So. The election happened. If you’re still catching up, here are some results.
Yeah, I don’t have a whole lot of analysis right now. Just a few scattered thoughts on individual points:
– Electoral reform needs to happen. This graphic here shows as clearly as anything I’ve seen the disparity between the way the popular vote went and the corresponding representation in parliament. It’s pretty much bullshit. The Conservatives got well under twice as many votes as the Lib Dems, but more than five times as many seats. It’s even less fair on the Greens.
The Lib Dems are obviously behind the idea of completely reforming the system. I’m not sure what the other parties have been saying about it most recently, but I think the issue is a lot more prominent now, and the momentum for reform won’t just fade away easily. There’s just no way a First Past The Post system can be relied on to provide a single-party government when there are more than two parties playing a substantial role. Without one lot being the outright winner, it’s going to come down to some kind of coalition system. Heading down the Proportional Representation route to make that work more fairly sounds a much better option from here than trying to devolve into a more straight-forwardly binary system like the US has.
– The BNP got 563,743 votes (or more – looks like one constituency is still to report), but didn’t win a single seat. That’s about 1.9% of the total count, so in a PR system, they would have got something like 12 seats in parliament. Sadly, if you’re going to argue for reform that gives the Lib Dems a fairer score based on the votes they got, you kinda have to support significant national representation for the BNP as well.
It’s not ideal, and I won’t pretend I wasn’t pleased to hear they’d lost everywhere this time. But they were voted for in a general election by half a million constituents. The fact that the British National Party are disgraceful wastes of organic material isn’t a good enough basis for disenfranchising the many people who tried to vote them into power, if democracy is what you’re interested in accomplishing.
The best response to the BNP isn’t to try and shut them up. The answer to bad speech is more speech. Have you seen Nick Griffin talk? They’ll sink themselves quite happy if they’re given the chance. I have enough faith in this country that people like him won’t get any significant political hold – and if they do, it’s not my place to decide that I know what’s best and try to override democracy and shut them down, and it’s not yours either.
– The hashtag #dontdoitnick is currently trending on Twitter, referring to the possibility that Nick Clegg might make an agreement to work with David Cameron to form some sort of joint government system together in ways I haven’t got my head around yet. Some people are saying it’s a chance for the Lib Dems to exert more political power than ever, and they should seize this chance to prove themselves in the political arena and keep the Tories honest; others are saying that accepting such a deal would be selling out unforgivably and promising never to vote Lib Dem again if it happens.
I really don’t know about this one, except that the “never voting Lib Dem again” thing seems petulant and childish. It seems that a coalition would gain the Lib Dems some substantial political clout, and I don’t know to what extent it would require them to capitulate to any of the Conservatives’ more odious policy ideas.
There’s one parallel that I was trying to decide if it made any sense, which needs a bit of backstory elaboration. Physicist Brian Cox recently signed a deal with The Sun to write a science column for them. The Sun aren’t traditionally seen as being a great outlet for competent or serious science news, and he’s been criticised for taking this position, I think primarily for wasting his time, on the grounds that readers of The Sun don’t care about actual science information and he’d be better off finding a better way of getting through to a more receptive audience elsewhere.
Dr Petra has been among those defending his decision, and I think she’s right. An opportunity to provide good science information from a passionate and qualified science communicator is not to be sniffed at, even if the audience might not be already attuned to the message. I trust him not to let the quality of his information slip just because he’s not talking to what might be his usual nerdy crowd, and I can’t see anything wrong with trying to nurture an appreciation of genuine science among Sun readers.
Anyway, it occurred to me to wonder whether this might not be in some way similar to Nick Clegg making some compromises to form a government with the Conservatives. It might not be an ideal platform for the Lib Dems to make their point, but perhaps they should take what they can get, and keep pushing their policies and ideas as best they can, even in the presence of what might not traditionally seem like a receptive audience.
If you’re not convinced by the analogy, me neither. But if you want to explain why it’s vitally important, either for the security of this country or the integrity of the Liberal Democrat party, that Nick Clegg either does or doesn’t make a deal with Cameron, feel free to give it a shot. Short words only, please. I’m increasingly feeling out of my depth here.
– Miche made a good point here about tactical voting, essentially describing a non-contrived scenario where voting with a more cunning strategy than “pick your favourite” can be honest, practical, and democratic. I admit it’s not a clear-cut, all-or-nothing point, and I’ve stopped way short of actually condemning any tactical voters for this reason.
There’s something else which might undermine my point on this – or at least, it would be nice to think so. My opposition to tactical voting is partly based on the idea that it obscures the true levels of party support: if most of the Lib Dem voters are voting Labour, say, it will never be clear how many Lib Dem supporters there really are, and how well they could do if they all decided to actually vote for their preferred candidate. But what if this fact wasn’t obscured?
Especially in the internet age, measuring overall political opinion might not be that hard, and making your Lib Dem sympathies clear even while voting Labour may become possible, perhaps even to the extent that much of my problem with tactical voting is nullified. If tactics are only employed by the supporters of a party genuinely in the minority, with no hope of victory, and if everyone were keeping track of the “who we’d vote for if we thought they had a chance” factor so it’s always clear when they’re not just a minority without a chance any more, that might be a useful way around much of the problem.
It’s not a very developed thought. Maybe I’ll work on it some more later.
– Finally, I stand by my and everyone’s right to give their vote to whoever they think deserves it, and call utter bullshit on anyone claiming, for instance, that Lib Dem supporters handed the election to the Tories, or are responsible for the unspeakable horrors of chaos and uncertainty as we sort out this hung parliament business. Everyone voting for who they want to win is called democracy, and if the entire system collapses because some democracy happened, then we need a new system.
Tomorrow I hope to bash something out about the idea of earning the privilege to vote, rather than expecting the right. And then maybe I’ll be able to talk about something else again. Remember when this blog used to be about attacking religion and pseudoscience? What happened to that?