A View From Middle England - Conservative with a slight libertarian touch - For Christian charity and traditional belief - Free Enterprise NOT Covert Corporatism

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

General Election or General Selection?

The general election is nearly upon us. The British people will have their say in whether the Prime Minister gets the bum's rush or gets the cherry on the cake. Personally I'm hoping for the former. However, there may be a nasty sting in the tail, or will it be tale?

The simple truth is that Britain is a democracy in a muddle. Most people think they are voting for a party to be in government. This will be enhanced even more by the three leaders going live with their "presidential" debates. But Britain doesn't have a proportional representation system. It has a simply majority system based on individual constituencies. And currently there is a multi-party scramble to elect MPs. The British people have a dog's dinner of a system, inherited from the grand old days when people were either little Liberals or little Conservatives of Gilbert and Sullivan style. When there were two parties it all made sense. Now its not quite senseless, more a bit sensitive when adding up the democratic benefits.

There is talk of a hung parliament. There are mutterings from the right that David Cameron may just not get enough seats. There are mutterings from the left that Gordon Brown will have to do a deal with the LibDems. But it's also said that Nick Clegg doesn't want to be with Brown, he'd prefer Cameron. The trouble here is that Clegg's backbenchers won't sit with the Tories. It has all the makings of 1974, except that there are now far more parties vying for votes, so we could end up having elections just giving us hung parliaments.

In my own case of Solihull, I am completely divorced from the Labour Government and its antics. No Labour candidate will ever win here. This is a battle between the LibDems and the Tories. Whoever wins will not have any effect on the Labour benches in the House of Commons. And that is the point. We elect MPs in individual consituencies. Some could win by getting less that a third of the vote. So a skewed result at Westminster is perfectly possible. In technical terms the pundits call this a hung parliament. Opinion polls mean very little, except that they provide an income to pollsters.

Gordon Brown could be defeated in the popular vote but get enough MPs for him to do a deal. How far will he stretch his honour? It is up to the Prime Minister to continue or to resign. Mere voting does not necessarily push him out of office. It is perfectly possible for him to convince the Queen that he can indeed "command a majority of his peers". Those MPs may well be a rag-bag of assorted parties or form the basis of a nod-and-a-wink agreement, but Gordon Brown's political arithmatic is not connected at all to the adult suffrage of the people.

So in the scheme of things winners can be losers and losers can get a second chance. General elections may have a tortoise and hare aspect, but this particular election could well ressemble a farmload of animals suddenly let loose. Who ends up where is impossible to guess!


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