This is going to be off-the-cuff, chaotic, and angry.
I posted this on Twitter earlier, and it got retweeted more than anything else I’ve ever said:
If I want the Lib Dems to win, I’m voting Lib Dem. If you’re so scared of a hung parliament, maybe YOU shouldn’t vote Conservative.
I still don’t know nearly enough about the political system in this country to justify how much I’ve been talking about it lately. I’m not a political blogger, and I’d need to become way more informed before I ever could be, which isn’t all that likely judging by my usual level of interest in such matters. But this is one thing that’s been really annoying me about some of the public discourse lately.
For longer than I’ve been alive, the real race in the general elections in this country has always been between Labour and the Conservatives. It’s always been one of them that was going to win. But for the first time in a while, a third party is polling well, and is in with a non-negligible chance of winning (even if it’s not all that great), and is unquestionably playing a substantial role in our system of government.
This has made a lot of people very unhappy and been widely regarded as a bad move.
In particular, some people want us to be scared of a “hung parliament”, in which no one party gets enough of a majority to “win”, and after all the voting’s done they have to sort it out amongst themselves how they’re going to run the country. Or something. Yes, the First Past the Post system is ridiculous, however limited my understanding.
Quite what the effects of a hung parliament would actually be is one of the many things in all this that remains beyond me. But if it’s a natural and unavoidable result of people simply voting for who they want to win, then maybe this adds to the case for serious electoral reform.
What it doesn’t imply is that voting for the Liberal Democrats is irresponsible and dangerous, and that an entire third of the electorate ought to give up on what they actually want for the sake of a nice, comfortable compromise.
And it all strikes me as intensely cynical and profoundly unfair, and I can’t sum it up any better than I did in my tweet up there.
There are polls out there in which Nick Clegg is winning this race. It’s by no means a strong or unambiguous lead, but the Lib Dems are not hopeless stragglers these days. People would actually like to see them in power, and they’d vote for it if they thought it could happen.
So it is staggeringly patronising for this substantial swathe of the population to be told that they shouldn’t vote for the party or candidate who they would most like to see win the election, because of the administrative difficulties this will cause. The problems of a hung parliament are a product of the electoral system, and of everybody’s votes in conjunction with each other.
If every Lib Dem vote were counted for the Conservatives, it’d be a landslide. But the same goes the other way. And it really pisses me off (enough to use lots of italics for emphasis) when other people assume that I’m the one who shouldn’t get to have my say for who I want, as if everyone else’s votes were already fixed and immutable and I’m ruining everything by making my own damn decisions.
If you’re terrified of a hung parliament and are desperate to avoid it at all costs, then you can either lobby for electoral reform, or you can be against the concept of people voting honestly. At least be up front about which it is.
…And just as I wonder if I’m done, superior blogger Martin Robbins says some of the things I want to say rather well, and embeds the full Conservative “Hung Parliament Party” video. It’s really, really awful. The video, not Martin’s post. Obviously.
So. Who knows more than I do about hung parliaments? (Hint: It’s quite possibly you. Seriously.)