Sunday, May 09, 2010

Time for a coalition?

I'll be honest - I have always been deeply sceptical about the viability of coalition government in the UK. I also don't think any coalition can claim to have been voted for by the people. People may say "52.0% voted for a 'progressive' coalition" or "59.1% voted for a libertarian coalition" or all manner of combinations, but the fact is that none of these coalitions were actually offered to the voters. It is false to conscript votes to one option or another.

That said I am also deeply worried about the news from the financial markets. It's a scary time and the country desperately needs a stable government that can take decisions. If getting that involves compromise then so be it. Governments have to compromise all the time with interests both at home and abroad.

I don't think the country's voting system should be simply changed for the sake of this. But that isn't actually what the Liberal Democrats want. They want a referendum on changing the voting system. But the outcome of such a referendum isn't a foregone conclusion. It could instead endorse the current system - British Columbia recently had two referendums on changing the provincial legislature's voting system from First Past The Post to Single Transferable Vote. The first had a majority but failed at the threshold, the second saw much greater information campaigns and rejected it outright. Don't take the opinion polls as indicative either way.

But right now the most important thing is the economy. All parties have to make the current situation work. And if we are to have a voting system that makes hung parliaments more regular outcomes then lets see the advocates of that voting system make those outcomes work.

If I hear that a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition has been agreed, it won't be the end of the world. At the moment it's the best option available.

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