Sunday, 10 May 2015

Turkeys still anti-Christmas

Richard Seymour has a piece in Jacobin with the depressing title 'The End of Labour.' With a title like that, you wouldn't think you could make things look any bleaker, but I think Seymour actually gets a bit over-optimistic with one of his assumptions, 'If the dominant parties are forced to accept proportional representation, as seems increasingly likely'*

As likely as turkeys voting for Christmas, I'd have thought. As Channel 4's Fact Check suggests, under a typical PR system, the Conservatives might have ended up with around 30 more seats than Labour, rather than the 90-seat advantage they enjoy under the present system. I suppose they're as keen now to hang on to that advantage as they've always been. As for the rising stars of the election, it's obvious that the SNP wouldn't have done anything like as well under PR, so you've got two incumbent parties with zero incentive to change things.

On balance, I'd be reasonably happy with a move to PR. Even the fact that it would let more Ukip MPs into parliament doesn't  bother me that much. They're a mean-spirited distraction from the real issues but they're also something of a self-limiting problem, due to their well-documented head-banger problem (the latest example being the Ukip candidate who shared his fantasies about shooting his 'not British enough' Conservative rival between the eyes with an undercover reporter on the eve of the election).

With candidates of that calibre, I can see the Kippers' representation in a PR-elected chamber being quite fragile, interrupted by regular by-election-provoking resignations following the latest weird outburst (or, alternatively, with such spontaneous outbursts being effectively policed, thus making the party look as on-message and conformist as the grown-up parties).

But I reckon somebody would have to have to pry FPTP from the incumbent parties' cold, dead hands.

I just hope that the prospects for Labour aren't as dire as Seymour makes out. After all, there's a lot to play for. Having spent election day as a polling clerk, I was struck by the age profile of the voters. There wasn't quite as big a proportion of grey heads as there is in, say, our local church on a Sunday, or among the nation's card-carrying Conservatives (60-odd per cent of whom are over 60), but there are still clearly a hell of a lot of young people out there who could be voting but aren't, so that's one huge pool Labour could be fishing in. Not to mention disillusioned Lib Dem supporters, (actual liberals, as opposed to Orange Bookers), looking for a home since Cleggmania died and was buried with Seymour's damning, but fair, epitaph:
And in the last few days, we’ve had their leader, Nick Clegg, saying that a government without the Liberal Democrats involved would lack legitimacy. Even knowing that his party would be hammered into fourth place, he still saw a central role for his wheelers and dealers. In effect, the Liberal leadership chose, with the Orange Book coup, to turn their party into a mandarin, de facto apparatus of an increasingly post-democratic state.
There's still a lot to play for.

*My emphasis