Liberal Democrats: the clue is in the name


by MatGB    
4:25 pm - May 10th 2010

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So, it looks like a deal is on the table and is now subject to the democratic processes of the Liberal Democrats. It also looks like Mr Cameron has been persuaded that keeping his own MPs on board might be a good idea.

There’s a lot of idiocy going around online, a huge amount of hyperbole, including DoS attacks on the Lib Dem phone lines, and flashmobbing the LibDem meetings.

Um, guys? It’s not the Lib Dems you need to persuade. Here’s why:

The Liberal Democrats are a democratic party

This means the leadership can’t just jump into bed with any other party, there are rules (the “triple lock”). In summary, 75% of MPs and 75% of the elected Federal Executive must agree to a deal. If they don’t, but the leader wants it and a majority of each do, then a special conference is called, at which 66% of conference reps have to agree to it. If they say no, but the leadership still want it, then a full postal ballot of members can happen, at which a simple majority can say yes.

Without approval? No deal. As commenter Mark Lightwood observes on a previous thread:

75% of Lib Dem MPs will not sign their own political death warrant – which is what agreeing to a deal with the Tories that doesnt have PR in it amounts to. It just won’t happen. Clegg knows this, and is a smart guy.

Mark appears to be a Green member (Mark, care to confirm?), but is spot on on this. Without a substantial commitment to STV, Lib Dem MPs know that propping up the Tories would lead to them losing their seats at the next general election. They won’t approve a deal.

So it goes to a special conference. I’m a voting member of the party, and would attend such a conference. For me, I joined the party specifically to campaign for electoral reform, it’s the main reason I’m involved. That’s true of a lot of members. For the rest? It’s a commitment that’s in the blood of the party. As the founder of modern liberalism, J. S. Mill, observes:

nothing is more certain than that the virtual blotting out of the minority is no necessary or natural consequence of freedom; that, far from having any connection with democracy, it is diametrically opposed to the first principle of democracy, representation in proportion to numbers. It is an essential part of democracy that minorities should be adequately represented. No real democracy, nothing but a false show of democracy, is possible without it.

And by minorites, we’re not talking “minor parties”, we’re talking everyone under or unrepresented in Parliament.

No agreement without a commitment to genuine electoral reform (and not just some fudge as if AV is enough) will work with the Lib Dem party. The membership won’t allow it.

If you’re wanting to lobby someone, and wondering why the Lib Dems are even talking to the Conservatives, turn around and ask the Labour party Where’s the offer we can’t refuse?

Tories are reticent for reform, but I believe they can be persuaded. Labour? Labour sold out their promises again and again. Even now, they’re not making a serious offer.

Stop wasting your time and theirs by harassing Lib Dem MPs, let alone paid Lib Dem administrative staff. Lobby the big two parties, the two that didn’t put a genuine commitment to genuine electoral reform as a bottom line issue in their manifesto. To read/listen to people moaning at this stage because Nick is attempting to find a workable solution with the Tories is nothing short of ridiculous.

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About the author
Mat Bowles is an occasional contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He's mostly a house-husband working part-time at a local school, and is based in Calderdale, Yorkshire. A member of the Liberal Democrats, he is 35 and lives with Jennie Rigg. His general interest blog is currently hosted on Dreamwidth and his old political blog is at Not Little England.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Elections2010 ,Libdems ,Our democracy ,Reform


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Reader comments


Sense! Sense at last. How the electoral reform protesters expect to get reform by annoying Lib Dems I don’t know. They must persuade the other two parties MPs reform is needed otherwise even with a deal on the table for PR it might not get through Parliament. Simple.

I honestly hope for all our sakes that Clegg IS as clever as you insist, and that the membership are the principled bunch portrayed. I for one would sleep a lot better knowing that reports of a Con/LD love child are premature!

Galen, don’t get me wrong, if STV is on the table, and the deal is good, I’d vote for it, and have said so. But no STV, no deal.

It looks like the MPs have already rejected it anyway. So “further clarification” is needed.

*hat off*

Bloody good article, sir.

5. rwillmsen

He prefers to strike a deal with the Tories because he’s much closer to them politically. He particularly shares their animosity towards the organised Labour movement.

Great OP.

Oh dear, you’re going to trot out that misrepresentation of misquote in an interview with a journalist who’s notorious for his idiocy as evidence? SRSLY?

Clegg’s a liberal. A genuinely commited gut liberal; I’ve seen enough evidence of this, especially when I quizzed him on this very issue when I interviewed him for this site (never had time to write that up, but the notes are online somewhere).

It is, however, completely off topic to this post. Ergo, I suggest you stop trolling, I’m happy to actually enforce the comments policy on my threads.

3

Fair enough. In your situation I can see why you would vote that way… tho not sure I could bring myself to do it! ;)

Even in the unlikely event Cameron was able to deliver an acceptable guarantee on STV, I still think the differences are just too great.

I’m with Shirley Williams on this one I guess… (ah.. the heady days of the SDP!!), better to let Cameron try to form a minority administration.

9. rwillmsen

I suspect that being a good liberal he tries to tell people what they want to hear. But I take your point about trolling, since you’re (understandably) not keen to debate the Libdem’s attitude torwards the labour movement I’ll push on.

Oh, I’d be happy to debate it, and at some point in the future I’ll maybe post about it, but not on this thread. Especially given I promised the co-owner of the laptop she’d get some time on it soon.

Galen, it’ll be a very hard choice if it goes to a conference, but it’s one I’m prepared for; if the deal is good (and it’ll need more than STV, the tax policy for a start) then it’ll get a fair hearing.

Hi Mat, thanks for the namecheck. Member of none, policies closest to those of the Greens (minus the wacky stuff and not as opposed to growth as they are).

The more the “Take Back Parliament”/Labourites/Greens etc put the focus on what the Lib Dems will do, the less attention is being paid to the fact that unless Labour offer a better deal, Clegg is left with little choice. A lot of what I’ve seen, including the hashtag “dontdoitnick” and the VfaC/TBP/38 degrees adverts in the papers along the lines of “DONT SELL OUT” are ridiculously counter-productive.

“So there’s this guy, right, who likes PR, yeah, and his party absolutely love STV, yup – so we are going to accuse him of wanting to sell out and call him names and fuck up his staff. And we’re going to let Labour off the hook.”

An actual Green puts it very well here:

http://elliepant.wordpress.com/2010/05/10/scorched-earth-a-plea-to-labour-activists/

“The ball is in Labour’s court. Labour activists, if you want the best deal for the country, you either 1) push for a fast and full attempt to build a progressive coalition based on compromise, or 2) sort yourselves out in private, and in public be constructive, on no account trying to undermine Clegg’s delicate work.”

I suspect Labour activists aren’t fussed by PR, and their MPs actively hate it because it means no more safe seats for them. I have a sinking feeling all of this vitriol is designed to poison the Lib Dems’ chalice, give them no choice but to back the Tories, and then bring it all down, so they can destroy the Lib Dems at the next election. It is cutting off one’s head to spite one’s nose.

A quick questions as someone who is watching all of this with great interest I have nothing against STV, but if the Lib Dems are completely against a working arrangement with the Tories or are seen to be when the chips are down then surely even with PR you are back to a two horse race, the permanent exclusion from govt of a very significant percentage minority (36.7% at least) and really the election becomes all about who gets to be the largest party out of lib dems and lab. I accept some will say how is this significantly different from now with the switching between lab and tory. I just wonder if the tories would feel a bit happier toward STV if it didn’t appear to them to possibly just be a differnet political stitch up. As I say I’m not wanting to ruffle feathers but am interested in knowing whether if STV or even AV+ was delivered would the Lib Dems go into govt with the tories (and I know by the time this goes up I may already have an answer).

Well said, Matt – you’ve basically put into words something I said to my partner & Lib Dem inclined friends on Friday morning. Clegg isn’t the one who’s likely to fold on a PR deal as he has far too much to lose if he does. The real sticking points are the other 2 parties who have no outstanding to commitment to reform and who, in the case of the Tories, are rather adverse to reform of any kind.

One important clarification about PR: in most countries where it is used effectively, it is known BEFORE the election which parties prefer to be in a coalition.

For example, in Germany, it is well-established that the Christian Democrats (CDU, their Tories, bit less nutty) and the Free Democratic Party (economic liberals) prefer to be partners. Conversely, the Social Democrats (SDP, their Labour) and the Greens (their erm Greens, less nutty) are preferred partners.

However, the parties are mature enough to deal with not getting their preferred election outcome. Hence the CDU and the SDP were in a grand left-right coalition for a few years, which wasn’t great for either, but the country didn’t fall apart. Now the CDU are with their mates the FDP. And in regional governments, the CDU has even allied with the Greens.

So yes, it makes sense for the Lib Dens to prefer Labour over the Tories (just about – are we forgetting how Labour have acted in office since 1997?) but that isn’t viable unless you want a coalition dependent on how much Alex Salmond wants to extract from the government each week.

One of the difficulties for the Liberal Democrats at the moment is not just that the Tories are unlikely to deliver on proportional representation, the same applies to Labour.
I really don’t think that a coalition or an agreement with the SNP/PC/SDLP is so much of a problem. It is the Labour MPs who implacably support FPTP. People like Graham Stringer for example;
http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/general_election/s/1239344_graham_stringer_calls_on_gordon_brown_to_stand_down

Why don’t all these pressure groups who are jamming the Lib Dem switchboards do the same to Labour? Or better still find a less aggravating way of making their point?

12

It’s really upto the Tories in the end isn’t it? On the assumption that PR does happen at some point as a result of this election, the Tories may well find themselves in opposition for quite a while, since at present there IS a natural left of centre majority both in the UK and in England.

That isn’t to say that the situation would be permanent – things can and do change. Look how the Tories adapted in Scotland…. if there was no PR in the Holyrood parliament, they’d be a pathetic rump… (OK, more of a pathetic rump!), but at one point they were the majority party in Scotland.

I’m sure there are enough people in the LD’s, or at least in the centre broadly defined, who can imagine going into a centre-right coalition: it’s hardly unusual in the general scheme of things.

BROWN HAS RESIGNED!!!!! Hallelujah

Galen 10
Thanks for the comments but again it does suggest to me that one of the upshots of the system described is to engineer for the Lib Dems a situation where they are for the foreseeable future always a party of government. You can vote right of centre and get the Lib Dems if you win or left of centre and get the lib dems if you win if you don’t get an outright majority.
I’m not sure there is a system without flaws but I just wonder how much of the principle behind the clamour is actually with one eye to always being in there in some shape or form?

Brown has resigned: that isn’t a lovebomb, it’s a lovenuke.

I’m not sure there is a system without flaws but I just wonder how much of the principle behind the clamour is actually with one eye to always being in there in some shape or form?

People insist on reading into things, don’t they? It could simply be that they think it’s unfair to have a system where a party can achieve nearly a quarter of the vote but be rewarded with less than a tenth of the seats.

the problem is the word liberal,its such a flexible catch all word. i think clegg is a closet tory(didn’t he join the tories in the 80s? and that thatcherite orange book he co authored) and would do a deal without electoral reform but i don’t think most of his party would let him.

Hubward. Important part of any post reform party system is that the voting system determines the parties, not the other way around. Whenever a voting system changes, parties re-align. Predicting permanent lockout for one party is daft, today’s negotiation’s show that, but regardless I predict more than one right leaning party to emerge, look at Buckingham and the number of votes the pro Europe Tory got as evidence. There’re plenty in the LDs who favour Conservatives overall. Not a majority by any means, but they’re there.

Oh good, the Orange Book myth is trotted out again. Paul, you’re wrong. Simple as.

@Mat

If in a PR system the Lib Dem big tent splits between social and market liberals, I don’t think that would be a bad thing. The Lib Dems are quite unique among European Liberal parties in having a combination of social and market liberalism, most of whom are usually just the latter. People could then vote for the social liberals in the knowledge they were more inclined towards the other progressive parties that exist. Or indeed the social and market liberals could re-unite.

In PR, like in real life, these things are fluid.

Mark, what about those of us who are simply genuine Liberals? I, lkike JS Mill, am a Liberal first, a Democrat second and a Socialist third. I don’t believe socialism can exist outside of a free society, and I don’t believe anyone has created a more free system than a genuinely free market. We don’t currently have a genuinely free market, the barriers to entry are too high and favour the capitalist ownership scheme.

But yes, many in the LDs would split off, possibly a market-liberal party and a party that merges with the sane Greens.

And the liberal socialists within Labour (like Unity of this parish).

Whereas the Conservative Tory and Whig wings would probably split as well, and some of the Whigs would end up in the Libertarian LD offshoot, and the Whigs would end up as a centrist party, probably with some of the non-authoritarian New Labourites as well.

Regardless, it’s pure speculation, and it’ll take 20 years or so to bed down into a stable set of parties, probably.

The point being that Tories who think it’ll lock them out of office are probably so far from the truth it’s silly. It’d likely lock the likes of Nadine Dorries permanently out, but that’d be a Good Thing.

Personally I am in favour of the Progressive Alliance calling itself the Rebel Alliance, even if it’s in government.

Anyway, to substance: I think Nadine Dorries will continue to be on the fringe of the main centre-right bloc. There will be more blocs, yes, but probably only two large ones and a number of medium ones.

Hmm, so Mat has been proved, whaddya know, correct inasmuch as the initial deal has been rejected.

So, any of you “Vote Orange Booker Clegg get Cameron” types got anything to add? Going to pull your finger out and try putting pressure on THE PARTY THAT DOESN’T ALREADY FAVOUR PR, maybe?

@Alix

Sadly I think most Labourite tweeters and knob-ends value the chance to come back in a few months/years’ time over the chance to carry on in government with the Lib Dems and the Nats.

Just for the record, JS Mill was not the “founder” of modern liberalism. That’s a rather silly thing to say.

Anyway, do Labour + Lib Dems even have the numbers? And even if they do, surely they’ll only hold it together for a few months, maybe a year, then it’s back to the electorate with the Tories saying “look at them stitching up power between them even though we had more seats”, just as the cuts start to set in.

No, Lib Dems please go and do your funny thing with the Tories. Labour can sit this one out for a couple of years, thank you very much. Some time in opposition will be time for renewal.

“Hmm, so Mat has been proved, whaddya know, correct inasmuch as the initial deal has been rejected.

So, any of you “Vote Orange Booker Clegg get Cameron” types got anything to add? Going to pull your finger out and try putting pressure on THE PARTY THAT DOESN’T ALREADY FAVOUR PR, maybe?”

Well Cameron just offered your bunch a referendum on PR, so hold your horses yeah? Let’s see what Cleggy does…

31. A Pedant

I truly expect the long term result of PR to be the fragmentation of the Lib Dems, into its old parts of Liberal and Social Democrat, tending to side with Tory and Labour respectively. This would actually suit me fine, a properly liberal party, free of rediculously bigoted conservatives and smugly paternalist socialists would have my vote every time. Instead I am left hoping that the Tories will drop the anti-immigration, eurosceptic stuff or the Lib Dems will drop the tax-hike, spending hike line. Meanwhile FPTP lets Labour romp home to 60 seat majorities on vote shares that leave the Tories 20 seats short.

Paul. My take on the numbers: http://bit.ly/9jz67P

A Rainbow Coalition (great name) could work. Big majority Government isn’t the norm in our country after all. Wilson, Major, Churchill all ruled with small majorities after all.

Paul, Cameron has offered a referendum on AV, which specifically isn’t proportional, isn’t even close to proportional, and entrenches safe seats.

No deal from me unless the rest is really good. AV is an improvement, but it’s still one of the worst systems possible.

And if you think calling JS Mill the founder of modern liberalism is a silly thing to say, feel free to go tell the professors of philosophy and political theory that have described him as such, it’s not my words.

Also, IMO Lib Dems should be careful what they wish for.

Can you all be so sure that if we got, say, STV your vote would hold up as it does under FPTP?

You get a lot of tactical votes too, y’know. Think of all those Tory marginals where the Labour party doesn’t exist, or all those Labour ones where the Tory party is absent, and where the Lib Dems come along and say whatever the fuck they think will get them elected, even if it’s the exact opposite of what they are saying next door.

If people in all those marginals could actually vote Labour/Tory and get Labour/Tory, why are you all so convinced your irrelevant, done-nothing-except-whine, incoherent, confused amalgamation of side-line sneerers will do at all well?

If we get PR and the Lib Dems die out, I will laugh my balls off with a healthy dollop of schadenfreude.

@Paul @Alix @Mat

I think there is only one conclusion to draw from this:

“Anything can happen in the next half hour!”

4.40 – Laws announced there are the makings of a deal, with clarifications needed.
5.00 – Brown announces his resignation.
7.15 – Hague gives the LDs their final offer.

Each of these events follows from the other. It’s like a game of chess!

Paul, clarification: AV is NOT proportional, it’s worse than FPTP. Having said that, a referendum on AV is what Labour offered in their manifesto.

Labour must up the offer to AV+. Like all good geeks, I am praying for STV.

(aside: I wonder how the Tory grassroots will react to Cam’s lot throwing up the chance of AV?)

“Can you all be so sure that if we got, say, STV your vote would hold up as it does under FPTP?”

To their credit, Lib Dems realise this could happen but push for STV because it is the best system.

“If we get PR and the Lib Dems die out, I will laugh my balls off with a healthy dollop of schadenfreude.”

See above. They will likely split into their constituent parts, as will Labour and the Tories.

Another observation: Hague has just upped the game and essentially forced Labour to offer the Lib Dems more than AV. Thanks Bill! Have a pint on me :)

Well let’s see what you get from Labour. Probably AV+. Which I recall Clegg and Co. said wasn’t good enough. Though I admitt you’ll probably take it as a better option.

“And if you think calling JS Mill the founder of modern liberalism is a silly thing to say, feel free to go tell the professors of philosophy and political theory that have described him as such, it’s not my words.”

Heh. All that time doing an MA in the Intellectual History and the History of Political Thought, preparing for a PhD in the same area in Cambridge next year, and turns out I should have just asked all the people around me.

Oh, wait, anybody who isn’t a gigantic wazzock would have spotted that to say there is a “founder” (note the singular) of something as diverse as modern liberalism is pretty damn silly. Here are some names to look up, in no particular historical order: Hume, Kant, Smith, Bentham, Paine, Constant, Tocqueville – hell, maybe even Burke if you’re thinking expansively.

(geekfight!!) Paul and Mat, take it outside! We’re all going to be working together in the Progressive (Rebel) Alliance. I’ll let either of you be Luke Skywalker.

p.s. if you want to look for actual foundations as oppose to people who were already starting to self-define as “liberal”, then also try looking up those little-known blokes by the names of Hobbes and Locke. They’re kind of important. Probably more so than ‘ol JS, who for all his good intentions did only write one rather vague essay about leaving people alone, and is remembered today more because of Oxford PPE reading lists and the propensity of Oxford PPEists to end up in journalism and politics than because Mill is a hugely important figure in the liberal tradition.

“I’ll let either of you be Luke Skywalker.”

With my superior knowledge of the force i’m only settling for Obi-Wan.

“Can you all be so sure that if we got, say, STV your vote would hold up as it does under FPTP? ”

No, definitely not, we’d lose hand over fist to the Greens. Wow. You actually think we are as out for tribal advantage as the others.

Paul, it depends, of course, on what you mean by liberalism. But he’s certainly regarded by those within the party as the founder of liberalism as we recognise it, and I can remember him being discussed as such by Hampshire-Monk when I was at Exeter. Hobbes and Locke, while certainly important to social contract theory, weren’t really liberals in the modern sense.

Regardless, one line in a post, where the very definitions are contested; I’m not going to edit it as it’s clear enough and not really relevent to the actual point.

To LibDems, Mill is important; the party president is given a ceremonial copy of On Liberty when taking office, amongst other things.

And as Mark says, STV would almost inevitably lead to the end of the Lib Dems as we now know it, just as it would lead to the end of the other two parties; that’s been discussed on here repeatedly for years; I look forward to being in the same party as Unity, for example.

@Alix

“No, definitely not, we’d lose hand over fist to the Greens.”

Not necessarily. Your left wing would form a new party with them. That’s what PR does: it doesn’t kill parties, it creates new ones, almost bloodlessly. Bloody civilised system, I say.

“Hobbes and Locke, while certainly important to social contract theory, weren’t really liberals in the modern sense.”

Yeah, but you said “founder”, not “early adovcate of established tradition”.

Meh.

“To LibDems, Mill is important; the party president is given a ceremonial copy of On Liberty when taking office, amongst other things.”

That’s a shame. Cos I was reading it again the other day, and it’s really wooly. Despite being rather infatuated with it as an undergraduate, I’m now convinced that it’s more of an interesting 19th Century pamphlet than something that should really guide modern political thinking.

I reckon you Lib Dems would all be better off reading Schmitt. Stop all this mopping around, recognise that there is a crisis of sovereignty, wheel out the tanks and assert yourselves. You’d do a lot better than being all coy with the Tories and Labour about who can give you the nicest PR sweeties.

Is it me or is there something degenerate about how rolling TV news focuses on the way ministerial cars drive through the streets? They have cameras on news helicopters flying above ministerial cars. That’s fucking creepy.

It could simply be that they think it’s unfair to have a system where a party can achieve nearly a quarter of the vote but be rewarded with less than a tenth of the seats.

Surely a better measure of proportionality is something like percentage of vote graphed against percentage of bills vetoed?

Any system that grants the 20% in the middle 100% veto power is not proportionate in that sense.

The only constituency-based electoral system that, mathematically, can deliver true proportionality is the _LD- system_: one without the Lib Dems in it.

As soon as you have three parties and proportionate seats, you give disproportionate power to the one seen as standing in the middle.

A very real issue put to me: how possible will it be to held an intelligent, informed public debate for a referendum about alternative electoral reforms?

Subject to correction, as I understand it, the LibDems want to introduce multimember constituencies and STV while those in the Labour Party who support electoral reform want AV, which won’t necessarily help small parties and which won’t necessarily yield PR outcomes.

The chasm between these two positions is almost a wide as that between Labour and the LibDems on one side, and the Conservatives on the other who want no reform at all.

@Bob B

Events move fast. Labour are now offering a bill to bring in AV straight away, with a referendum later on to bring in something more proportional.

AV could be brought in immediately, as you have the same boundaries but the ballot paper allows you to rank candidates.

If the + element of AV+ were based on the Euro regions, then you could introduce AV+ immediately as well.

As for STV, Mark Pack of the Lib Dem Voice blog says you wouldn’t have to redraw the boundaries, you could group together existing constituencies to elect multiple members.

So basically, we wouldn’t need longer than a year after a referendum, to implement a PR system.

Labour’s current offer makes sense, bring in AV now and maybe have AV+ later. There’s no point putting AV to a referendum, it makes no difference to the outcome.

Here here! (Wait… I took part in the hassling. Oh well)

(I know AV+ is shit compared to STV, but preferential voting in the single member constituencies (AV) and party list in the multimember constituencies (+) is a good basis for preferential voting in multimember constituencies (STV).

soru,

Surely a better measure of proportionality is something like percentage of vote graphed against percentage of bills vetoed?

Sure, if your understanding of ‘proportionality’ is at odds with what appears to be the common understanding.

As soon as you have three parties and proportionate seats, you give disproportionate power to the one seen as standing in the middle.

Where is the the ‘middle’ in an adversarial system / an Aye/No vote?

52. Nick Cohen is a Tory

Matt and Mark
What about the nightmare scenario.
The Tories give you a referendum.
Then they use their many friends in the press to scare voters about fringe organisations like the SWP and BNP to vote against PR.
Brown has resigned
Good
But please, please please no Lib lab pact.
And do you know who will stop this is the PLP.
Many Labour MP’s are firmly against the idea

@48 Mark

Thanks for that briefing.

I’m rather persuaded by the benefits to voters of multimember constituencies and it’s about time that the electoral system worked more in our favour instead of the politicians’.

Aspiring politicians mostly want to be adopted by congenial single-member constituencies with large built-in majorities. From a voter’s perspective, that can can mean being stuck with some dumbo as an MP who is there for life, short of his/her party members mounting a successful deselection challenge.

At least with multimember constituencies, voters get more choice about who to vote for. And there’s no harm in a little competition between candidates of the same political party, each striving to attract votes in multimember constituencies. Predictably, many politicians absolutely hate that prospect so we get a lot of hogwash about the special bond between an MP and the constituency.

Bring on electoral reform.

@Bob B

That is precisely why STV in multimember constituencies is needed. Pish upon this idea that PR gives power to “party bosses” ignores the fact that those same bosses are the ones who often decide who the candidate in a FPTP constituency is – for life, effectively.

Also, if people really want greater choice of their candidates (on top of that given by STV) they need to join parties. As you say, the constituency link is rubbish: when MPs vote along party lines, to try and delineate them on the basis of which tiny part of the country they were elected is silliness of the highest order. The fairest system would be a one national PR list, with a 10% threshold (to avoid Israel-style shenanigans). That way, MPs could be national politicians rather than local social workers.

Am I the only person getting the fuck pissed off by hearing Laura Kuenssburg and other BBC presenters repeating the Tory lies about “another unelected Prime Minister” and “the two parties that lost”? We don’t elect the PM, and the same people bleat about how the debates “presidentialised” British politics; and no one won last week, the Tories have no mandate at all on 36% to form a government.

@Nick Cohen IAT

Yes, the PLP will be untrustworthy, the swine. Witness the likes of Dianne Abbott, spreading more lies about PR and the Lib Dems. Even good guys like Jeremy Corbyn parrot Tory lines about PR. Old Labour left MPs realise that PR makes them useless

Sure, if your understanding of ‘proportionality’ is at odds with what appears to be the common understanding.

I don’t think there is any meaningful common understanding of the word when people are talking about AV, STV, etc. as proportional systems. Any system only delivers a proportionate outcome at the national scale if it operates at the national scale (e.g. single national party list). No system based on delivering a local outcome (i.e. no system that can run for an single local bye-election) can be proportional in the sense you define the word.

In contrast, the Vetinari system (one man, one vote: I’m the man) is perfectly mathematically proportionate, simply because it doesn’t split the electorate up into chunks.

Which suggests to me we need a better definition. One focusing on equality of power of voters, equality of worth of vote. Not one simply based on making things ‘fair’ for prospective MPs.

Where is the the ‘middle’ in an adversarial system / an Aye/No vote?

I guess I missed the ongoing discussion of a ConLab coalition?

Soru,

In contrast, the Vetinari system (one man, one vote: I’m the man) is perfectly mathematically proportionate, simply because it doesn’t split the electorate up into chunks.

True. But we don’t have that, of course.

Which suggests to me we need a better definition. One focusing on equality of power of voters, equality of worth of vote. Not one simply based on making things ‘fair’ for prospective MPs.

Of course I agree with one man one vote but it seems to me the argument for some sort of proportional system vs. FPTP is based on what’s fair for the voters, not what’s fair for the MPs (indeed I’ve never heard the latter argument advanced).

Where is the the ‘middle’ in an adversarial system / an Aye/No vote?

I guess I missed the ongoing discussion of a ConLab coalition?

Perhaps we’re talking past each other.

If there are three parties, Blue, Red and Yellow, with 36, 29, and 23% of the votes respectively, why shouldn’t they respectively have 36, 29 and 23% of the power?

@57

Amusingly enough Yellow with 23% currently has the ‘power’ to choose (effectively) the next PM – 100% of the power, if you like! Oh democracy… the quicker we overhaul the whole farcical system the better.

Amusingly enough Yellow with 23% currently has the ‘power’ to choose (effectively) the next PM – 100% of the power, if you like! …

I think this is what people are saying when they raise concerns about ‘disproportionate’ power. It doesn’t have that power, of course. Also, why is it fair for Blue with 36 or Red with 29 (or Red with 21 in 2005) to be able to choose the PM? Why should Blue or Red have the power to choose but Yellow no power?

But we don’t have that, of course.

No, we have one Clegg one vote…

Or, to be fair, perhaps some system like that of the Chinese Communists with internal party debate before the Clegg gets to cast the vote.

Of course I agree with one man one vote but it seems to me the argument for some sort of proportional system vs. FPTP is based on what’s fair for the voters, not what’s fair for the MPs (indeed I’ve never heard the latter argument advanced).

That is of course because it is usually prospective MPs making the argument, and they know what not to say. But any argument that is based on proportionality of MPs, not proportionality of outcomes, is one structured around the careers of MPs, not the lives of voters.

It’s like the argument for a flat tax – take two numbers (income, tax paid, or vote and seat count) and just assert that fairness consists of the two numbers being proportionate. No reasoning based on outcomes or justice, just assume the conclusion.

We can do a lot better than FPTP, but only if we first clear the ground of the self-interested liars and scoundrels who dominate discussion of the issue.

@59

As someone in favour of an elected head of state, fixed-term parliaments, PR and a written constitution I find this endless (talking about) tinkering at the edges slightly tiresome, but I suppose it’s a path to a fairer system eh… right now, I’d be in favour of a proper coalition government of all the talents, like in ’39 – ’45 . Seemed to work alright back then…

‘course the Liberal Democrats could be completely trumped by a Lab Con pact.

Given that there doesn’t seem to be anything between them anyway….

Extending on that idea:

Most they are willing to do about fixing our voting system is AV’

Agree in principle about getting rid of our debt mountain,

Agree in principle that we are up shit creek without a paddle, on our finances,

Hate asylum seekers,

Hate immigrants..

Love Trident,

Hate the poor, but pretend otherwise,

Love the rich, but pretend otherwise,

Love the privilege of ‘your turn’ politics and will fight tooth and nail against any change to that,

Hate progressive politics.

Seems to me they have more in common with each other than they let on….

64. WhatNext!?

Why, by the way, should there be a minimum % hurdle for small parties?

For all of those complaining about the “power” that Nick Clegg now has:

FPTP gave us this result. Under a PR system, no one party will continue to get a majority. So if the voters give us another hung parliament, it is up to the parties how to form a majority after negotiation. In most countries where PR happens, it is understood BEFORE the election which parties prefer to negotiate with each other. This is the first time in a long time we’ve had a hung parliament, which is why negotiations are happening afterwards.

There is no de facto reason why Clegg should have any power at all. In Germany, the centre-left SDP and the centre-right CDU entered a “grand coalition” excluding the small parties entirely. Clegg is being wooed because 1 in 4 voters chose the Lib Dems, whereas slightly less and more chose than 1 in 3 chose Tories or Labour. You don’t like it? You should’ve got either of those parties to win a majority, then.

And if Tom Harris doesn’t like it, he can fuck off to the Tories where he really belongs. He can spend all the time he likes there ranting about teenage mothers and abortion. The right-wing fuckwit.

@WhatNext

Minimum % hurdle is so that if the seat difference between either coalition is very tight, then a tiny party (like the BNP or in Israel one of their far right parties) does not have disproportionate influence in being put together in a coalition with larger parties.

Just accept that UKIP didn’t get any seats under FPTP.

“Amusingly enough Yellow with 23% currently has the ‘power’ to choose (effectively) the next PM – 100% of the power,”

Not really, both lab and the conservatives – if they get too pissed off with Clegg, have the option of trying as a minority government, or having another election – which would not be in the lib dems interest to say the least. Clegg has the difficult task of maximising the crumbs thrown from the table.

Also the power of the lib dems actually declines under more proportional systems, as it would make it easier for more parties to enter the arena, and thus more options for the leading party to negotiate with. Lets imagine UKIP and the Greens entering parliament and therefore a 6 party parliament (counting the nationalists as one party) with the largest party being the conservatives, followed by labour. UKIP would probably form a coalition with someone for just one concession (referendum on EU membership), which would reduce the concessions others would seek.You could even have a one party government that simply formed agreements with smaller parties on an issue by issue basis where they agreed.

As a paid up member of the LibDems, I could never support a Lib-con coalition but I understand that horse trading is the true business of politics and I for one support the concept of a Lib-Lad minority government.

The success of the coalition would rely on both parties engaging closely with their sister parties the SDLP and Alliance and other parties such as the SNP and the Greens.

Once this is achieved the coalition would have a technical majority, in which the Tories would find incredibly difficult to overturn.

Therefore the Lib-Lad could govern and reform our political system of the next three years, before calling a general election in the spring/summer of 2013 (or off the back of a successful Olympic Games.

This I can support and could work for the country!!!

“As a paid up member of the LibDems, I could never support a Lib-con coalition but I understand that horse trading is the true business of politics and I for one support the concept of a Lib-Lad minority government.”

Its the true business of PR. The fantastic news is that the sheer idiocy and indecision of the LibDems has damaged the reputation of PR for another generation.

We got the ‘change’ Nick wanted but it seems everyone hates it, including LibDem activists. Not that there was ever a mandate for electoral change outside the pages of the Guardian anyway, but thats a different story.

70. rwillmsen

Hey OP sorry if you think I’m trolling but you just joined the Tories :-).

So, we have a Lab/Con goverment.Have you forgot how and why the lib/dems formed a party.They were labour dropouts who could not agreey with thire own party,so how do you think they will ever make it,the whole thing has gone potty,this way we just as well have one party for all time.
there is not a liberal party anymore they are labour dropouts.THE LIB/DEMS.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Jae Kay

    RT @libcon: Liberal Democrats: the clue is in the name http://bit.ly/aWe5Uh

  2. sunny hundal

    .@MatGB points out Clegg unlikely to do a deal that involves substantial electoral reform: http://bit.ly/aWe5Uh

  3. John Q. Publican

    RT @sunny_hundal: .@MatGB points out Clegg unlikely to do a deal that involves substantial electoral reform: http://bit.ly/aWe5Uh

  4. Leon Green

    RT @libcon Liberal Democrats: the clue is in the name http://bit.ly/aWe5Uh

  5. Paul Bellerby

    RT @libcon: Liberal Democrats: the clue is in the name http://bit.ly/aWe5Uh

  6. Carl Hodler

    Dont waste #libdem time with electoral reform protests, share views with #Tories & #Labour MPs who are the real problem http://bit.ly/9xbJEx

  7. Tony Kennick

    "So, it looks like a deal is on the table and is now subject to the democratic processes of the Lib Dems" http://bit.ly/cUNEFz

  8. Mat Bowles

    wrote a LibCon post: Liberal Democrats: the clue is in the name http://bit.ly/cANV0o

  9. Eurocentric

    RT @matgb: wrote a LibCon post: Liberal Democrats: the clue is in the name http://bit.ly/cANV0o

  10. Ellie Price ??

    RT interesting LibCon here "post Liberal Democrats: the clue is in the name" http://bit.ly/cANV0o

  11. Tom Sheppard

    I'm Reading: Liberal Democrats: the clue is in the name: So, it looks like a deal is on the table and is now subje… http://bit.ly/b4Cs9b

  12. Liberal Conspiracy

    Liberal Democrats: the clue is in the name http://bit.ly/aWe5Uh

  13. Jenni Jackson

    RT @libcon: Liberal Democrats: the clue is in the name http://bit.ly/aWe5Uh

  14. Richard George

    @Power_2010 @38_degrees Strongly suggest you read this: http://bit.ly/aByTWO

  15. Les Crompton

    RT @libcon: Liberal Democrats: the clue is in the name http://bit.ly/8XCqbZ

  16. Herm Baskerville

    RT @libcon: Lib Dems: the clue is in the name http://bit.ly/aWe5Uh // I feel a bit guilty for whining, but not much. I leafletted & donated!

  17. Andrew Barnes

    RT @libcon: Liberal Democrats: the clue is in the name http://bit.ly/aWe5Uh

  18. Rich LLoyd

    @ScottJonesy to won't be quick mate: good summary: http://bit.ly/dceJWP – I get my say Wednesday locally

  19. Get Labour Out

    RT @sunny_hundal: .@MatGB points out Clegg unlikely to do a deal that involves substantial electoral reform: http://bit.ly/aWe5Uh

  20. Ed Paton-Williams

    @takeback2010 This is aimed at us and is a fair point. We need to be petitioning Labour and Tories for PR too. http://j.mp/93ftxV

  21. Pejosh Sugna

    RT @libcon: Liberal Democrats: the clue is in the name http://bit.ly/aWe5Uh

  22. star_tourmaline

    RT @matgb: wrote a LibCon post: Liberal Democrats: the clue is in the name http://bit.ly/cANV0o

  23. Can a Rainbow Coalition work? « Left Outside

    [...] thing you will all know, as Mat Bowles makes completely clear, is that any Lib-Con pact or accommodation is unlikely to get through the Liberal Democrat [...]

  24. Stop it « Bad Conscience

    [...] Tories have been at it, though I’ve no particular desire to go looking. Lots of Lib Dems on this thread are crowing and pontification. And indeed I and others have been wearing the war paint over here at [...]

  25. jeofish

    RT @libcon: Liberal Democrats: the clue is in the name http://bit.ly/aWe5Uh

  26. Life lessons from a hung parliament « Francesca Elston

    [...] but he hasn’t let it affect his determination or his judgment. Jennie is another one. She and Mat are keeping calm, keeping an open mind and reacting based on what is actually happening. (Like [...]

  27. ben ssssss

    http://t.co/f2ABiyyM





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