The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

What Price Democracy?

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 8, 2010 @ 09:42

Elections have consequences.

The consequence of this one seems to be that there will be a new government.

But at what cost?

The Lib Dems are right to take David Cameron’s offer extremely seriously. It is right to think carefully about both a) what are the must haves; and b) what are the can’t haves.

Because that’s what post-election discussions are all about. Clearly, any programme for government has got to pass both Lib Dem and Conservative muster. There will be some dilution as the process of consensus moves forward, but broadly the policies will survive.

But – with this in mind – I actually think that there is only must have.

I’m sorry to all of those Liberal Democrats hungry for power, but we cannot accept the tainted result of an illegitimate system as any kind of mandate for the Tories, or worse Labour, to proceed into government.

I’ve grown increasingly strident about this since a discussion I had with friends last night. The result was a disaster for the Lib Dems, yes, but only because we were shafted by a system that, once again, delivered a nonsense that makes a mockery of our democracy.

I like to make unreasonable demands of politicians, but I believe that Nick Clegg’s efforts so far to mobilise the anti-FPTP agenda have been poor. He made reference to it in his speech yesterday morning, but after that point no one else has done it. Groups like Take Back Parliament have emerged, and have a smattering of supporters, but this needs to go national.

One can understand, in these delicate times, that maybe it doesn’t look very professional to be trying to dominate the airwaves.

But Lib Dems, through their surrogates and sympathisers in the media, need to be putting the following at numbers 1, 2 and 3 in their must have list.

  1. Electoral reform
  2. Electoral reform
  3. Electoral reform

We need to start generating a campaign and serious momentum that, really, coalition or any agreement must come with a huge price tag. Nothing less than a big, open and comprehensive referendum on major electoral reform, to coin a phrase.

I know Labour will offer it. The Tories won’t. But that’s what negotiations are all about.

And if we can start creating an impression that the public are with us, all so much the better.

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2 Responses to “What Price Democracy?”

  1. Matthew Huntbach said


    But Lib Dems, through their surrogates and sympathisers in the media, need to be putting the following at numbers 1, 2 and 3 in their must have list.

    1.Electoral reform
    2.Electoral reform
    3.Electoral reform

    If we ourselves used that line it would come across to the public as:

    1.Power for us
    2.Power for us
    3.Power for us

    Or maybe not really power, comfy well paid posts for our leading members. It will be seen as sore losers trying to change the system in their favour in an opportunistioc way.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am a lifelong and passionate supporter of proportional representation by the Single Transferrable Vote system. But I kow that however important I see it, most other people don’t see it that way. They might be persuaded as a good idea, but they won’t see it as a priority.

    That is why anything the Liberal Democrats do which makes it seem it is all we care will be a disaster for us. We can’t afford disasters, we did badly particularly because we raised the stakes and then fluffed it. So we can’t exert the power we could if we were still in a hung power but had a big increase in our number of votes and seats.

    Our sympathisers and surrogates in the media (do you really think we have any?) could put the case, but it would have to be in a very semi-detached way (so it is just as well our sympathisers and surrogates in the media are so semi-detached they are actually on the other side of the road) so it really does not look like us doing it out of self-interest.

    Our reaction to the current situation in Parliament must not look like us doing shady deals. That is why it would look better for it to come across as us doing the inevitable and accepting the result as the people voted for (minority Tory government) than anyting which looked like giving us a little more of self-interest to us at the cost of tying us down when it comes to criticism of what the Tory government does.

    So, if the cost of a referendum on PR is a few minor government posts for us and so also silence on what else the government does, it is most definitely not worth paying.

    • My point is not that we should indeed form a coalition in return for electoral reform.

      My point is actually that after electoral reform happens (if only) then the logical consequence of it is an immediate new election.

      After all, by supporting electoral reform you are implicitly admitting the current result is flawed. Which we are anyway. That means, once we have a much fairer system ready to go, we put it to the test.

      Only under a fair system, reflecting what people actually voted for, is real coalition government possible because the parties are fully empowered of the mandate people have given them.

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