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Thursday, 4 June 2015

Doomed, we're all Doomed: Britain under the Conservatives

I begin to agree with those who think that the United Kingdom’s electoral system will sooner rather than later doom the country. But my reasons for thinking this may not be the same as theirs.

At the recent General  Election 37% of votes went to the Conservative Party. That translated into 51% of seats in the House of Commons and 100% of Ministerial posts. As just 67% of electors voted, it means that the new Government rests on the active endorsement of one in four voters. Some dictators could probably do better.

The “Winner Takes All” political system means that there is no means and no motive to find consensual solutions to common problems. In contrast, systems of proportional representation which produce coalition governments can, at their best, force people to work together to agree what the problem is and what might solve it. This is what we see in Germany which (as is often forgotten when the British media focus on Angela Merkel) has a “Grand Coalition” government, stretching from centre left and even beyond to centre right and even beyond.

With no motive to build a consensus, to create a Big Tent, Mr Cameron’s government is set to alienate and disenchant voters. Arrogant posh boys who don’t know the price of a pint of milk (or, perhaps more to the point, don’t know elementary macroeconomics) will simply do as they please, and the proles can like it or lump it.

There is a further problem. The active support for Mr Cameron comes from ageing voters of limited vision. They don’t have aspirations. They want house prices to go up (it makes them feel more secure) and they want Free Bus Passes (aka, "Benefits" as in "Scroungers"). They are a bit worried about their health care and about elderly care and Mr Cameron will try to reassure them on that, even if in reality things go from bad to worse.

An ageing electorate is a curse for any country. Ours may be no worse than others and maybe better – think of France’s self-righteous active electorate which is happy to ghettoise everyone else, young people especially. But this is scant consolation.

One could come at all this from a different perspective. Why does anyone vote Conservative?

My mother (1907 – 1978) only ever gave me one reason for the way she cast her vote, “You’ve got to have the people with money”. Well, she would be pleased with our present Cabinet line-up. But what did she actually mean? Did she think that the people with money dipped into their own pockets to pay for the running of the country? Take this, my good woman, as our Chancellor – one day to be Sir George Osborne, Bt. – might say (provided a photographer was to hand). Or did she mean that the government had to have on its side the people with money, because otherwise they would sabotage it with non-co-operation? But they sabotage it anyway: that’s what tax evasion and tax avoidance is about.

My father (1912 – 1997) was a small businessman and active Ratepayers’ Association person. He voted Conservative to keep down the rates and keep down the taxes. If it meant you ended up tripping over neglected pavements, not a problem:  you could sue the Council, as an individual, and make a killing.

Are there any other reasons for voting Conservative?  I don’t think so. 

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