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God likes Coalitions!

2010 May 14
by Gordon Reid

Since I became interested in British politics, I have believed in Proportional Representation. When I was a Councillor in the Lothian Regional Council, which covered Edinburgh and the surrounding region, I saw too many councillors elected with a tiny plurality of votes, since there were almost always four major parties contending for each seat, Tories, Labour, Liberals and Scottish Nationalists. Very few of us had the support of more than 50% of the voters. So I became a member of the Tory group for PR.

I am therefore both pleased and fascinated by the Tory/Lib-Dem experiment now being worked out in Westminster. Of course, it is only by accident that the Conservatives are having to have a coalition, and it would have been the same if it had been a Labour/Lib-Dem pact. If either of the two big parties had won a majority of seats, they would now be steaming ahead to railroad their policies through Parliament, even though they would almost certainly have received a minority of the total votes cast.

The benefits of the coalition will be, I hope, that the wilder right-wing of the Tories will be denied some of their loonier policies, and the even wilder left-wing of the Lib/Dems will be reduced to tofu-munching fury at the common sense compromises that will have to be made to tackle the big questions of the economy, the pros and cons of the European Union, the plight of the poorest and neediest, to name but a few.

The Church of England is way ahead of the politicians: she introduced PR for elections many years ago, and here in the Episcopal Church elections are done by a very old-fashioned PR system, whereby we vote over and over again till someone gets a real majority. Someone should really point out that, by just numbering the candidates and entering the data into a computer, you can have the result in minutes!

PR in the Church can be as important as in the political arena, as it should ensure that the lunatic wings of conservatives and liberals are at least somewhat restrained – though of course if enough people belong to one of the lunatic wings, they will win. We have always to remember that Adolf
Hitler was democratically elected Chancellor of Germany. Oh well, no system is perfect!

One Response leave one →
  1. ambly permalink
    May 15, 2010

    I am always happiest when Americans have “divided” government as well.

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