Tuesday, May 11, 2010
The Chinese can be blamed for a lot of things, Tiananmen Square, over population, wrecking the Copenhagen deal, inventing fireworks that keep me awake in the run up, throughout, and for some time after, November every year, but mostly for delicious take away food that has contributed to my being over weight contributing, possibly, to my early death (hopefully still in the future whenever it is that you're reading this). However, this week the Chinese proverb "May you live in interesting times" seems to have cursed this great nation of ours in relation to our recent General Election.
Things got even more interesting today following Gordon Brown's resignation. This should be a moment to celebrate for everyone but the blindest Labour apologist, but look deeper and you will see it isn't. As with all Gordon Brown's utterances, you have to read between the lines to work out what he really means. This resignation is really about extending his premiership, for up to an incredible 4 months, beyond the General Election in which he and his party were soundly beaten.
Gordon's resignation is designed to entice Nick Clegg into negotiations and a deal with Labour while his party descends into civil war between the various potential leadership camps such as the Milibandians/Ballistas and the Harridans. He is determined to cling on as Prime Minister as long as (barley) constitutionally possible, and almost as important is the chance to scupper a deal that would see the election's winning party, The Conservatives, take over the reigns.
The Tories have today offered the LibDems electoral reform in the shape of the Alternative Vote system. This was a system favoured by Labour, and for good reason as it favours them even more than the current FPTP system with it's bias for Labour due smaller constituency sizes and low turn out in Labour areas, amongst other things. However, it's clear that the Tories will allow a referendum (as any electoral reform should have) but will campaign against the change itself.
I can only think that the Tories believe that AV, of all the options for change, is the easiest to defeat in a referendum. As you can see from the table below, if the relationship between seats won and share of the vote is what's important to you (what some call "fair votes"), then AV is worse than FPTP.
It's a big gamble for Cameron and if it doesn't pay off this system would further entrench the Labour party in power. But, it seems, the offer is necessary to keep the LibDems interested. Even though it has succeeded in that objective, Clegg is now sniffing around Labour to see what they can offer. This double dealing looks bad and must leave a nasty taste in the Tory negotiators mouths as they continue to maintain their respectful, reasonable and conciliatory stance with the LibDems (despite their poor showing in the General Election) while they attempt to play one side off against the other to get maximum pay back. Meanwhile the country continues to yearn for some decisiveness and a government we, and the markets, can have confidence in.
The final offer is now in the table, take it or leave it, Clegg. Take it, and you get the chance to give the Liberals something they've not had for decades, real power and the chance to implement real policies and effect real change.
Leave it, and show the nation how you put party before country, how afraid you are of real responsibility during what will be difficult times to govern, and be rightly condemned to another 100 years in the wilderness for your cowardice. That is, of course, unless your Labour friends in parliament manage to agree to vote for a referendum on PR (highly unlikely, despite what Gordon says). In which case (assuming you win the referendum) we can look forward to you whoring your support around the other parties like some kind of surrogate electorate choosing who should govern, while the real electorate looks on, bemused and wondering what their "fair votes" are really worth.