Friday, 7 May 2010

Resounding Lib Dem Victory!

Is Dave the new Dizzy?

Sure none of you remember 1867, but I'm willing to bet a few of you know what happened then, when Benjamin 'Dizzy' Disraeli was running scared at the helm of a minority conservative government and bowed to pressure from the Whigs to introduce reform and enfranchise more people than ever, hoping that the gratitude of new voters would keep him in government at the next election. I find it one of the most exciting moments in British political history. And I'm really hoping we're about to get an action replay for the 21st century.

Don't Panic!

My friends are sending me frantic messages. Those same friends who have had their interest piqued by this election, who have suddenly for the first time become interested in politics and have been asking me questions since the election campaign began, or at least since those television debates that seem so long ago now. Those friends who have in many cases voted for the first time, only to wake up next day to the news I've been watching develop all night - a hung parliament! Oh noes! Nobody can form a majority so there is no clear 'winner' for the first time in my generation's memory. So what happens next?

If you learned anything by supporting the Lib Dems this year, you learned not to trust the media.

Well, friends of mine, they're listening to god-knows-what guff coming out of their media outlets and believing "announcements" that Nick Clegg is going to take the Lib Dems into coalition with the Conservatives. Hold your horses, guys, that's NOT what he's said. I was listening to his speech on the radio just now and what he ACTUALLY said was that David Cameron has the most votes, the most seats of any party and it is therefore up to him to prove he can govern. At no point did he say the Lib Dems would form a government in partnership with the tories. Indeed, he's not allowed by the party constitution to make that kind of a decision alone ANYWAY.

Do you know what he is saying? He's saying "go on Dave, take your *best* shot". Even with the help of the Democratic Unionist Party as the Conservatives often have, Cameron's tories will form a minority government. And a minority government is a far more obedient one to its people than a so-called 'strong' one, because all the time it clings to power it must be moderate enough to keep from getting itself thrown out on a vote of no confidence.

Here it comes..

I'm really excited. The atmosphere in this country right now, the howls of the people who in some cases even had their votes taken away from them by the chaos at the polling stations, the massive surge in turnout from 61% in 2005 to somewhere a rumoured 76% this time around, the people noticing that with only a small percentage more of the vote the Labour party have five times as many MPs as the Lib Dems... the appetite for change *is* delivering exactly the change you want. Stop, think, don't be scared. The election was not the end of your responsibility and your involvement, as elections have been for the last 35 years. This is what politics looks like. This is living in interesting times.

Minority government is weak government. Weak government is fearful government. It's weak where you're powerful. It has to give you what you want. So demand reform! I'm damn sure the Lib Dems will be doing the same from the opposition benches. We can take back our votes. We can overturn a rotten system that sees a party with 25% of the vote get 10% of the seats in parliament. This election could have been the last one where your vote counted according to your postcode instead of your true opinion. You've done yourselves proud, people, you hung your parliament and now you can get the fairness you want out of them.

Last night, like many Lib Dems, I was in tears over the friends and colleagues, the good people who were losing their seats. I was desperately disappointed, and I couldn't see the wood for the oh-so-emotive trees. Right now, I may be exhausted but I'm more optimistic and fired up than ever. It's a GOOD THING we didn't get those 120+ seats we expected and wanted. It highlights the iniquity of the system just beautifully. And it means nobody can look to us for some phony 'progressive coalition' with a Labour party who turned its back on the rule of law and respect for human rights many years ago. Off the hook nicely there, then: it's not possible so we don't even have to fall out with each other about it.

Ahaha we haven't lost. Far far from it. We're just about to start winning. Victory! Amber revolution!

45 comments:

Frank H Little said...

Good one!

Tim Probert said...

"It's a GOOD THING we didn't get those 120+ seats we expected and wanted. It highlights the iniquity of the system just beautifully."

Clutching. At. Straws.

Roger Genge said...

Tiz interesting times - as a new Lib Dem member standing as a local councillor(and just been beaten by tories and labour).

I think the time has come for a referendum on PR - if an alliance is formed with with Tories and it is not part of the deal then, if I was Gordon the first thing I would do is table a motion for PR!

The same old fading on election day happened and until we get fair representation of the people, Lib Dem voting only helps the tories

roger.genge@btinternet.com

Anonymous said...

Re: "Clutching. At. Straws." - please grow up. Surprised you didn't write 'simples' at the end of your post.

I'd been thinking the same thing at this article. Of course it would have been just as nice to have influence from getting the seats, the LibDems have not also gained influence from not having them.

Lib-Lab vote share: 4:5

Lib/Lab seat share: 1:5

- something is clearly not right there!

At an absolute minimum the case for AV is clear cut on these results, even if you keep single member consituencies for now.

CJ said...

Yawn; while I expected the Liberals to cry victory on whatever pitiful achievements they made this election, I am surprised they are still doing so when they have lost seats.

If you would have got seats you win, you lose seats its a win as well?

Sure. Keep telling yourself that.

Dom Gallagher said...

I disagree Tim.

Looking at the results is a shocking revelation of how unfair the current voting system has the potential to be. I for one hope the Lib Dems manage to push for a referendum on the voting system to make it fairer. It's no wonder some people don't vote when they believe their single vote is meaningless in an enemy heartland.

wayne said...

Saying that it's a GOOD THING you didn't get the seats you needed, is like saying "I'm glad I lost one of my arms, that will make my other one stronger".

If you had 120 seats, and they came from the Tory swing, then you might have been able to join with Labour and get what you wanted. Now there is no hope, and we'll be going back to the polls and the Tories will wipe the floor with the other parties as the people will realise it's the only way forward.

Ian Betteridge said...

"Minority government is weak government."

Correct. And that's why we must avoid PR, which perpetuates minority government - or rather, increases the influence of smaller minorities, at the expense of larger ones.

Look at it this way: People are (rightly) grumbling about the LibDem's role as kingmaker in this election, because a party which got, what, 25% of the vote shouldn't able to dictate major policy which would enact massive changes in the country to parties which got more votes than them.

Under PR, the parties which were capable of dictating policy and demanding cabinet seats could well be ones with 10% or even 5% of the vote, as the Tories (or Labour) scrabbled around to build a coalition.

That means that policies and politicians who which had been clearly rejected by the vast majority of the population would end up in power.

Consider this: If, say, the BNP got 5% of the vote and the Tories needed to do a deal with them to form a government, would you be happy if they accepted repeal of the Race Relations Act as the price for that? Why should a policy which 95% of the electorate find unacceptable end up as statute?

The only PR systems which don't end up with this kind of minority rule are ones which instead end up with endless, muddy middle-ground governments. And that's no better than what we have now.

wayne said...

...yes, it's obvious it's not fair...but the powerful are not looking around to right unfairness...they have to be forced to give it to you, and without the seats you are not going to be able to make them.
What planet do you people live on to think that unfairness just gets righted automatically.

Meddysong said...

you learned not to trust the media.

Absolutely: The BBC is presenting you as a man! ;)

"LibDem blogger Steph Ashley believes his party's disappointing performance will help make a case for proportional representation. He writes: ..."

How sloppy, though at least you should get some traffic from it :)

spudtater said...

Sorry to be a doom merchant, but; with the Tories opposed to vote reform, merely highlighting the inequity is not going to do much.

Let's call a loss a loss.

San said...

Really interesting post and point of view.

When I saw the results of the election I only thought what a rotten election system. Especially the thing with the queues. And there I was thinking the UK belongs to the developed countries. whoops.

I agree with you wholeheartedly on the "interesting times". Foreign (I'm german) politics are fun to watch. It will be interesting to see how this turns out over the next weeks and months.

Tim Probert said...

Do you really think that Cameron will agree to PR?

He would be signing the death warrant of the Conservative Party.

Eldon said...

Awesome. I think it's totally unjust that the votes of so many people essentially go to waste under FPTP. I also like the idea of restricted government powers - whoever thought that letting the government do whatever they liked was a good idea?

I'm looking at you, Digital Economy Bill.

Steph Ashley said...

Wayne One thing I really would rather lose my arm than is to see my party work with a failed practically totalitarian Labour administration. Christ what IS it with people thinking that political parties fall into "tories" and "everyone else who are all the same with different names"?

I am sick to the back teeth with this "progressive coalition" bullshit. Wish Labour people would shut up about lib-lab coalition - you'll notice they are the only ones shouting for it. I understand the core Labour vote, but their leadership and officials are all rotten to the core, power mad and disrespectful of human rights and the rule of law. If my parliamentary party tries to prop up those corrupt and broken bunch of bastards without getting STV and a fast election in return, I will be tearing up my membership card and suspect I wouldn't be alone.

RosemaryC said...

Interesting post. You might want to have a look at Canadian political history. Key pieces of our social security net were created during minority governments - including Canada's health care system, flag, national pension plan and, I believe, Canada's creation of international peacekeeping. This was because the parties had to find ways to work together effectively. See
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_minority_governments_in_Canada

Roger said...

How PR would solve the problem of having to form a coalition government? Where would the LibDem lean if they have let's say 120 seats?

Singing a Song in the Morning. said...

Would it be an unforgivable betrayal if Clegg doesn't deliver PR now he has the chance?

observer's friend said...

"Minority government is weak government."

Correct. And that's why we must support PR.

Laura Westbury said...

Nearly two thirds the number of Conservative votes but only a sixth of their number of seats - why is this appalling fact not endlessly highlighted? People will simply not get it unless it is.
OK the commentators may have vested interests etc BUT - it was not even mentioned by Clegg or Ashdown this morning when the country was hanging on their every word....

Steph Ashley said...

Tim Probert: you say that, no doubt a lot of conservatives would feel the same way. But here's the thing: Conservatives have resisted every extension of the franchise ever enacted. Every step towards truly fair votes. They opposed non-landowners voting, they opposed women voting, they opposed lowering the voting age. And in every one of those cases they went on to benefit more than any other party from the reforms after they came into place. The tories have nothing to fear, they will always have their big place on the British political landscape. And it's manifestly not going to fly with people for much longer that a vote in Bootle is only worth 0.003 times as much power as one elsewhere (voterpower.org.uk) and it shouldn't with the tories either if they believe in democracy.

Steph Ashley said...

Haha @Meddysong - don't you know only MEN write about politics? Have run into this problem before only the other way around: wikio refused to categorise this as a politics blog because it's by a GIRL.

Anonymous said...

I had such hopes that the result would lead to the much needed change in the system but already it seems clear that the Conservatives are going to display sheer arrogance and refuse to consider overhauling the electoral mess.

Nick Clegg held out his hand to them and showed genuine integrity, I suspect in less than a couple of hours David Cameron will bite that hand, proving the emptiness of the Conservatives promise to help clean up British politics.

Save us from the Divine Right of the right!

Ian Betteridge said...

"I understand the core Labour vote, but their leadership and officials are all rotten to the core, power mad and disrespectful of human rights and the rule of law."

Nice to see that the spirit of respect for opponents is alive and well in the LibDem camp :)

Of course, in the Labour party we would point out how what a coincidence it is that the party with most to gain from PR campaigns so vigorously for it. But to point out that your demand for PR is incredibly self-serving would be churlish, unfair and not worthy of adult political debate, so I won't do that.

Ian Betteridge said...

"Would it be an unforgivable betrayal if Clegg doesn't deliver PR now he has the chance?"

Given that the majority of people in this election voted for parties which don't support PR, what gives Clegg the right to "deliver" it?

Tim Probert said...

But Steph, no first past the post means no Conservative majority. Ever. Why would they want PR?

Steph Ashley said...

Because it's craven to hold 100% of the power on 36% of the vote, that's why!

Peter said...

How do you get to 76% turnout? BBC shows 65%, with 632 of 650 seats declared. Even if turnout is high in the remaining 18, 67% looks like the most we can hope for. Sure, it's better than 2001 and 2005, but it's still the third lowest turnout since World War 2.

No party has a mandate, and the electorate is still staying away in droves in disgust.

Tim Probert said...

Steph, I agree. The only hope is through the Labour Party.

Let's face it, many see the Liberals as a middle class wing of the Labour Party. Or at least, a centre-left party without a natural working class constituency (trade unions etc.)

This is why the Liberals won only 60-odd seats.

Adrian said...

Good points and well made. However, if you want more seats in the future and can't get PR, why not offer free ice creams on Fridays? I think it's a definite vote winning pledge!

mo.stoneskin said...

25% of vote, 10% seats is crazy, you don't have to be an orange to see that and agree with it!

Ian Betteridge said...

"Because it's craven to hold 100% of the power on 36% of the vote, that's why!"

So it's OK for a party with 25% of the vote to decide who governs, but not for one with 35%?

/me scratches head.

OK, that's logical.

75% (ish) of the electorate voted for parties which do not support PR. A clear majority of the people do not think it is the major issue that you do.

Why should it even be on the agenda?

Steph Ashley said...

Tim you'll find that not one of our front bench have ever claimed to have a mandate to say who governs, once during this campaign. Don't use the TV pundits' bull and turn it on us because it's not our position at all. What have you heard time and time again from Nick? "The party with the largest mandate should in a democracy be given first right to try to form a government" And what has he said about the Conservatives today? "As David Cameron has the largest share of the vote and seats it is up to him to prove he can form a government to run this country". I rest my case there..

We only ever want power to give it away. As democrats we want the people who live in this country to have more power than the state that should serve them. 'Strong' government, one party with 100% of the power, is not a good thing, because the stronger the government in those terms, the weaker the people are in the face of state corruption.

That's where you always go wrong. You assume the same aims of Liberal Democrats to members of other political parties. The majority of the membership are members because they want voting reform, they want transparency and accountability, and they know that other parties can't be trusted to deliver it. There was a discussion between some of my party friends on twitter earlier today in which various of them said that if we entered any power-sharing deal without electoral reform on the table, they would tear up their membership cards. I'd join them. It's about principles, not power. Do you understand me yet? Will you ever?

Singing a Song in the Morning. said...

RE:Ian Betteridge:
Clegg doesn't have 'the right' to deliver PR but he may well get the chance from Labour.
Tough call. Cameron's wipping boy or a place in history and actually making a difference to British politics forever...what would you do?

Steph Ashley said...

75% (ish) of the electorate voted for parties which do not support PR. A clear majority of the people do not think it is the major issue that you do.

Yep. Yeah. I hear people who vote in safe seats ALL THE TIME saying "We love First Past the Post. We want to keep this voting system, because we just love having to vote Labour when it's not what we actually want just to keep the tories out because nobody else has a chance."

Ian Betteridge said...

"Tim you'll find that not one of our front bench have ever claimed to have a mandate to say who governs, once during this campaign."

You may not have the mandate, but you do have the power. That's what happens when you have minority governments - power rests with smaller minorities.

""The party with the largest mandate should in a democracy be given first right to try to form a government""

And that, as I'm sure you know, is a bit disengenuous. There's a big difference between saying they have the right to *try* and "we will respect the wishes of the people and work with them". Cameron could ring Clegg up, offer him the moon on a stick, Clegg could say "no deal" and that would have fulfilled Clegg's campaign promise.

"'Strong' government, one party with 100% of the power, is not a good thing, because the stronger the government in those terms, the weaker the people are in the face of state corruption."

Yes, I'm sure that the Italians, who elect their parliament proportionally via party list, would agree with you.

Oh no, wait...

Ian Betteridge said...

"Cameron's wipping boy or a place in history and actually making a difference to British politics forever...what would you do?"

There's a lot of options, but given the relatively even proportion of votes, I think they should press for some kind of unity government drawing members from all three main parties. I don't think that government would be able to last for long, but that's probably least-worst option.

Ian Betteridge said...

"Yep. Yeah. I hear people who vote in safe seats ALL THE TIME saying "We love First Past the Post. We want to keep this voting system, because we just love having to vote Labour when it's not what we actually want just to keep the tories out because nobody else has a chance.""

I'm afraid that real votes cast trump your personal anecdote.

Again, if electoral reform is such a big issue, why did you get only 25% of the vote? Why did most people not support you when it came down to it?

Tim Probert said...

Steph. I loosely agree but you seem a touch naive about the reality of party politics.

It's all very well talking about giving away power, but I would not trust the Conservative Party with a five pound note.

Labour are no angels either, but in many ways the Liberals are to the left of Labour.

The future is for a progressive alliance that can take on the vested interests better than one party can alone, constantly under attack from the right wing media.

An end to Conservative majorities is infinitely better than an end to Labour majorities. Under PR, the Liberals could be the largest party.

But that won't happen under a Tory government propped up the Lib Dems. They will not offer PR.

Singing a Song in the Morning. said...

Ha ha, nice one Ian!

Let's all get together and have a love-in!

So why bother voting at all?, it only causing instability!
And, after all ,there's nothing much between the parties that can't be sorted any how, is there?

Onwards towardss the one party state!

David said...

Again, if electoral reform is such a big issue, why did you get only 25% of the vote? Why did most people not support you when it came down to it?

25% is not a small percentage. It's not like 75% voted for 1 other party. The other major parties probably got around 35%.

And ofcourse the only real big issue is money. If you would charge 10 pounds to vote, I bet a lot of people wouldn't come. Thats how much people care about democratic rights. But if they had a free choice, I think they would want PR.

Ian Betteridge said...

"25% is not a small percentage. It's not like 75% voted for 1 other party. The other major parties probably got around 35%. "

It's not a small percentage, but it's nowhere near a majority - and the combined votes of all the other parties, who aren't demanding PR, is much higher. So why should the key policy of the minority be adopted by parties supported by voters who didn't vote for it?

Any way you slice it, the 25% LibDem vote is not a majority vote for PR.

Steph Ashley said...

Tim - uh..? When I said we only aim to get power so we can give it away, I meant to the people, not to the tories! Missed my point by some distance there. What I was saying was, you won't see a greedy grab for coalition cosiness out of my party. You'll see an insistence on forming a consensus about what will be fairest for people. Hopefully (in my ideal scenario) we'll do this from opposition, only allowing through those measures we agree with the minority government on, and placing pressure on that government to deliver reform.

Personally I'm surprised Cameron isn't reaching out to Brown. He's agreed with him on far more in the years of his leadership of the Conservative party than he ever has with us. And then they could keep their consensus about the voting system, the stripping of civil liberties, the maintenance of a cold war missile system, going into illegal and immoral wars, keeping children in prison conditions in immigration removal centres, pandering to the agenda of the banks, etc, etc.

David said...

Any way you slice it, the 25% LibDem vote is not a majority vote for PR.

True, but a LibDem vote is not just a vote for one single issue. I would be surprised if anyone agrees 100% with their party. That's why a refferendum would be good. If you are right, it will be a 75% majority against.

If we stick with your logic, no party should be allowed to govern though, since none has a majority behind them.

Normally what happens in a coalition government is they make compromises on the points they don't care too much about and stick with the important ones. So if for LibDems this is a big issue, but for the Tories or Labour it isn't then a majority would be happy with the package which includes PR and some other point.

Anonymous said...

Electoral Reform was a Labour policy too so over 50% of the people voted for some kind of Electoral Reform. It's about time the people get what they want instead of just more of the same unfair system.