British politics – what an intolerable faf! And the result is “The Apples and Oranges Coalition…”
My understanding of politics is limited and always has been – In Australia, where voting is compulsory, I never registered to vote and escaped the bother of walking to the poll booth a few hundred meters up the road. It’s only since I married a Brit that I’ve been exposed to British politics, and it’s only due to the ridiculousness of it all that I’m perking up and paying attention.
Apparently I could have voted, as a commonwealth citizen resident in the UK, but only discovered this on election day – a little bit late.
For the sake of my own understanding, I’ve dissected the names of the parties joined in coalition to garner a greater understanding of their general views and disparities.
Conservativism: “is a political and social philosophy that says that traditional institutions work best and society should avoid radical change” – I loath and detest conservatives. Women’s rights, gay rights, racial equality, etc… all hindered by conservatives.
Liberalism: “The belief of the importance of liberty and equality” – In Australia the Liberals are essentially the right wing conservatives, so it’s a bit of a mental exercise to give the Lib Dem’s a chance as a relatively left wing party. Interestingly enough, Liberalism is pro-equality, whereas conservatives are against change, including equality…
Democratic: “rule of the people or rule by many” – Considering Britain is apparently a democracy this ingredient is slightly mute. “We are all democrats” they would say…
One thing which has always done my head in about American politics is how left wing voters need to compromise in order to minimize damage – needing to vote for the best of the worst, the lesser of two evils.
On the 1st of November in 2004 Michael Moore wrote a letter to his list titled “One Day Left”. In the 2004 election left wing voters favoured Ralph Nader, but because everybody wanted Bush out so badly, even Nader’s own party told people to vote for Kerry.
“Ralph’s own party, the Green Party, would not endorse his run this year. That’s because those of us who want to build a third party in this country know that the only way to do this is to build bridges with those who believe in the issues Nader believes in. But not one of those people will sacrifice the chance to remove George W. Bush from the White House on Tuesday. The choice here is clear: do we join with our friends, or do we piss on them?”
The implication here is that by voting for Nader it reduces the chance to elect the lesser of two evils. Something is wrong in an electoral system where you have to vote for someone other than your primary choice for fear of undermining your “lesser of two evils”.
Just days prior to the general election, the Labour party in some constituencies was urging its voters to vote Liberal Democrats… to reduce the chance that the conservatives would win those seats. This sounds very similar to circumstances in the US.
Something is also wrong in an electoral system where a party can gain 23% of the total votes, but only 8.7% of seats in parliament – This doesn’t represent the publics choices.
Further, had Labour and the Lib Dems formed a coalition, with 52% of the total vote they still wouldn’t (according to British politics) hold a majority. Odd!
Something is also very wrong when just two parties get 99.01% of the total vote! This was the situation in the US in 2004, and there was no opportunity for a third party to join the fray. While this isn’t the case in the UK, simply due to the fact that you vote for your local candidate rather than a head figure, the inherent problems remain.
The fair and logical solution is preferential voting – “a type of ballot structure used in several electoral systems in which voters rank a list or group of candidates in order of preference”
And this is how it works: “First, all the number ‘1’ votes are counted for each candidate. If a candidate gets more than 50% of the formal first preference votes then they are immediately elected.
If no candidate has an absolute majority, the candidate with the fewest votes is excluded. These votes are then transferred to the other candidates according to the second preferences shown by voters on these ballot papers.
If still no candidate has an absolute majority, again the remaining candidate with the fewest votes is excluded and these votes are transferred. This process will continue until one candidate has more than half the total votes cast and is declared ‘elected’.”
The benefit here is that voters can vote for their primary choice, and then vote for their “lesser of two evils” with their second preference. Smaller parties and independent candidates now get a really honest chance to be elected, and voters don’t concede their need and right to both vote for their first choice, but also to cover their backs with a solid second choice.
Liberal Democrats voters are more likely to preference the labour party than they are conservatives, and if just the liberal democrats votes had been preferences, labour would have had the victory.
If labours votes in losing electorates were preferenced, the liberal democrats would have won twice as many seats.
The moronic british national party are more likely to preference the conservatives, but they get so few (ignorant) voters, they really aren’t worth considering.
As an example – in Dudley South where the conservatives won with 43.1% of the vote, labour scored 33% and the liberal democrats took 15.7% – It’s fair to guess the lib dem voters would rather Labour remain in power than the conservatives take the seat, and would more than likely preference labour – giving labour 48.7% of the votes. Split the 8.2% of UKIP votes down the middle, and Labour wins that seat!
This isn’t an isolated example, in fact it was the first conservatives seat I looked at. A more interesting seat is the Bridgwater & West Somerset constituency – where preferential voting would yield much much closer figures.
But moving on from electoral process – Liberal Democrats voters have been quite disappointed with their choice of coalition, but I think they’ve done something rather sneaky. They’ve turned their 57 seats into disproportionate power in government. Forcing a deal with the conservatives that is far less conservative than the English peoples would have had to put up with otherwise.
Would a lib-dem-labour coalition have been more appropriate? Their policies are more equal, but I think Nick Clegg simply used his bargaining position between the two parties to get the best deal for his and his parties voters.
Nick Clegg at question time will be interesting, answering questions from a lib dem perspective on behalf of the Apples and Oranges Coalition.
Its bizarre, its interesting, it British politics.