May 2010

A brief note on the UK election

Tomorrow the UK goes to the polls in the hope of electing a new government. I say “in the hope” because there is a slim possibility that a hung parliament could lead to political paralysis and force another election in the near future. That is, however, a slim possibility. It’s more likely that a hung parliament will lead to some form of coalition between Labour and the Lib Dems. This is potentially the most desirable outcome, given the current voting system, as it may well usher in electoral reform (in my view the best thing that could happen to UK democracy).

More likely still, however, is a small Conservative majority. I’ve heard talk of a two seat majority, but I suspect it’ll be a little larger than that. Large enough, certainly, for David Cameron to form a government despite receiving a near-record low proportion of the popular vote.

A Tory win will be bad for two specific sets of people.

Firstly, it’ll be bad for those on a low income or welfare. Not so much “the poor” as “the not rich”. The economic policies to which the tories are wed will not fare well in the face of the problems to come.

Secondly, it’ll be bad for the Conservatives themselves. The Governor of the Bank of England recently suggested that whatever party is in power over the next five years will be forced to drink from a poisoned chalice. They will frantically try to blame anyone but themselves, but will nonetheless find themselves associated with the problems they fail to solve. The Bank Governor believes the next ruling party will be cast into the political wilderness for thirty years.

My advice (for the little it’s worth) is to vote Lib Dem. “What’s that?” you gasp, “You’re surely not endorsing one of those centre-right, free-market parties you heap so much scorn upon, are you?” Well, no. I’m not endorsing them per se. Rather, I’m endorsing the electoral reform they may bring with them. That way, by the time the next election comes round, a vote for the Greens or the hard left won’t be a wasted vote. I don’t necessarily want to see a green or hard left government in the UK, but I do believe that the presence of those voices in parliament would be a positive thing in a world where sustainability becomes our over-riding concern.

So yeah, vote tactically to ensure the Lib Dems get some say in what happens next. Not because they offer hope of good governance (they don’t!) but because they offer hope of finally destroying the two-party capitalist duopoly that has dominated the UK landscape for so long.

This advice doesn’t extend to those constituencies where the Greens have a genuine chance of winning (there’s one in Norwich and one in Brighton, I believe), nor to constituencies in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland where an alternative to the Big Three stands a realistic chance. But everywhere else, the sensible vote is for electoral reform.

Posted in: Opinion