Broon oot

Broon has gone, for good this time, unlike yesterday's fake resignation. He appears to have achieved one thing: yesterday's last-gasp offer to the LD appears to have forced the Tories to offer a referendum on AV.

However, it wasn't enough to tempt the LD's to him, and his own party was iffy, and it wouldn't have been a majority. So today he said "bugger this for a game of soldiers" and pissed off. Only he wrapped it up in a dignified speech.

My own keyinsight (hexapodia!) is so-far unarticulated by anyone else, and is hidden over the fold.

OK, so I think that this is Broon's last piece of tribal politics and his parting attempt to foul up the prospective Tory-LD alliance. In that: everyone was expecting him to hang around politely waiting for them to finalise whatever discussions they were having, or to admit they were getting nowhere. But now all of a sudden they will have to do something. Mrs Qween will be inviting that nice Cameron to the Palace very soon now, and saying "can you form a government?" and he needs to have an answer. Will it be "Yes" or will it be "maybe, but a minority" or will it be "we're still talking"? Broon is presumably hoping that by forcing them to declare now, they may make a mistake.

Like me, writing this post far too quickly :-).

What should the LD's do? I think they have to take the referendum on AV, weak though that is, and as much government as they can get. They won't get their heart's desire - proper PR - so they'll need to keep aiming for that in the future. Which means trying to look as though they can (help) govern the country responsibly and more seats next time. Of course the upcoming govt is a poisonned chalice: it has to deal with the "austerity" that is ahead, and will either do it and be hated by the people that suffer, or won't and will look economically incompetent. There remains the possibility of doing it well - firing all of Ofsted would get my vote - but I've seen no real signs that is likely.

[Update: from the BBC coverage - Cameron was at prep skool with Prince Edward. Also, having just checked the Tory and LibDem webpages for news - they are rubbish

Moah: listening to Cameron, and reading his brief speech, it is clear that things aren't worked out: I aim to form a proper and full coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. I believe that is the right way to provide this country with the strong, the stable, the good and decent government that I think we need so badly. Nick Clegg and I are both political leaders who want to put aside party differences and work hard for the common good and for the national interest... promises nothing. This is an aim, or as the Balirites notoriously said, that wasn't a commitment, it was an aspiration. Cameron may have the best of intentions, or maybe not.

Aside: Cameron is the first PM we've had who is younger than me. Don't those politicians look young nowadays?

Also: live updates here]

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By D. C. Sessions (not verified) on 11 May 2010 #permalink

You're thinking too hard about Brown's motives and his chance of making things worse. The Queen doesn't require an answer, she only has to ask Cameron to try to form a government. There are very good reasons why Cameron and Clegg should get a move on but they relate to the structural deficit and the need of the London-based financial markets for stability.

Brown's move is the best thing for his party; note that he also announced his resignation from leadership of the party and departure from the House of Commons, meaning that they can quickly select a new leader and unite behind him without the fear of Brown hanging around like Ted Heath did after the Tories rejected him in favor of Thatcher. In the short term his move may also help to stabilise a jittery FTSE 100.

By Tony Sidaway (not verified) on 11 May 2010 #permalink

I think you just made a wonderful Vinge reference. Did you also mean to pun it with hax!?

[Oh no! I store that up for ages to use then I miss-spell it :-( Corrected now -W]

By blueshift (not verified) on 11 May 2010 #permalink

I also feel that you are overthinking it.

AV sounds like what Americans might call instant run-off, and sounds reasonable to me. It allows people to vote for a minor party if they want to, without having to worry about tactical effects - they won't unintentionally help their least favored option.

[Try the BBC link - AV has some advantages, true, but would have made only a small difference this election (though of course they are having to make guesses about intentions). It wouldn't do much to address the problem of the smaller parties getting a grossly unfairly small number of seats -W]

By carrot eater (not verified) on 11 May 2010 #permalink

There are several types of proportional representation (PR) systems, with the alternative voting system (AV), (what Americans call Instant Run off) the most obvious.

In the UK many of the seats are won with over 50% of the vote, so changing to the AVt system would not help the LibDems, whose 25% vote is spread evenly amongst all seats. Note the inner city constituencies are smaller than the rural seats, so LibDem candidates are losing with 19,000 votes to Tories with 25,000 votes in rural seats, while Labour candidates are being elected easily with 19,000 votes in inner city seats.

The Tories would like all the constituencies to be the same size. Then they would get more seats, but it would not help the LibDems. They want the Single Transferable voting system (STV), which is like the AV system but you have multi member constituencies.

In the Euro elections we, in the UK, use a party list multi member constituency system, but the Irish use STV for everything - Euro, national and local elections.

STV is also used for city elections in Cambridge, Massachusetts and certain city elections in Minneapolis, Minnesota (starting in 2009)[See Wikipedia]

It is difficult to get people enthusiastic about it because it seems so complicated.

[That last is true and indeed a Key Insight. It makes it so hard to get discussed, and so easy for opposing politicians to dismiss as wonkery -W]

I find it unbelievable how far New Labour have moved to the right under Blair and Brown, so that the Lib-Dems would find more in common with the Tories (no ID cards or 3rd runway, etc) and Labour MPs would rather go into opposition than have to unite with more left-wing parties like the SNP or Plaid. Or the Lib Dems !

AV can't be called proportional representation, in any respect of the word.

AV still has each seat tied to a specific constituency. So you can still have the third party win 25% of votes nationwide, still have zero seats. It's just that AV makes it more attractive to vote for a minor party, if that's what you really want to do.

By carrot eater (not verified) on 11 May 2010 #permalink

In Australia we've had AV for many years. Representation and the Parliament work much as in the UK - single member electorates etc. It isn't complicated. As CE says, it just takes away the "wasted vote" penalty for voting for a minor party, and they get some leverage by recommending to their supporters who they should give their preferences to.

Forget AV and AV+. How's this for a scheme?

1. Have a 'None of the above' box.

2. Any candidate getting more than a third of the vote in any constituency becomes an MP unless 'None of the above' gets more than a third of the vote in that constituency, in which case there'd be a by-election with brand new candidates.

This would result in there being (I'm guessing) several score more MPs than we have now so it might be a good idea to ...

3. Cut the number of constituencies in half. This might result in there being about 400 MPs, a numerical adjustment more or less in line with MPs' reduced influence on British legislation in recent years.

(The Green Party: Hove-Actually or wot? I might do a cartogram of Green Party votes. Preliminary investigations suggest it would make Britain look like a huge diseased bladder floating a mile or two off Dieppe, with a tiny, thinly attached polyp drifting towards Holland. The rest of the country'd be a patchy green scum, at best.)

By Vinny Burgoo (not verified) on 11 May 2010 #permalink

I'm not a vocal advocate of Alternative Vote, because I think Single Transferable Vote is better.

Having said that I couldn't disagree more with those who say that the former system would not have changed the outcome significantly. The figures show that there would have been two numerically viable coalitions of two parties, instead of only one.

The outcome is being spun in a way that is incompatible with the facts, by the Electoral Reform Society who commissioned it and now falsely describe the effects of Alternative Vote it projects as "negligible".

Of course I agree with the society's aims of promoting the more equitable Single Transferable Vote system, but the society's own figures show that other systems would also be an improvement on the First Past the Post system currently used for Westminster elections.

By Tony Sidaway (not verified) on 11 May 2010 #permalink

"AV has some advantages, true, but would have made only a small difference this election (though of course they are having to make guesses about intentions)"

No, it would have completely changed the dynamics of the negotiations, as Lib/Lab pact would have been easily viable without minority parties. And that's ignoring the fact that it would have encouraged more people both to vote, and vote honestly, which in itself is a good thing (I hope most people would agree).

[Hmm, I meant small in number of seats, which was the bit I was interested in, but you (and TS) are right: it would indeed have made two coalitions viable, which would have been exciting -W]

The decision to go for fixed-term parliaments is an exciting development, with lots of ramifications. I think this means that the era of consensus politics has truly arrived in the UK Parliament even without a PR system (of course, there have always been deals); at least this is true of the current deal between LDs and Tories.

[Fixed term is interesting. The obvious objections continue to exist. But now we have the complication of the AV referendum. If this occurs, and passes, I would have thought it natural to have an election under it within say a year -W]

(Oh, and the appointment of an LD to Scottish Secretary is certainly astute work by Cameron.)

This probably means that even should this current deal unravel in the next few years that deals with other parties will have to be sought/renegotiated, even if for legislation on a case-by-case basis. The disadvantage, or advantage, is presumably paralysis of non-essential Government business.

[But how binding is the fixed-term parliament pledge? Does it die with this coalition, or will it be Law? -W]

The danger for the LDs in all this is their vote is squeezed next time around and they go back to the level of around 20 seats for a generation (many of their voters traditionally have wanted nothing to do with the Tories and could well disappear to Labour; and those who voted tactically might not bother to vote tactically, if at all, next time around). And then we're back to Labour and Tory ping pong, because neither of those really want a change to the voting system, at least at present and in sufficient numbers.

I can't see the AV system likely on offer will appeal to many, and it certainly won't really do the LDs a favour in the long term, though I concede it probably would have this time around.

Mind you, it was Jenkins that came up with AV+. So who knows, perhaps that'll end up on the referendum voting slip. I don't like it, but it is better than AV.

Fixed term: my understanding was that it was to become law.

Oh, and the appointment of an LD to Scottish Secretary is certainly astute work by Cameron.

Well, given that there is only one Scottish Tory and they're almost universally despised up here, he didn't have much option... I'm sure the First Eck (aka Alex Salmond) is thrilled about it though - it's a marvellous way to tie the LDs to the massively unpopular policies the Tories will no doubt inflict on us. Next year's Scottish Parliament elections are going to be fascinating....

While I know where you're coming from Dunc (I recall the dematerialisation of the Vulcan to my neck of the woods because there was no suitable Welsh candidate for the job), nearly 17% of the Scottish electorate voted Tory, which is quite similar to the SNP share (~20%) and LDs (19%).

Fixed-term update: 55% of parliamentary votes will be required to force an election via a vote of no confidence.

I think it's difficult to figure out what would have happened with AV in place. You need to know the second choice of all the voters, as well as the number of voters who didn't vote Lib Dem for tactical reasons.

By carrot eater (not verified) on 12 May 2010 #permalink

It's more of an educated guess in my instance.

It is clear that most LD voters would have had Labour as their natural second choice, and vice versa.

In my constituency this would undoubtedly have led to re-election of an LD MP instead of/in addition to the returned Tory MP.

Given the voter swings, there are now quite a few marginals where a few votes would change the complexion (not all to LD/labour assuredly, but mostly I'd hazard).

I don't like the sound of fixed terms at all, if it means that a government must see a term through to the bitter end when the obvious thing to do is to go to the country for a mandate.

Suppose, for instance, the coalition partners fall out. Does a fixed term mean the Prime Minister cannot go to the Queen and ask to call an election? And suppose Cameron did attempt to soldier on, and lost a confidence vote. Nobody is going to tell me that he would have willingly created a situation under which he must sit there twisting in the wind, with essential government business sitting undone and the financial markets losing confidence, until the five years are up.

I suspect that what is being proposed here is very different from fixed terms,which don't seem to fit our system at all well.

By Tony Sidaway (not verified) on 12 May 2010 #permalink

No, a vote of no confidence (requiring 55% of the votes with a coalition government -- I wonder if it's 50% +1 still for a single party in power?) can still force the fall of a government. Whether that ends in either a general election or a new coalition (perhaps both possible) I don't know at the moment.

The EU elections are fixed. Other states have semi-fixed parliaments, e.g. Germany, where dissolution can be forced mid term if some impasse arises. Perhaps that's the system that will be adopted.

It does indeed look as if they really mean to have fixed terms, so that we'd know the date of the next election.

Supposedly this is intended to make coalitions *more* stable by preventing coalition partners pulling the rug out, but I think their reasoning on this is cock-eyed as I outlined in my earlier comment. It is intrinsically impossible to stop a disaffected coalition partner defecting, and you can only harm the interests of the country by making it more difficult to resolve the issue through a democratic election.

Apparently what I regard as an asset of our Parliamentary system, making it far more flexible than others, is seen by some of the practitioners as an unwelcome anomaly. Ho hum.

At least one very welcome item of good news for me: Labour's utterly pointless and damaging plan for compulsory identity cards is dead.

By Tony Sidaway (not verified) on 12 May 2010 #permalink

Maybe, maybe not.

I heard a comment (attributed to Cable I think) that 55% would be needed to vote a government down in a no confidence motion, which suggests that it might be more in line with the German model. Barring a no confidence vote being lost, then yes the term is fixed. I think 5 years is a year too long personally.

Politics breeds policy.

This wonderful quote from a guest post at Lucia's Blackboard about the Hartwell Report says it all:

"For people who believe that AGW is a real problem and are frustrated that there is no significant political movement, the authors may offer a new way forward. For people who have resisted AGW on the theory that it is merely a narrow political agenda dressed in overstated scientific claims, the Hartwell paper is an opportunity (challenge?) to join a more affirmative, more open-ended approach."

I think you posted to the wrong thread, Paul.

My confusion over how the fixed term proposal would apply to Westminster seems to be shared by a number of commentators at Crooked Timber. Nobody can say for sure whether it is even operable.

By Tony Sidaway (not verified) on 12 May 2010 #permalink

Ah, apparently Gordon Brown has just said very publicly that he will, despite earlier reports, continue to serve as an MP.

By Tony Sidaway (not verified) on 13 May 2010 #permalink

Well, if Kukla is the only scientist you're willing to pay any attention to, then you'll see everything (past, present, future) through that prism, I guess.

By carrot eater (not verified) on 14 May 2010 #permalink