Posted by: Paul | May 9, 2010

A PR Disaster

The wranglings over the immediate political future of the country enter their third day. Messers Cameron and Clegg make eyes at each other across a crowded room, and all the while a grumpy Scotsman scowls at them from the corner, watching their every move.

The key issue on the table is that of voting reform. One of the biggest, most long standing tenets of the Liberal Democrat philosophy is a move towards proportional representation, and a fairer, more accurate voting system that more adequately reflects how individual people actually voted. If you break up the parliamentary seats by the percentage of people who voted for that party, the result of Thursday’s election looks rather different. The Tories (36.1%) would have 234 seats, Labour (29%) would have 188 and the Lib Dems (23%) would have 149, with the remaining few going to the minor parties, mostly SNP. That looks a little more even, and more reflective of what people actually think.

But obviously the Tories will never wear this, as any system which isn’t directly Red vs Blue does not favour the status quo (that being every 10 years or so the populace get fed up with one and vote the other in and the ridiculous merry go round starts again and nothing changes. Or what did actually change, changes back).

So I’ve always felt a bit frustrated by this and favoured a fairer system but I’ve begun to think a bit about how it would work in practice. How would it be decided what particular flavour your local MP was, for instance? If they all had to be spread around, how would it be decided who went where? Complicated, isn’t it? Being something of a political ignoramus I decided to look it up on the fount of all knowledge and truth, Wikipedia. Ahem.

The answer is, yes it is very complicated. Far more so than our current system, and to that end I’m willing to bet that any referendum on the subject would probably get voted down purely on the strength of people not understanding it and voting against it out of fear of the unknown rather than bothering to try to figure it out, allied to the vehemence with which the Tory old guard will rail against it. That and a very low turnout, as I’m sure voting reform will give most people the ‘meh’ factor.

Not me though. I’m finding this all quite interesting. I said before that I wanted a hung parliament partly just to find out what would happen. I suppose if it sends the economy into further spirals of trouble it’s a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’, but I imagine the Lib Dems will reach a deal of some sort, most likely with the Tories, before too much more time has passed.

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