Vir Cantium

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Coalition and PR: The Sunlight That Kills The Lib Dem Vampire?

Two weeks to go and everyone seems convinced we’re heading for a hung parliament with some polls showing the Lib Dems in the lead … and then up pops ComRes with Conservatives on a 9 point lead.

Anyway, for ‘just a bit of fun’ let us look into the near future and the possibility of a coalition government. We’ll make a safe bet and assume that it’ll be a Lib/Lab pact of some description, either as a proper coalition or by way of practical support for a minority Labour government.

One certain condition of Clegg’s will, of course, be electoral reform. It’s been mooted before both here and elsewhere that Brown’s sudden conversion to reform was a move to hedge his bets in future coalition conversations. But for the Lib Dems there will be a number of problems.

First, is the timing of a referendum on electoral reform. Coalition governments rarely end well (forget the wartime coalition – we are nowhere near that situation). No-one can be sure when the cracks will begin to show, but none of the proponents of reform are going to want even a moribund coalition colouring the public perception of life under PR, with the resulting series of more coalition governments that invariably result.

So, why not hold the referendum quickly? The trouble there is that, once PR is in place, what of Brown’s government? The Lib Dems may think that they can then walk away at any time and get a better deal from the electorate for the next session of horse-trading behind closed doors.

The fly in the Lib Dem ointment will be the fact that they will have been seriously tainted – nay wounded? – by their involvement in a coalition government, or even simply shoring up a minority Labour government that will undoubtedly fail to live up to expectations. That would then combine with the next problem, and it’s a biggie.

Let’s be clear: PR may well kill the Lib Dems. It will give many minor parties a boost, and the Lib Dems could end up being just another minnow, yet unlike UKIP, Greens or BNP, they will have no ‘unique selling point’ – after all, what do they really stand for, apart from not being Conservative or (quite) Labour?

Vampire Clegg was having a bad morning

The combined effects of PR and the contamination of coalition could prove to be the sunlight that kills the Lib Dem vampire.

(For the real geeks out there, I appreciate that there is another issue in all this: what form will the change in the voting system take? Lib Dems prefer ‘proper’ PR, whereas we could see a Single Transferable Vote (STV) system put in place. As we have seen from the London Mayoral elections, the benefits to the parties in third place or lower are limited under STV. However, let us assume for now that it would still result in more Lib Dem seats in Parliament, though that might not necessarily be the net result.)


2 responses to “Coalition and PR: The Sunlight That Kills The Lib Dem Vampire?

  1. The Futility Monster April 23, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    Methinks you’re a bit confused on electoral systems. The Lib Dems want STV. STV is very proportional, and very fair, as long as the constituencies are large enough.

    London Mayoral elections are done under the travesty of a system called Supplementary Vote. It was invented by a Labour MP and is probably the worst electoral system of all.

    Still, come the hung parliament, everyone’ll be brushing up on their preferred system 🙂

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