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Friday, 8 May 2015

2 things to keep in perspective post election

The electoral system for MPs is not the biggest affront to democracy in the UK

Whilst retaining first past the post (FPTP) voting seems pretty ridiculous, we do at least get a chance to elect our MPs - which isn't true for the Lords, or the head of state.

Any party wanting to include an electoral reform agenda in their next manifesto should perhaps focus first and foremost on bringing democracy to the Lords before attempting to fix a broken electoral system for the Commons.

Whilst FPTP is probably, on paper at least, the worst system imaginable; the concept of having a single elected representative for each constituency is not as balmy as it might seem to Proportional Representation (PR) zealots.

It certainly offers the strongest level of personal accountability to the electorate, which is something I feel is lost in systems with multi-candidate proportional representation.

It is also something our whole political process has evolved to cope with.

Yes it's bonkers that the DUP get 8 seats for 184,200 votes whilst the Lib Dems get 8 for 2.4 million and UKIP get 1 for their 3.8 million.

But seats in Parliament is only one route to getting an agenda noticed. In fact, adversarial models like the UK political system often make it harder for an opposition MP to get legislation onto the government agenda than a non-governmental body like a campaign group or think tank.

The British Parliamentary system has evolved to cope with the polarisation.

Personally I support Alternative Vote (AV) as a step forward that will offer smaller parties a better chance than the current system which dissuades voters from supporting minnows because a vote for anyone who doesn't stand a chance of winning is, effectively, wasted.

AV at least returns a more accurate representation of views from within a constituency that isn't polluted by tactical voting - voting based on who you least want to get elected.

AV provides some improvement without risking upsetting a Parliamentary system that has provided reasonably stable governments for the UK through wars and other challenging times.

David Cameron's outright majority of 12 is too thin to be bold, and that has to be a good thing

The outpouring of woe and grief on Twitter could easily make the most ardent optimist upend their half-full glass and give up on life.

Whatever your political view the result isn't good enough. Moderate Tories fear their agenda will be held to ransom by unruly backbenchers, after all it takes just a handful of rebels to undo a government majority.

The left is concerned that the Conservatives minus the Lib Dems will embark on an austerity agenda causing untold lasting damage to the country. Scottish Nationalists fear their 56 seats will mean nothing as the options open to those MPs pretty much stop at making noise. 

Liberals fear an end to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and a swift return to the stalled surveillance agenda of previous Labour and Conservative governments. And UKIPpers are just disillusioned with the whole stitch-up.

Personally I see things very differently. Any bold move, such as leaving the ECHR, can be blocked by less than a dozen concerned Tories. And yes, I believe the numbers just aren't there for scrapping the Human Rights Act and leaving the ECHR.

Austerity will be tougher than Labour supporters want, but that's against a backdrop of 36.9% of the electorate supporting the Conservative agenda, versus 30.4 supporting Labour. The people voted for it, so who am I to argue.

Pretty much every fear I've seen voiced on Twitter today seems overblown. Will Theresa May's mass internet surveillance plans return? Well it is true that both Labour and the Conservatives have historically been aligned in the need for more surveillance powers. But to say the Lib Dems alone blocked this in the last parliament is naive.

Labour could have supported the plans then, they didn't; so why would they now? Especially as Labour wakes up to the fact it needs to listen to voters to get back into power just as fears over mass surveillance starts to become a more mainstream concern.

With a wafer-thin majority any controversial bill will in all likelihood suffer defeat. In fact the most rational fear I've seen today is that the next government will be paralysed, unable to gain support in the Commons for the agenda it would like to adopt.

This itself can't be good for the UK, can it?

Well, looking at the raft of half-baked legislation enacted in the last quarter of a century I am starting to think that a period of paralysis where only the most pressing bills get passed can't actually be a bad thing for the country right now.

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