Wednesday 17 March 2010

Nick Clegg - Kingmaker?

It gets ever more difficult to take the LibDems seriously as a political party. The recent attempts by their leader, Nick Clegg, to evade questions about what the LibDems would do if no party wins an overall majority at the next UK general election is a case in point. Now this is exactly the outcome that all LibDems want - a hung Parliament in which the LibDems could play the role of kingmaker. So this is a serious question. Yet what does Nick Clegg, prospective kingmaker say? To absolutely deny that he could ever be the kingmaker. Why, he asserts, it is the 45 million voters who will be the kingmakers. It is the voters who will decide on the outcome of the general election. Now this is just arrant nonsense and it is hard to know whether Nick Clegg is merely a buffoon or an inveterate liar.

For this is not simply a matter of semantics. The LibDems after all are the party of constitutional reform. In particular they go on and on about the need for a fairer voting system - one that is based on proportional representation. Now they do so because they know how the current first past the post system works and how unfair it is. Not only is our current system unfair, it is also unpredictable. Each voter in the UK votes in a single member constituency and therefore can only affect the outcome in just one seat. One out of over 650 seats! There is simply no way in which a voter can influence the overall outcome of an election. Let us assume that a majority of the electorate would prefer an outcome in which the Labour party was the largest party but well short of an overall majority, and the LibDems increased their representation so that together they could form a coalition government. This may well be the case, but there is no way an individual voter can knowingly achieve this overall outcome. Even in his or her own constituency there is no way of knowing which result would best contribute to this overall outcome. If you vote Labour to keep the Conservative out, you then run the risk that the Labour party might win an absolute majority. If you vote LibDem you run the risk that the Conservatives might win that particular seat. This is the inherent unfairness and unpredictability of our current lousy system. And one must assume that all LibDems know this. So either Nick Clegg is an ignoramus who knows nothing about how our voting system works or he is just another lying politician.

I personally go for the lying. For this unwillingness to declare their intentions before an election is a long standing LibDem tradition. Again this is strange, given that the LibDems are so much in favour of proportional representation which normally results in a hung parliament and thus a coalition government. In which case you would think that the electorate would be entitled to known in advance what each party would do. In other words who would co-operate with whom and over what. However the LibDems have never shown the slightest inclination to be that honest with the electorate. In Scotland where we do have a fairer voting system and hung parliaments are the norm, the usual LibDem tactic is to say that the more LibDem MSPs there are, the more LibDem polices they can deliver. Which at one level is true. However what it does not do in any way whatsoever, is inform the electorate of which LibDem policies will be delivered. Thus as a potential LibDem voter you might be particularly enticed by two or three of their policies. However, when it comes to forming a government, the LibDems may only be able to secure agreement of some of their other policies. These may even be ones you didn’t actually like and if you had known in advance that it was these policies that would be delivered, you may well have decided not to vote LibDem after all. This is why the continued refusal of Nick Clegg to be genuinely open and honest about what he and his party will and will not do in the result of a hung parliament is just playing fast and loose with the electorate.

Go on, NIck, be honest with us. We have no chance of playing kingmakers, but you do. So, tell us all what it is you would do. Do you trust us or do you also treat us all like mugs?

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