Ask Zompist: UK Election

I’ve always been a fan of your US political pages, and was wondering if you had
any opinions on how the current UK situation is shaping up (at time of writing,
612 of 650 counts in).

Currently we have two main choices:

  • A minority Tory government, claiming they have a “moral right” to govern the UK even though almost all their seats are in England and even *there* 60% of the voters want someone else;
  • A rather shaky coalition between Labour, LibDem, and the Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties, which has been dubbed the “coalition of losers”, “denying the Tories their mandate” even though they hold 54% of the vote between them.

I am somewhat partisan on this*, as is everyone I know here, so I was wondering
if you could supply a more objective view?

[* – being Scottish and preferring LibDem, with so far 23% of the vote (up 1%)
but 8.3% of the seats (down 1%); the best I could hope for is a coalition on the
condition of forcing electoral reform through.]

—Mad Elf

I’ve always kind of had a soft spot for the LibDems, ever since they were (to American eyes) a rational middle between Thatcherism and the way-left Labourites.  It looked for awhile like Nick Clegg (such a Dickensian name!) would have his chance to revolutionize British politics.  Alas, he actually lost seats.

On policy, the Tories are so far as I know rational conservatives quite unlike our Tea Party, but they get a major black mark for opposing the spending that was needed to jump-start the economy during the 2008 crisis.  As Paul Krugman said when boggling at the Economist‘s endorsement, what makes people think this enormous error of judgment means nothing?

It also worried me that Clegg seems eager to join the euro; the crisis has also revealed what a dumb idea that is.  Britain is a little better off for having its own currency; Greece can only dream of such a thing right now.

It’d be great if a better voting system came out of this.  I don’t know that proportional representation is all that great— it often leads to political deadlock and to excessive power held by extremists (cf. Israel).  But the winner-takes-all system effectively disenfranchises anyone in a ‘safe’ constituency, and the present US system is pretty much insane.  A better reform in my view is range voting or, in fact, any of the voting systems that supply more information on voter preferences.  Instead of guessing what the voters want if they can’t get their first choice, you can just ask them.

As for who should form a government— you follow protocol.  Y’all’ve had three hundred years to work this out; there are rules.  You don’t attempt to follow morality or mandates at such a time— everyone has their own idea of morality, and this route will just lead to endless recrimination or worse.  A nation needs clear rules on what happens in the case of a disputed succession. Surely there’s a Queen’s Bedchamber Mace or someone who knows.

Besides, as a few pundits have said, everybody lost.  If the Tories wanted to be clear winners they should have clearly won.

Cheap prediction: I wouldn’t trust either party to give the LibDems what they most want— electoral reform— and Clegg would be foolish to offer full support for nothing.  So I’d expect a new election this year or next.