(They totally made-out.)
After 24 minutes (in heaven) with the Queen, David Cameron is now Prime Minister of Britain. After five days of talks the 306 Conservative MPs with David Cameron as their leader will form a formal coalition with the 57 MPs elected from the Liberal-Democratic Party, led by Nick Clegg. That’s 363 seats (55.8% of parliament the U.K. HOC’s 650 seats), 37 across the 326 line needed to form a majority. The Conservative-LibDem “Blellow Coalition*”" represents 59.1% of the British electorate. Nick Clegg is going to be Deputy Prime Minister and 4 other Lib-Dem MPs will be joining Clegg in cabinet.
Prime Minister Cameron and Nick Clegg have agreed to at least one, big, concession from the Conservatives for the support of the Lib-Dems, a referendum on electoral reform. The compromise both made is that it wont be for the horribly misnamed/misguided “Proportional Representation” System but for the super fantastic Alternative Voting (AV) System (also know as: Preferential Voting, Ranked Choice Voting, Ranked Voting or Instant-runoff voting.)
Alternative Voting ensures that the member of parliament for each riding receives support from the majority of that riding.
From the vote count of the recent U.K. election it seems like the majority of British citizens support electoral reform so hopefully a referrendum would favour reform.
Some arguments being used against AV and some rebuttals:
- It’s too confusing: If you are a proponent of so-called “Proportional Representation” and use this argument against AV then I may have to quote Senator Nancy Ruth as the voting and counting of PR ballots (especially STV) is way more confusing. This argument is one used against almost every form of electoral reform and it is one of the silliest. The right to vote should be and is a right we all share but all of our rights come with equally important responsibilities and you have a responsibility to make an informed vote. The standard “mark an X” system (which AV only deviates from slightly) isn’t obvious or natural. We know to vote that way because we are taught and any electoral system can be taught to citizens.
- It produces unstable governments: The AV system produces a more proportional parliament and this leads to minority/hung parliaments with minority/coalition governments. There are coalition governments across the democratic world and many of them have operated and continue to govern successfully. A system like AV where candidates need the majority, not just the plurality, forces those candidates to compromise as behaving like bully (see Stephen Harper) will get you turfed (you want to be palatable as a second choice.)
- It leads to cynical strategic voting: Strategic voting is part of every election and isn’t inhanced or mitigated by any specific electoral system. Polling in the U.K revealed that in many ridings the reason Labour/Conservative candidates have dominated is that Liberal-Democratic voters are already voting strategic. AV lets voters vote with their heart first and balance that first vote out after.
Alternate Voting increases the legitimacy of each MP while maintaining their link to the electorate (no list of candidates, no gigantic ridings, no fringe parties dominating coalitions and no unaccountable MPs.)
And now for something completely different: Is a more proportional voting system bad for Conservative parties?
Andrew Sullivan seems to think so. He argues that because Britain is a centre-left country, (as Margaret Thatcher never managed to get a majority of the vote) an electoral system that is more proportional will mean that the Conservatives will never be able to form a majority government as the system will normalize coalitions and ensure that the centre-left parties (Labour and Lib-Dems with a smattering of Green) can always form a coalition. 63% of Britons did not want a Tory government (hence the coalition) just like 62.35% of Canadian voters didn’t want a Conservative government here.
One completely serious and valid argument (among the hundreds of thousands) against PR is that it would give the NDP more seats (not a good thing for parliament or Canada.) But when it is reframed like this: PR would reduce the amount of seats won by Bloc Québécois and Conservative candidates it is a major boost to the PR argument.
Besides relegating them to permanent minority status the very structure of Conservative political parties would be affected. The Conservative Parties in Canada (The CPC) , the U.K., and the USA (the GOP) are all coalitions of many different groups, all on the right-wing of the political spectrum. A more proportional system could create a wedge and incentivize certain niches within the party to break off and form their own. Harper’s Conservative Party is a conglomerate of: far-right populists, far-right fiscal conservatives, far-right religious conservatives, far-right anti-Federalists, people who like punching trees and people who hate reality. If Canada had a different electoral system the right in Canada could split up (it has happened before.) The British Conservatives are an anomaly in Europe where coalitions of centre-right party are he norm (see Germany.) The Republican party would be 5 different parties in Europe but the United States’ electoral system binds them together.
Canada is a centre-left country. Even if Britain doesn’t implement a fairer voting system in the immediate future, we Canadians should wait to take our cue from the U.K. Let’s reform our system first.
The Guardian has a neat breakdown of the terms of the Blellow Coalition:
Full coalition with David Cameron as prime minister; Nick Clegg as deputy PM and four other Liberal Democrat cabinet ministers – 20 government posts in total. Last night Danny Alexander was confirmed as Scottish secretary. Others rumoured to include Vince Cable in a business and banking job, David Laws in education and Chris Huhne as justice secretary.
Liberal Democrat wins:
• Referendum to bring in an alternative vote system. Coalition members will be subject to three-line whip to force legislation for referendum through, but will be free to campaign against reforms before referendum.
• New five-year fixed term parliaments, an entirely or mainly elected second chamber and a commission to review party funding. According to this plan, the next general election will be held on the first Thursday of May 2015.
• Reduce tax burden on low earners. A substantial increase to personal tax allowance from April 2011 with a “long- term goal” of a £10,000 personal tax allowance. Tory plans to reduce inheritance tax that would have benefited the richest people most have been scrapped.
• New pupil premium to be introduced, steering more funding to schools for every child they take from poor homes to help close class gap in school results.
• £6bn cuts this financial year and a reversal of some planned rises in national insurance contributions.
• A cap on immigration with Lib Dem plans for an amnesty on illegal immigration dumped.
• School reforms to introduce more Swedish-style “free” schools.
• A commitment to maintaining Britain’s nuclear deterrent .
• No proposals to join the euro and a referendum lock will ensure that any proposal to transfer new powers must by law be put to a referendum.
• The Conservatives have kept their plan for a £150 marriage tax break. Lib Dems will abstain but not oppose this.
* Combination of Blue and Yellow the colours of the Conservatives/Liberal-Democrats. H/T to @stratosphear.