The only certainty following the recent election is that no sole party will hold an overall majority. Some argue that this result (and a probable coalition) is a good thing, although I believe there is a large amount of evidence to suggest otherwise. The possible combinations and permutations are endless, but bargaining and compromise are on the cards and their effects are already beginning to show.
At this time of economic crisis, both locally and around the World, stability is required. However, in order to try and gain support and appear popular, one of the major talking points is currently electoral reform. Electoral reform was never an issue immediately before the election and certainly won’t solve any critical issues, but suddenly it is high on the agenda. However, there are many possible solutions and choosing the right one is more of an art than a science; no two countries have exactly the same voting system and there is some degree of fault with all of them, so there is no obvious ‘best’ way to do it.
The Liberal Democrats have always supported proportional representation (PR) which, on the surface, is a fair system giving each party the same proportion of seats as votes. And crucially, they (currently) hold the cards. However, with PR a local MP may end up living 300 miles away – meaning raising an issue in person would become difficult. But more worryingly, PR also allows the smaller, more extreme parties a louder voice. As an example, the British National Party received more than 500 000 votes in this week’s election, which would give them around a dozen seats in the House of Commons – a scary scenario for many.
But the point is this: with a hung parliament, sacrifices are made. It will be much more difficult to agree and to pass any legislation. Progress will be stifled at a time when strong decisions are crucial. Furthermore, this situation would be exaggerated with PR – just take a look at the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) where extreme parties are able to hold the Government to ransom.
Surely, this level of debate regarding forming a Government will be an indication of how much there will end up being during Government.
Furthermore, I predict as a result of the consequent compromise, the next General Election won’t be far away. This will have the added impact of preventing political parties from establishing themselves as they strive to ’get one up’ over their rivals – continuing what we have witnessed over the last twelve months.
If the Liberal Democrats wish to become the majority party in future, they must do whatever they can to productively influence the current situation. They must show that they are a party of worth and gain support through successful actions, rather than by altering the election process.
I give it 18 months tops; meaning the next election campaign has begun.