people of Britain would vote for a Lab/Lib leftist coalition not only shows a lack of faith in your own ideas but flies in the face of the last election under a democratic system - the Euro election. The Tories came first & UKIP 2nd.

I suspect in any contest where the LibDems fight UKIP on a level playing field euroceptic, pro-nuclear, free market, immigration discouraging liberals will beat europhile, ban & subsidise, pro-immigration, anti-enterprise, anti-nuclear, windmilling illiberals every time.

A "LibDem" victory in May followed by PR would be the party's high water mark.

ChristalPalace said...

Iain, even though you and I don't see eye to eye politically, I normally enjoy reading your blog. However I cannot believe that you would sink to such depths, as to believe that acting on the wishes of the people would be bad for them.

Are you Sir Humphrey in disguise or something?

Chris and Laura said...

Like a number of others in this thread I'm not sure that we would get a permanent left of centre government under PR. I think the British (certainly the English) are instinctively conservative - but the majority don't want to vote for the Conservative Party which has all kinds of problematic baggage. FPTP gives established parties a permanent advantage. It's incredibly difficult for Green, UKIP or BNP to win even a single seat because voters know that even if they support those parties it's a wasted vote under FPTP. A more sophisticated voting system would break down the dominance of the established parties and enable people to vote for what they believe in rather than to defeat the party they like least. A lot of Labour voters are not particularly left wing. If they were no longer focused on keeping the Tories out I think they'd probably find someone else to vote for - quite possibly a right of centre party in some cases. We could see some fragmentation in the established parties as they are currently broad coalitions held together by dependence on an established FPTP brand. I think the electoral landscape would change fundamentally under PR. Ironically, although the Lib Dems are the champions of PR I think they potentially have the most to lose as their political identity is less obvious than Labour or Conservative and their core vote is smaller.