Something to ponder

Something to ponder

The most thought provoking article I’ve read in 2022 is the piece in Friday’s Times by James Forsyth which suggested the Tories would be more damaged by Starmer winning the next election but being short of a majority than Starmer winning a majority. Forsyth’s logic is compelling

If the Tories lose the next election, changes to the voting system (always demanded by the Lib Dems) may see them locked out of office for a generation. And what happens if the Tories discover, in opposition, that its new coalition of voters doesn’t have much in common post-Brexit? The party could, literally, fall apart.

In one sense, the Tories have more to fear from a Starmer-led coalition than an outright Labour victory. The reason electoral reform has never happened is that the first-past-the-post system tends to create majority governments and so suits both Labour and the Tories when they are doing well. So, once in office, they lose interest in reform. Even a Labour leader like Blair, who was sympathetic towards the idea of a “progressive alliance”, wasn’t going to change the Westminster voting system that delivered him a 179-seat majority. But a Labour Party that had failed to get 326 seats, and hadn’t garnered a majority in close to two decades, would be far more open to electoral reform. And this would be the price demanded by Lib Dems for their support in a hung parliament.

If the Lib Dems’ preferred system of the single transferable vote (STV) were introduced, it would be devastating for the Tories. The Electoral Reform Society calculates that STV would have meant the Tories winning a majority only twice in the postwar era. Margaret Thatcher would never have been able to govern on her own and the last election would have seen the Tories 18 shy of a majority. Tactical voting, which works against the Tories, would be hardwired into the system. It is an existential threat.

A Starmer-led coalition could place a cherry on top of this anti-Tory sundae by lowering the voting age from 18 to 16. It is already in place for the devolved Scottish and Welsh elections. School-aged teenagers would make up around 3.5 per cent of the turnout in UK elections, the vast majority of which would go to left-wing parties.

This is quite the paradox, for the long term health of the Tory Party it is better for them that iff they are going to lose the next general election that Starmer and Labour win a decent to large majority rather than see a Labour led coalition.

FPTP leads to some truly bizarre outcomes, equitable voting systems, with the alternative vote system being primus inter pares, may change the face of the United Kingdom forever.


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