As we approach polling day and we all prepare to cast out vote to decide the future of the country for the next five years, it is becoming more and more apparent that UK politics is broken. I’d even go as far to say that the current version of democracy is breaking down too. Here’s why I think that.
Single party politics is dead
We have had a coalition government for the past five years. It was the first coalition government since World War 2. It was new to us all. We were all sceptical. Would it work? Would we go the full five years? Turns out it did. But when push comes to shove, a coalition government wasn’t what the general public voted for. And with polls showing a complete dead heat, it looks like we’re going to get it again.
And that’s the problem. We have a voting system which is designed around the assumption that a single party will win a majority when people go to vote. And we are still asking the general public to go to the polls to vote for a party on that assumption.
But the politics in this country has changed. We are very far away from the old two party system. We have at least five parties now taking some share of the vote, which makes winning an overall majority in Parliament much harder. So how can we all be expected to vote for one party, assuming they will have a majority, when the new reality is that it’s highly unlikely our party of choice won’t form the next government outright?
Change the way we vote?
The way we vote needs to change. If we’re going to live in an era of coalitions, then the voting system has to reflect that new reality.
When we go to the polls in the future, I believe that we should be allowed a second choice. This second choice would be the party that we would want the next government to form a coalition with should that scenario come up. The second choice would be ignored should a party win an outright majority. But in elections where a hung parliament is likely, the second choice becomes important.
At the moment, we’re voting with the intention of one party getting a majority in an era of hung parliaments, therefore no matter how people vote, we’re going to get a government no one voted for. No is happy with that outcome, and if we’re to increase political engagement, this isn’t the way to do it. At least by having a second option, the country can tell the politicians who at least they would prefer a coalition to be formed from.
Potential for chaos
Right now all the party leaders are saying that they will not do another deal with any other party to form a coalition government. Whilst it’s noble that Ed and Dave will try and fight for a majority, it’s clear that isn’t going to happen. In reality, I think that Labour will do a deal with the SNP in some form, to make sure the Tories don’t get in again. In what form that will be I have no idea.
But lets for a minute explore the idea that no deals are done, and one of the parties has to run a minority government. We’ve had a few of those before and they were all very short lived and very messy. Once polling is done and the result is announced, politicians have three weeks to form a government and a Queen’s speech for the state opening of Parliament. Should that draft get voted down in the House of Commons that would be a vote of no confidence in the government and it would effectively collapse. The likelihood then that there would be another election for someone to try and win a majority.
This would create massive uncertainty, something no one likes, especially business. Businesses like to know what is happening and where we’re going. If we don’t have any form of government, chaos could ensue. A very British chaos though, not the type of unrest and problems you see in other countries. Luckily for me, while it’s all unfolding in the UK, I’ll actually be sat on a beach not caring all that much!
When it comes to squeaky bum time though, I do believe some parties will in the end do a deal and get government working again.
UK politics is broken. What I have just written above is just one of the many things wrong with it. There are a whole other plethora of reasons why it’s broken, but I’d need a book, not a blog for that! As always all comments welcome in the section below.