Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Worst. Election. Ever.

According to this widely-shared video by CGP Grey, the recent UK Election results were the worst in (modern) history and, after watching it, I'm inclined to agree (I've re-posted this video in spite of the intrusive advertising because I think the content's worth sitting through a few seconds of ad break for):
When you put it like that, the present system looks pretty broken. Not that I can see much chance of it being fixed any time soon. Having got where they are courtesy of First Past The Post, you wouldn't expect the Conservatives and the SNP to saw off the branch they're sitting on. And the public don't seem exactly worked up about the issue, as Alan Renwick wrote on the eve of the last election:
And, as we saw in the AV referendum in 2011, voters have a strong status quo bias on issues such as this: few voters understand the ins and outs of electoral systems; and voters who don’t quite understand the reform that is on offer tend to opt for the existing rules.

So what might happen?

What, then, might happen after the election? Some of the minor parties – though not, of course, the SNP – might push for electoral reform. They won’t make this a strong red line, as they will know that the public are on the whole much more interested in things like immigration, economic recovery, taxes, and the quality of public services.
Mind you, I still hope that things will change one day. After all, defenders of rotten boroughs once argued just as forcefully for the 'stability' of the staus quo as today's supporters of FPP, and where are all those indispensable rotten boroughs now?
Rotten boroughs were defended by the successive Tory governments of 1807-1830 – a substantial number of Tory constituencies lay in rotten and pocket boroughs. During this period they came under criticism from prominent figures such as Tom Paine and William Cobbett.

It was argued during the time period that rotten boroughs provided stability and were a means for promising young politicians to enter parliament, with William Pitt the Elder being cited as a key example. Members of Parliament (MPs), who were generally in favour of the boroughs, claimed they should be kept as Britain had undergone periods of prosperity under the system.

Because British colonists in the West Indies and on the Indian subcontinent were not represented at Westminster officially, these groups often claimed that rotten boroughs provided opportunities for virtual representation in parliament for colonial interest groups.

Politicians such as Spencer Perceval asked the nation to look at the system as a whole, saying that if rotten boroughs were discarded, the whole system was liable to collapse. 

Unfortunately, I've no idea what it will take to change the present system - I just hope it doesn't take hugely painful events on the watch of a government with a small share of the popular vote to destroy the 'stability' argument for FPP.