Monday, May 17, 2010

Gerrymandering and the new coalition

So politics has a new face, and its one of coalition. Good stuff. Coalition is, I suspect, healthier for democracy. Strong government isn't a good idea if most people don't want it. I'm not convinced no government is worse than a government nobody wants. Lets ignore the irony of the conservatives rather desperate campaign against the hung parliament (at least they kept up the promise of deals behind closed doors eh?)

So, we're not going to get PR this election. But we should get AV (although some conservatives will campaign against it, and I will be utterly intrigued as to what those arguments actually will be- see my next post), which will mean more lib dem seats, and will give the lie to the notion that different voting systems are repellent to the voters. We shall see anyway. I will campaign robustly for AV.

Meanwhile, there have been some rather paranoid cries about the tories already gerrymandering, and the 55% rule being a way for them to grip onto power.

OK. First of all, gerrymandering. Yes, the conservatives want to reduce the number of seats so that they have around the same number of voters per region. Yes this may benefit them electorally. However Labour did EXACTLY the same thing, and the system is currently rather biased against the tories (it is of course most biased against the lib dems. Also, any rejiggering, by nature of the parliament, will not be able to be unilateral- at the very least the lib dems will have a say, and will undoubtedly oppose a situation where the tories rule for ever (which many blogs have ludicrously suggested- the conservatives aren't actually oozing evil people!).

The 55% rule. Lets be clear, while the details are not clear, this is how it will probably work. We will have fixed parliaments, which are generally speaking good things, and to dissolve parliament before that we will need 55% of the vote in the house. However, votes of no confidence will STILL require the same simple majority- a government that has lost the support of parliament will not be able to govern, and either a new government will need to be formed, or there will need to be concensus on getting parliament dissolved. If anything, 55% is a bit too low- a government with a decent majority could easily whip their party into dissolving parliament early, thus negating the fixed term, but hopefully the change in rules will mean that such an option would only be politically tenable if it was clear that the government could no longer rule.

I don't know what people were thinking a government without a majority which failed a no confidence vote could do- it wouldn't be able to pass anything!

One thing it is worth worrying about is that the lib dems and conservatives are apparently planning to appoint an absurd amount of peers to take away the Labour majority in the Lords. Why they're doing this rather than working immediately towards PR there is utterly unclear. Labour promised reform in the HOL as well, and utterly failed to deliver- if anything they produced a situation worse than the hereditary peers.

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