Saturday, 8 May 2010

The Liberal Democrats must seize this historic opportunity

So we have go what many people wanted - a hung parliament. Now, at last politicians are going to have to work together - a fairly alien concept in British parliamentary democracy. What is the priority of this new parliament? According to most commentators it is sorting out the budget deficit. But they are wrong. We have to deal with the deficit anyway, whatever happens. The biggest single priority is democratic reform.

Last Thursday's election showed up starkly what many of have known for years - our electoral system doesn't work. The Tories got 10 million votes, New Labour 8 million and the Liberal Democrats 6 million. That translates into 306 seats for the Tories, 258 for New Labour and 57 for the Liberal Democrats. This just doesn't stack up and people know it. There is growing anger and frustration that the democratic will of the people is being thwarted. Add to that an unelected second chamber and the situation is intolerable.

The Liberal Democrats have long campaigned and fought for proportional representation, they must now seize this historic opportunity and make PR a pre-condition of any arrangement with the other parties. They won't get this from the Tories - so they must form an alliance with New Labour and the Nationalists. The maths is tight - together they will only have 324 votes. But now there is a Green MP who supports PR and some of the other smaller parties will as well. This coalition can deliver the democratic reform we need and it is the only way forward. A Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition would be a monumental error - failing to deliver electoral reform and introducing swingeing cuts. It would split the Liberal Democrats and could only benefit Labour and the Tories in the long run.

Don't be fooled by the argument that the party that got the most seats and most votes is entitled to get the first shot. That is just Tory propaganda. The parties who got the most votes and most seats (albeit the letter under an unfair system) were the Liberal Democrats and Labour. That gives them a mandate to govern. If the Liberal Democrats's can wring a commitment to a referendum on PR and electoral reform form Labour that is what they must do. There is no alternative. If they fail to do this they will be consigning themselves to permanent minority status and they will dwindle back to they tiny party they were half a century ago.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh no, are we all now jumping on a Lib Dem bandwagon? I hope not!

Jules

Howard Thorp said...

Jules

definitely not! What matters to me is two things. One - we get PR and two we preserve our seat in Brighton.

The situation is fraught with danger for all the parties

H