Jackie Ashley, in
today’s yesterday’s Guardian, talks about the reforms a third Blair government would bring in (amongst other things). If Blair gets a stonking majority, as Paul Davies mentions, Blair could introduce (or at least propose) PR as a revolutionary measure to reform the electoral system.
Sadly, as much as I wish this to be true, the only possible reply to this is: Bollocks. Utter, big, sweaty bollocks. Would Blair really want to uproot a system that will have delivered him three full terms, an unprecedented achievement for Labour? Through cleverly working at the marginals and all the stereotypes associated (Warwick woman, Mondeo man, school gate mum), New Labour have become experts at swinging the 1% (or so, that’s a rough estimate) of the population whose vote clinches a victory.
Ashley forgets that Blair initiated an investigation into better voting in 1997, with the Jenkins Commission, then promptly ignored its conclusions, presumably after realising that trying to convince the country as a whole would mean a shift from the centre to the left. As a result, first-past-the-post rules, and the big two parties now devote their efforts entirely on the marginals. The result… well, I’ll leave Phil to say it:
We’re living in a strange, muted, deadened political landscape, where many of the most important questions go unanswered or unasked. I don’t for a moment believe that this is our historical condition, that we’re beached in some Fukuyamaesque arrivals lounge at the end of History; I believe it’s the calm before the storm breaks.
I agree totally, unfortunately I can’t see how a storm can break. Maybe if some future government manages to swing a majority in the House while gaining an absolutely tiny minority of the popular vote, we could have some sort of popular revolution, but this is unlikely given the apathy in the country (particularly as apathy would be a leading cause of such an unpopular government gaining power in the first place). Instead, maybe a regional legislature that is proportionally elected could defy the unproportional House of Commons and prove its representativeness, but the only such body with any great power at the moment is the Scottish Parliament, and I don’t see it having too much effect south of the border, no matter what.
So, basically, we’re fucked. Some of us will continually lobby to Make Votes Count, others will try to vote tactically with some, but not much, success (which is, as I’ve said, rubbish – hacking with an already broken system, as any geek will tell you, is never a good thing to do long-term). The only possibility for PR to be instigated in the current climate, is if Labour form a hung government and need to bribe the Lib Dems for their co-operation, but this is not something that can be delicately instigated by the tactical voting campaigns; if it does happen it will mostly be by chance. In the meantime, not only are people like me cynical about the outcome of this election, but also of any election in the foreseeable future; there must be some tonic or revival for frustrated lefties like us. Anyone?