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Hung Parliaments - Ed's journal
Hung Parliaments
So as the election is trundling onwards, the lastest fearmongering brings up the spectre of a 'hung parliament'. I've been trying to figure out why that's such a big and scary concept - I mean, a party without a parliamentry majority... well, would seem that they actually have to think about what they're voting on, rather than railroading through sham legislation under the party line.
I think I like that notion. I mean, if one party has a clear consensus for their manifesto, then it might be argued that they are obliged to deliver those commitments.
But without that clear consensus, perhaps there'll have to be a little more ... well, deliberation over legislation.

I could give you some examples of bills that I think may have come as a result. Just off the top of my head, the Gurkha right to settlement, and the digital economy bill spring to mind.

I've found an article about 'what happens': http://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/content/131/hung-parliaments-what-you-need-to-know which made interesting reading.

Anyway. I've sent out emails to some parliamentry candidates. I have heard back from Jim Cunningham (Labour) via snailmail, and Stephen Gray (Green) via email

I was interested in what they felt about:
Party Unity - when the party interests and the constituency interests conflict.

Electoral Reform

Communication and 'engagement' with the constituency.

From the responses I've got, it would seem that Jim Cunningham is a firm believer in party unity - and looking at his voting record, you can see that. But specifically has no areas of the Labour manifesto that he would be inclined to dispute. I can accept that point of view - in a sense, we vote for a party and 'the whole package' come election time. However it's not one I agree with - I don't want a party to represent me, I want a person.

Stephen Gray seems more inclined to think for himself - obviously, as a member of a party he's in broad agreement with the policies, but is inclined to vote against the party line where it's relevant.
He's also positive on the notion of using 'online communications' as a part of the MP communication portfolio (not as a replacement, but as an adjunct). He's also pro electoral reform.

As I've yet to hear from the other parties I've contacted by email (and yes, I appreciate that the 'traditional way' is by letter, but I'm actually quite keen to see increased awareness of the power of the net) I've reserved judgement on their responses.

Based on these two though - whilst I'm not sure I entirely agree with Stephen's standpoint, I have to say, he's far more like a man I'd like to have representing me and my interests in Parliament than Jim.

Edit: When talking about electoral reform (which I'm keen on):
Here's a few links to possible alternative systems.

I like the ones where there's a constituency link, over straight proportional representation.
6 comments or Leave a comment
4givensins From: 4givensins Date: April 27th, 2010 09:41 am (UTC) (Link)
The current polling and FPTP is bonkers, but unless there is a really good single issue independent in your area with a lot of support, you have 3 (some would say 2) choices. I'm voting Lib Dem because as well as a manifesto I generally support, they hope to make significant changes to the way we elect our government. If enough people vote for them, and they get to play kingmaker on May 6th and form a coalition government, then I hope some of the electoral reforms they have proposed come to fruition.

I agree with you on a hung parliament in principle, I'm uncertain about the practice. It looks to me like we're heading that way, so here's hoping it turns out ok. If we get PR, we need separate elections for the prime-minister in my opinion, because with PR and a 3 party system an overall majority is unlikely.
sobrique From: sobrique Date: April 27th, 2010 09:53 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm increasingly thinking FPTP is just a broken idea - right now, if you're not in a marginal seat, your vote doesn't really count.

And even if you are, then you're essentially voting for or against the incumbent. I want electoral reform. I don't want proportional representation though - at least, not 'straight' PR like you get in the European elections.

STV or AV+ seems a little more to my taste.

For reference:

Actually, I'll edit those into my original post.

But yes, looking at manifestos, if I'm choosing between tory/labour, I come down slightly on the tory side.
But in a straight fight, Liberal/Green seems well aligned with my views. Not much in it, barring that Liberals are looking a very strong contender - and would help create a 'hung' parliament, which I actually think would be a good thing - too many years of majority have made the big two lazy.
chess From: chess Date: April 27th, 2010 10:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Also, even if the Lib Dems don't get many seats, every vote for them is a vote they can use to point at the figures and say 'look, we got n% of the vote and a much lower % of the seats, this is broken'...
phlebas From: phlebas Date: April 27th, 2010 10:36 am (UTC) (Link)
...but doesn't that give the party that did get more seats more reason to resist reform?
cthulahoops From: cthulahoops Date: April 27th, 2010 12:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
I get slightly annoyed about the use of the phrase "Proportional Representation" to refer to one particular system, generally a party list based system. All of the systems you list are forms of PR. (I tend to suspect that the European election system was chosen to give PR a bad name.)

I'm a fan of PR-STV, I think it provides an excellent degree of proportionalness (compare the vote and seat percentages at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%C3%A1il_%C3%89ireann, preferrably with the equivalent UK http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Commons_of_the_United_Kingdom along side to make the true horror clear) while almost eliminating tactical voting, keeping local representatives and being relatively straight forward to count.

For an interesting example of a system that does a better job at avoiding tactical vote at the cost of complexity have a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranked_Pairs.

Of course, I may be biased having grown up with PR-STV.

One possible outcome of this election is a Lib-Lab government leading to some sort of AV system. I'm not sure what to think of this, while obviously any sort of electoral reform is a step in the right direction getting a half measure now might slow real reform.

On the other hand, I'm exciting that electoral reform is a real possibility.
mister_jack From: mister_jack Date: April 27th, 2010 04:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
6 comments or Leave a comment