I mean, check out the actual results.

Conservatives: increased vote share by about 12% of their previous total (32.2-> 36).  Increased seats by over 45% (from 209 to 306).

Labour: reduced vote share by about 17% of their previous total, lost 25% of their seats.

Liberal Democrats: increased their vote share by 4-5% of previous total (22->23); lost about 8% of their seats.

Given all this, what worries me is what Deb Orr says here

Yet, the Lib Dems are the party least able to survive or thrive in the event of another election too. So it is in their own interest as well as the national interest to support some form of stable government in the wake of this election. They have no other option but to accept that while the Conservatives did not win the election, they did come first.

Amidst the welter of commentary advice and so on from the papers, I found Jonathan Freedland’s piece standing out, describing Clegg’s ‘excruciating dilemma’.  Of the Conservative offer, despite its temptations:

the drawbacks are glaring. Too many Lib Dems – including big names such as Lords Ashdown and Steel – hint that they could not swallow an alliance with the old Tory enemy, so far apart on Europe, immigration and Trident.

And of the Labour alternative?

A Lib-Lab government would be branded a coalition of losers, one that vindicated the Tory slogan “Vote Clegg, get Brown”. However desperate Brown is, he might struggle to give Clegg full-blown PR: too many Labour MPs will say no. Clegg worries too that, even if agreement were possible, the electorate would be unforgiving: they want to see their politicians focusing on jobs, not the electoral rules of the Westminster club.

The Tories are castigating themselves like nuts over the conduct of the campaign.  Quite rightly: they went from 38-40 down to 34 till 36 was a recovery.  They lost this lead to the Lib Dems, remember, who went from 19 to 23.   No wonder as the Times reports, “The decision to give Nick Clegg a platform was a grave blunder, as even Mr Cameron has come close to acknowledging.”

The Economist draws attention to how much any whiff of compromise to the Lib Dems would irk the Tory backbenchers:

Any substantial concessions he offers to the Lib Dems will rile them even more. Even his vague flirtation with electoral-system tinkering is already being cursed in a party dead set against anything that sniffs of proportional representation, which they think could shut their party out of government indefinitely. The notion of Lib Dems taking ministerial positions earmarked for Conservatives is hugely provocative to his own side

One question I just don’t know the answer to: how serious a threat to Cameron is Tory disaffection, the return of old Right thinking* and disunity?  I tend to agree with Ben Macintyre: Cameron can be hugely impressive.  He is clearly cool in a crisis.  Looking at the front bench of alternatives – odd but clever Gove and Letwin, Pickles Hague and the rest – one part of me is amazed that more Conservatives are not throwing up daily prayers for Cameron’s arrival 5 years ago.

But the other half wonders, again and again, at how a Conservative party blessed with the advantages of facing Gordon Brown, a deep recession and 13 years to sort itself out, with a huge war chest and an electoral system that suits it to a painful degree, has got itself into this weak position.  Maybe they are right to be angry?

I think there is a growing consensus that Labour have had a great week – ‘serene’ is one description.  They have shown amazing resilience. LibDems are understandably nervous about more elections, after the way the potty system kicked them in the nuts yet again. But so, too, should the Conservatives be.  What if this is as good as it gets?

* read Gray’s interesting column on the return of the Tory Bigoted Tendency

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8 thoughts on “I used to be furious at the voting system; now I’m a bit scared of it

  1. Interestingly enough the Tory gains despite smaller vote share gains means for Tories and Labour the system is now equally ‘fair’, and interestingly most of the other parties that got a vote have similar amounts. Only the SNP, the Libs and the Greens (with their one seat) had to get many more votes

    “voters per seat”

    Conservative 34,989
    Labour 33,350
    Liberal Democrat 119,788
    Democratic Unionist Party 21,027
    Scottish National Party 81,898
    Sinn Fein 34,388
    Plaid Cymru 55,131
    Social Democratic & Labour Party 36,990
    Green 285,616
    Alliance Party 42,762

  2. The issue for the moment must be in identifying the correct definition of what is ‘winning’ and how is it measured?

    I’ll cut the chase – there needs to be way of redefining the terms of the outcome that make Labour a winner on at least one count. That has to be expectation: if we considered where on Thursday evening, prior to the exit polls, each of the parties thought they were, the Tories thought they had a clear majority (and so they ought with Cashcroft’s millions and the backing of most of the press), the LibDems thought they’d be in a far greater position on the back of Clegg-mania. everybody expected to Labour to be decimated -it wasn’t pretty, but it wasn’t decimation. Its desperate and crass, but it has to be done.

  3. In my view the serenity of Labour is because everything is proceeding in accordance with their scenario planning, and with a preliminary (verbal) understanding already agreed with Clegg.

    What we are seeing is a form of political kabuki proceeding in accordance with a typically Mandelsonian ‘grid’, and the footprints are all over No 10’s briefings to the press.

    My forecast as to the agreed and pre-planned outcome is that it is as follows.

    1/ Brown has already accepted that he will go, and this acceptance accounted for the remarkable change in him first evidenced (to me, anyway) in the speech he gave last Monday at Citizen’s UK , and in his calm demeanour (this from someone with a track record for panic solutions) since then amidst all the turmoil. He knows he’s out – to some global mega post in the global financial hierarchy.

    2/ Miliband has been groomed by Mandelson as a suitably Nulab Prime Minister who won’t frighten the horses, and when he moves up, Mandelson will fill the Foerign Secretary space he has long coveted, and for which he is, frankly the best qualified since Palmerston. You don’t have to like the man (and I am neutral) to recognise he is in the global premier league, but with a global, rather than UK, agenda, therefore. The elite knows best what’s good for us.

    3/ Clegg will then slot neatly into the Deputy PM role vacated by Mandelson, and Darling – who is IMHO proven in action and a Class Act, will remain Chancellor. Great.

    4/ The rest will be divided up more or less equitably, and one of the top Lib Dems should get the Home Office – a great outcome IMHO, if it rids us of the appallingly illiberal baggage foisted on us by Clarke, Blunkett and Straw (but I blame Brown) . But I can’t see it happening if Miliband is PM backed by a compliant Press.

    All fine and dandy.

    But the problem it’s as much lose/lose for the Lib Dems as consorting with the Conservatives. You only have to look at Lib Dem experience in Scotland to see that no good can come of it for the Lib Dems within the current governance structure. There is no such thing as a junior partner. The Lib Dems will be dispensed with if things go well for Miliband, and I see little chance that they will be able to get the voting changes they deserve either.

    For Labour it would be an anti-democratic disaster, but the battle-shocked troops would probably go along with it toretain power.

    My proposal is based upon making use of the sheer open-ness of the British constitution.

    At the moment UK Plc’s top job – PM – consists of a particularly pathological version of the toxic combination of Chairman/CEO which gives us our elective dictatorship.

    But in the same way that shareholders can consensually agree to a shareholders’ agreement going beyond and complementing the statutory company agreements, so it is that Mr Clegg can and should insist upon becoming PM – just not PM as we know it.

    The necessary partnership agreement, and the PM post within it, could be a time limited (Will Hutton again) form of ‘Non-Executive Chairman”, with power shared and devolved individually and collectively to the cabinet members, who can and should reflect the will of the people, enabling a government of all of the talents, with the built in checks and balances needed, but consensually applied. So by way of example, the SNP, for as long as they have the First Minister, would get the Scottish secretary post, which ties them in nicely. The parties would then agree internally, and as democratically as their constitution allows (?!), who fills their allocation of cabinet posts.

    This structure – whereby Clegg retains certain veto powers – would contain the necessary mutual dependence and sharing of risk and reward for a successful win/win outcome.

    In fact, if Clegg has the will, the ball is in his court. But I suspect he may have to be nudged by a groundswell from within the party to take this road, however, if he is following the NuLab strategy..

    He, and he alone, has the power to put together the necessary list of MPs consensually signed up to an initial agreed Queens’ Speech so that a government may be formed. With a new approach – a UK partnership government, if you will, this is IMHO achievable.

    What is happening now is as deeply anti-democratic as we have come to expect from our government.

    Truly it is Time for a Change.

  4. Cameron was elected on the promise of being the photogenic Blair-lite who could make them electable. If they were willing to do that for the chance of power they won’t object to a coalition to get the real thing.

    It seems clear they were mistaken in thinking he would help them since,Cameron was the one who refused UKIP’s offer to disband & support the Tories in return for a referendum & as EU Referendum has shown, the UKIP vote is well in excess of the majority in 30 seats the Tories lost. On such small choices do the destinies of nations turn.

  5. That assumes Neil that the Tories would not have lost some of the voters in the middle if they had moved to the right by pandering to the UKIP tendency.

    1. They may have lost a few pro-Europe Tories, but the one example of those I know voted Lib Dem this time round anyway, because even the Tories current stance on Europe is too “skeptic” for him (and also because of Trident), so I don’t think the difference would be big.

  6. The deal fell through not on pulling out of the EU but on the voters having a referendum. Referenda are popular with voters because we think we are actually being consulted (eg most Scots don’t want independence but do want the chance of a referendum).

    So offering us the choice would have been likely to gain them votes overall outside UKIP. I believe even the LDs have considered that policy & I don’t thing they were engaged in a principled refusal of support to promote euroscepticism when they made a manifesto promise of a referendum on Lisbon.

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