The UK general election has produced a result where no party has an overall majority of seats in Parliament. This situation is not unusual in many other countries but in the UK we have a barmy voting system which almost always produces an outright winner in terms of seats even if, as is normal, that party can only claim 35% to 40% of the popular vote.
Other countries seem to survive well enough with systems which produce more proportionate results. Elections are often seen as a two stage process where there’s the vote with its attendant result followed by a period of horse trading where the politicians try to sort things out amongst themselves. The large parties in the UK always claim that our ‘first past the post system’ produces strong government. Go tell that to the Greeks who also use a winner takes all system.
Britain is currently at the horse trading stage. Because we’re not used to it it seems weird and the politicians don’t really know how to deal with it. The Tories, who won the largest number of seats, with about 35% of the vote, keep claiming that they’re the obvious winners. This is, of course, total nonsense: over 50% of the people voted for the Labour or Liberal Democrat parties. The politicians are just going to have to start behaving like grown ups.
If Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, does a deal with the Tories he’ll eventually be royally shafted by them. But then both he and Cameron, the Tory leader, should be used to that sort of thing being, as they both are, products of top public (read ‘private’) schools. My big worry at the moment is that Clegg will revert to type and start seeing himself as being entitled to run the country almost as birthright just as Cameron and nearly all Tories before him always have done.
My preferred scenario is that Clegg does a deal with Labour on condition of a new PR voting system (not just some sort of commission of enquiry which could drag on for years) and Gordon Brown, the current Prime Minister, goes as leader by the autumn. I like Brown but if his departure is a condition then he has to accept it. It’ll be a minority government but if the Tories are genuine (hah!) about wanting to do things for the good of the country they’ll have to be very careful what they do.
Minor edits 9 May 2010
Posted 8 May 2010, 09:50 BST