Jesurgislac’s Journal

May 9, 2010

Personal opinions on electoral reform and the Lib Dem position

With the help of the 38 Degrees website, I sent this letter to 30+ “senior Lib Dems”. The subject line I chose was; Labour and LibDems have 52% of the vote & 315 seats in Parliament . I wrote:

I was surprised to find when I did Votematch on the Telegraph website that I actually supported more LibDem policies than I did Labour – though my highest match was Green. I’ve always thought of myself as a Labour voter who votes Green in my Scottish Parliament list vote.

In my constituency, the Lib Dem candidate (I gave their name) was the only one who stood a chance of beating Labour.

I wanted a Hung Parliament – exactly the situation we’re now in – because I wanted the LibDems to have the power to tell Labour, that the next five years of left-wing/liberal government depend on Labour agreeing to change the First Past the Post system of election.

There’s been a list vote and a region vote in Scotland and the result has been ten years of progressive leftwing liberal rule: unquestionably good for our country within the United Kingdon. It’s been tried, it’s worked, and we need it to happen in the UK.

It will not happen if the LibDem ally with the Tory party. I’m hearing on the news as I type that Nick Clegg will meet with David Cameron tonight and talk to his MPs tomorrow. (This was Friday.)

I tell you now, what I told the LibDem candidate earlier today: Labour said before the election that a vote for the LibDems was the same as a vote for the Tories. If Nick Clegg proves Labour correct by allying with David Cameron and giving us another right-wing government, taking us back to Tory Britain even though over half the electorate voted against that, I will never vote LibDem again. And that, in the First Past the Post system that David Cameron will keep in place in order to keep the Tories in power, will matter: I will advocate to any shaky or uncertain voter that if they want to keep the Tories out, they must vote Labour: under no circumstances must they risk voting crypto-Tory by voting LibDem.

Nick Clegg’s talk of respecting the will of the electorate, is meaningless if he is prepared to disregard the will of a 52% majority in order to get himself and his cronies seats in the Cabinet of a Conservative government.

The arithmetic of democracy

Formally, any party in the UK Parliament needs at least 326 MPs in order to have the right to form a government.

Current composition of Parliament: Conservatives, 306 seats (will be 307, when the Thirsk and Malton seat can hold its general election – they went emphatically Tory in 2005). Labour, 258 seats. Liberal Democrat, 57 seats.

The Conservatives have the largest single bloc of seats and can therefore claim the right to form a minority government – but Labour and the LibDems can outvote them (315 seats) any time both parties agree they’d rather defeat the Tories.

There’s now one Green MP, and as the Green party has never had an MP at Westminister before, they’ve got no tradition of which party to ally with: but she’s much more likely to vote with Labour or LibDem than with the Tories.

The mainland nationalist parties, Plaid Cymru (3 seats) and the Scottish National Party (SNP, 6 seats) have an informal alliance at Westminster, and are again more likely to vote with Labour or LibDem than with the Tories.

A Labour-LibDem coalition government, that could count on the support of the Plaid Cymru and the SNP and the Green MP, would have 325 seats, an effective majority, and could function against Tory opposition – for a while. This kind of government would be terribly vulnerable to challenges and obstruction, but they might be able to get one or two things done before another General Election had to be called. And what the LibDems very much want to get done, is Proportional Representation – an end to the First Past the Post system in UK government.

Whereas if the Tories get the formal support of the LibDems in full-on coalition, the ConDem coalition government would have 364 seats and be able to function as a government – though it’s really unknown what they could do, since the agreements that the Tories and the LibDems have on policy are relatively trivial, and their disagreements are profound.

The Northern Irish parties (18 MPs) add this to the mix (correction: I added up the NI MPs, made it 17, and thought to myself “didn’t they have 18?” but then thought that they might have been nipped of one MP in the past 5 years as has happened to Scotland and Wales. No: for some reason the BBC omitted the Ulster Unionist MP for North Down.)

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP, 8 seats) traditionally support the Conservatives. They have 8 seats, and the Tories can likely count on them at least to preserve them as a government, if it comes to that: so the Tories can really count on 315 seats.

The Social Democratic & Labour Party (SDLP, 3 seats) are the Irish nationalists: they’re the DUP’s natural opposition, so in effect they whittle the effect of the DUP’s support down to 5 seats, providing they care one way or another.

Sinn Fein, the IRA’s party (5 seats), are the Irish nationalists who won’t swear the oath of allegience that would allow them to take their 5 seats in Parliament, so in this situation the main thing about them is that the Westminister parliament is effectively 645 seats – any party that can muster a vote of at least 323 MPs can defeat a vote of no confidence. (Unless, of course, the Sinn Fein take a look at the potential power this hands them, and decide to find a way to take the oath in order to be able to offer their 5 votes to one mainland-UK party or another.)

The Alliance party have never sent an MP to Westminister before [correction: not since the early 1970s], and whether she’ll vote with the SDLP or abstain or even vote with the DUP, is really an unknown.

Plus one Ulster Unionist MP whom I’d completely overlooked!
Demo for Democracy 8th May 2010

May 6, 2010

Voting for democracy

The first election for which I had the right to vote was in 1987. I voted Labour. The incumbent was Conservative. The Labour candidate got in, and held the seat till this year, though (thanks to the expenses scandal – he was one of the embarrassing claims rather than one of the shocking ones) he won’t be standing this year.

Since then I’ve never missed voting in any election I had a right to vote in: UK Parliament, European Parliament, local council, or Scottish Parliament. My great-aunt turned 21 in 1929, the first year in the UK that women had the vote on the same terms as men: her first General Election would have been 30 May 1929, and I expect she voted Conservative, but Labour got in. Still, though she was quite aware that neither myself nor my sister nor her niece, our mother, would be voting the same way she was (lefties all of us) she was adamant that we should vote.

This year is the first year since goodness knows how long that none of the pundits or the bookies have really been sure who would be in government in Westminster the next day. (Seriously. 1992, it had to be either Labour or Conservative, and it ended up being Conservative: 1974, Labour formed a minority government: but mostly, really, you know.) But now?

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