Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lies, Damn Lies, and Elections #ge2010

Lies about possible coalitions, lies about Hung Parliaments and the economy, lies about the need for reform, and lies about Nick Clegg.

I was a little bit confused this Monday morning.  I saw headlines about how Nick Clegg was likely to join the Tories in a coalition.  Then I read how he'd said this on the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1 on Sunday.

Now, I watched the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.  Nick Clegg said nothing of the sort.  He said that if Labour won the most seats in this year's election, but came third in the popular vote, then they should have no automatic right to have a crack at forming the next Government.

He said that the Tories, assuming they won the popular vote, should have first crack at the whip of attempting to form a Government.

He said he wouldn't rule out working with anyone, because the exact situation is uncertain and it would be foolish to say such a thing, but that the public would be unlikely to support Brown to remain.

He also repeatedly and patiently explained his very sensible regional work permits policy while Andrew Marr seemed to wilfully misunderstand him, like a belligerent pub local parroting half an argument he overheard someone else have just the other day that he didn't quite understand the first time.

Because of the unfair electoral system, there is no way the Lib Dems could get enough MPs to force through electoral reform entirely on their own steam.  They'd need the support of one of the other two parties - it's a bit of a Catch22.

And this graphic demonstrates perfectly why:


It's a screen shot of the BBC's Election Calculator.  I set all three parties to an equal share of the popular vote, to see what would happen.  Labour would only just miss out on an overall majority, with more than three times as many seats as the Lib Dems, with the Tories exactly half way in between the two.

So, who does the first-past-the-post system favour most?  Clearly it's Labour.  As much as I loathe the Tory policies, as much as I despise their "Big Society" idea - an concept of dressed up as community action but in reality a doorway into schools and the NHS for their chums in the profit-making companies - they don't appear to have much to lose from a proportional voting system.

The optimist in me thinks a Con-Lib coalition wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.  Or very likely.  For a start, it would be conditional on electoral reform.  The Tories aren't very keen on electoral reform, but if they were converted, then already something good has come from an alliance.

Beyond electoral reform, I couldn't see them agreeing on much at all.  Before too long, the coalition would collapse and another election would have to be called.  We get our electoral reform, and then we get to vote again, this time on the business end of politics.

But of course, the optimist in me is very naive.  I can't see any Con-Lib pact happening in the first place.  They disagree on too many things, and there has been so much public mud-slinging by the Tories, who are desperate to discredit and belittle Clegg, Cable et al at every turn.

Today they called a press conference to show a "spoof" election broadcast by the Hung Parliament Party, arguing what an economic disaster such an outcome would be.  They cited the 1974 Hung Parliament, repeating the lies that had been printed in the Telegraph claiming the Hung Parliament caused a stock market fall that was in truth already well underway.

In fact, Moody's, one the credit agencies that rates countries' abilities to pay off debts, has categorically stated they have no reason to believe that the UK would lose its triple A credit rating in the event of a Hung Parliament.

You only have to look at the right wing press to see how intolerable the idea of the Lib Dems in power is to the corporate Tory support.  In the space of a week and a half, Clegg has gone from Churchill to Nazi to wife beater.  Thankfully the desperate insanity of the traditional press is becoming more and more apparent, and pleasingly it's not only in the UK that Murdoch is being exposed as a villain.

The Lib Dems would find much more common ground on most policies with Labour, but Labour very much seem keen to want to look like they're offering electoral reform, when in reality what they are proposing is a very small change to the existing system, leaving the same possibility of the share of seats in no way reflecting the share of the popular vote.

I worry that if both the Tories and Labour really want to, they will still be able to block any attempts by the Lib Dems to bring about much needed electoral reform.  But I'm not sure the public will accept that any more.  It's the most important political crossroads in my lifetime and I'll go on any march or protest that demands such a change.

Mass protests aren't something I normally do.  And I'm not even voting Lib Dem.

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[Edit] Oh, and here's the Tories' Hung Parliament Party press conference.  The other point I'd forgotten is that they're claiming that a Hung Parliament would create "behind-closed doors politics".  As opposed to the current situation where a single party with a number of seats disproportionate to their actual mandate was able to force through an illegal war, university top-up fees, and the Digital Economy Bill.

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You can find out how (and whether) you can influence the possibility of a Hung Parliament, and hence increase the chance of electoral reform, at Vote For A Change.

3 comments:

  1. I've been wondering - is there a case for calling the election corrupt because of the Murdoch-Tory we'll-promote-you-by-smearing,-lies-and-manipulation-if-you-cut-the-BBC-and-Ofcom partnership, or can an election only be deemed corrupt if someone physically makes you put a cross in the wrong box? All this poll rigging and bullying is in effect manipulation and surely an election based on such lies is at the least dishonest and at worst corrupt?

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  2. Well, it's been suggested that even if it is a "free" election, it is certainly not "fair".

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  3. Oh, also, more directly in response to your point:

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