Monday, May 10, 2010

Urgh, election results

[I'm covering a lot in one post, as theres a lot I want to say about the election]

So traumatised by the election results was I that I felt unable to comment. Previous to the elections I had felt energised, believing that the Liberal Democrats were not only a party offering a real alternative, but they might be in a real position to deliver change in the next election. I knew the system was broken, but with the numbers the lib dems were polling I thought they stood to make substantive gains. Under a hung parliament, which looked exceedingly likely, they stood in a good position to demand electoral reform.

Then polling day came. The exit polls appeared, and while, like the politicians in the studio, I wanted the results to be wrong, I knew that the methodology behind them was exceedingly solid. So I wasn't surprised, but was disappointed, to see them mostly accurate. In particular, the liberal democrats have managed a gain of 1% of votes, while losing 5 seats. For fucks sake.

The British electorate had spoken, although what it was saying is not clear. Each politican will claim the narrative here- some might claim they wanted a hung parliament, the conservatives will claim that they wanted the conservatives in. Neither is clear- after all a vote does not allow one to express these opinions (incidentally, this is why political engagement beyond voting is rather vital, but thats another day). The one thing that seemed certain was that the voters didn't really want Labour around anymore. 29% isn't as bad as some people thought for Labour, but its still a fairly large slap in the face, disproportional number of seats non withstanding.

So why did the lib dems do as badly as they did? I don't think one can underestimate the utter media blitz directed against Clegg. The Murdoch press were unrelenting in their attacks (often ungrounded and utterly misleading) on the lib dems, and both the Labour and Conservative parties focused their ire on the lib dems. No doubt the lib dems lost vote for unpopular policies such as immigration (which, while smart, is not a vote winner sadly). Its also worth pointing out that the liberal democrats simply have so much less money than Labour, and certainly the conservatives.

There isn't much of an ethos of member donations in this nation for parties- the internet actually provides a neat tool for members to donate to a party they want to get in, but I don't think most do it. Instead parties get a lot of their funding from shady millionares, or the unions for Labour (who are just as shady really). This is a fundamentally undemocratic problem, and is not going to be fixed by the conservatives. One person having a massive influence on a parties direction is not a good thing, it is not good for democracy, its not even good for rich people- Murdoch having power over the parties only cements his position of power.

Of course working against the liberal democrats is their broad base. The electoral system is just cripplingly unfair. I understand the notion that we need strong governments, but there are countless governments in Europe that manage to produce them, and they are just so much more fair. Labour shouldn't be able to talk about coalition right now- if we were in a fair system it would be the conservatives and the liberal democrats.

So, what coalition am I in favour of? Now unlike many of the left, who are angry at the very idea of a coalition between the conservatives and the liberal democrats, I think it is kind of absurd to dismiss the conservatives out of hand. To do so assumes that Labour and the Liberal Democrats are a block of one. They're not. Many lib dems voters did want Labour out this election, and voted accordingly. Clegg is right in that the party with the most votes and seats DOES have a right to govern. The only issue is, that its clear from this election that we need electoral reform, and funding reform. The conservatives offer neither.

Its true that the parties act in their own self interest. The lib dems want proportional representation and a fairer party funding system because it would benefit them, but in this case it does happen to be the right thing to do. I am distraught by the notion that we may not acheive that.

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