Following the latest debacle, all party leaders have called Britain’s electoral system “broken” – but THIS observer has been around a while and knows the TRUTH.
Which is that despite claiming to be a democracy, Britain is no more than a standard two-party state where the difference between those parties is merely the LEVEL of sleaze they employ.
Like, their having CLOSED OUT any third parties that might upset their apple-cart.
Two hundred years ago, there were also just two parties. The Tories (Conservatives) and the Whigs (who would evolve into the Liberals). They ruled until 1922, at which point the Liberals became too big and exploded into splinter groups – whereupon the Labour Party emerged.
And it is the Labour and Conservative parties who have ruled ever since.
But when the Liberals blew up, one of their splinter groups was the (new) Liberals – and they have been Britain’s Third Party ever since. AND THEY ALWAYS WILL BE.
Britain has the “first past the post” system, which means that for any party to govern effectively, they need a majority in The House. And it has been said that to rule Britain, a party MUST get forty percent of the popular vote. Which is true – IF YOUR PARTY IS TORY OR LABOUR.
However, what most people do not realize is that over the last ninety years, whichever party was in power, its people did their level best to MOVE as many borough boundaries as they could – to favour THEIR party in the next election.
And of course, when the other party got in, they did the SAME.
Thus, when the Liberals combined with the new Social Democrats in 1988, they discovered that for THEM to get a majority in The House, would require something like SIXTY percent of the popular vote – which was never going to happen.
Despite eventually pulling in about twenty-five percent (on the night, most people inevitably revert to one of the “main” parties) they ended up with only a handful of seats – and NO power. And they have been calling for electoral reform ever since. But no matter WHAT the two main parties may SAY – they have NO interest in changing their status quo.
Because BOTH of the main parties “play the game”. Even in opposition for YEARS – they never seriously even discuss the matter.
Of course, NOW they are PRETENDING to – in their attempts to woo Cleggy – whom they both need to restore their broken two-party system.
As I write this, the three parties are doing some SERIOUS horse-trading to try to establish a working government – at a time when Britain is going down the financial DUMPER.
The two main bosses – the unelected Brown (who is STILL PM – having done his duty and called an election; being FORCED to do so by Britain’s constitution) and the ALMOST elected Cameron – are actually in what Americans call “the cat-bird seat”. They do not have to do anything.
No, the Man Of The Moment is CLEGGY. He has a number of options at his disposal. The Labour party is nearer to his party’s ideals, but while an association with THEM would be LEGAL, it would be looked upon as at best, immoral – given that they came second and third in the election.
And while the Tories’ ideals are further away (and they have NO interest in proportional representation) at least an association with them would provide a MAJORITY VOTE in The House.
Then there is the question of that “association”. It could take the form of a coalition – but then Cleggy and his gang would quickly find themselves being side-lined. Effectively ABSORBED into the party he had chosen.
Currently the smart money is on a much looser link – like a Bill-By-Bill arrangement. In which case, Cleggy will be a constant thorn in the arse of BOTH leaders – which would be much more FUN.
But if Britain’s political system had not been CORRUPTED by the moving of those borough boundaries in the first place, this situation would never have occurred. Cleggy got almost as many popular votes as Labour, this time – but still only received a FIFTH of the number of SEATS.
On the night, he must have experienced the same FRUSTRATION as the SDP-Liberal Alliance did in ’88 – as he watched his party come a VERY close SECOND in ALL those Tory and Labour “safe seats”.
And he knows that if he wants to avoid a repeat performance EVERY twenty years or so – for EVER – he needs to PUSH the two “main” parties into actually DOING something about Britain’s CORRUPT electoral system.
I, for one, wish him luck – he will NEED IT!
(for more on this, hit – http://damienatloppers.wordpress.com/2010/05/11/damien-on-referenda/)