Now, I’m not normally one to talk about politics. I usually have absolutely no interest in such things, and I tend to be of the opinion that life will continue regardless of which party is elected. Strange, then, that this year should feel so different. Politics has been ‘the thing’ to talk about – on the train, in the car, round the dinner table, on the internet, no doubt even at the bottom of the sea. I’ve taken more of an interest in the elections this year than any other year. And all because of the Lib-Dems.
Our current election process works on the basis of a ‘first past the post’ process of vote counting, which works best when there are two main parties to choose between. In the past, it’s been a two-party system, with Labour and Conservative battling against each other for people’s attention. Sure, there have been other parties in there too, but they’ve gone mostly unnoticed. Until this year, when Britain took the decision to host distinctly American-style Prime Ministerial Debates, and invited Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg to join in the foray. Suddenly the Lib-Dems rose to prominence, got people’s attention, and made it look like all three parties were level-pegging.
At that point, a hung parliament was almost guaranteed. With three parties equally popular, no one party can have a majority, and the ‘first past the post’ election system fails.
Of course, when it came down to it, the Lib-Dems didn’t get anywhere near the proportion of votes they were hoping for. But the damage had already been done. Neither Labour or Conservatives got a majority, leaving our government in limbo. Nothing was sure any more, nothing guaranteed. All that voting had been in vain, and no decision had been made.
So it fell to the three parties to work out a solution for us. Yes, that’s right, the country couldn’t decide which party to elect, so the parties took it upon themselves to choose for us. The result? The Lib-Dems sided with the Conservatives. Now, to make that coalition work both parties have had to make some major compromises to their policies, apparently in the national interest. Individual party lines are not important, they tell us. Which basically means they can do whatever they want, break as many of their pre-election promises as they like, and get away with it with the excuse that they’re in a coalition.
Let’s recap. The Conservatives, contrary to their name, offered change. The Lib-Dems offered real change. And Labour said they’d carry on as they had been. A comparatively small party broke the election system. None of the parties won the election, making them all losers. The only way either Conservatives or Labour could form a majority coalition was to get Lib-Dems on side, putting the entire outcome of the election not in the hands of the voters but with the Lib-Dems. So the Lib-Dems, who no one voted for, got to decide what government we ended up with, and were guaranteed to get into parliament despite losing catastrophically.
Now, I’m no expert on politics, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the way the election process is meant to work. Let’s see how long it lasts…