I reckon a degree of perspective is required right now, when considering the possibility of a “hung parliament” in the UK. I may be proven wrong by events, but I’m pretty confident in my views.
A good friend of mine is THE most devoted Celtic supporter you could ever hope to meet. An intelligent guy, with a very worldly and tolerant view on all topics, except when it comes to his team. He can only view any aspect or incident to do with Glasgow Celtic as a “them and us” situation. Any referee decisions for Celtic are fair, whilst all those against are proof of a long standing and widespread conspiracy. Whilst I don’t understand it, I do get it. The very same can be said of political activists and politicians, when it comes to their party. “If you’re not for us, you’re against us” is the prevailing principle, and the very notion of cooperation can never ever be countenanced in public, as it is seen as weakness and treachery. (I know a few politicians too).
I shan’t delve into the history of the de-facto two party system in the UK, as I assume at least a little knowledge on your part. However, for years I have had to make my case against those who say a vote for anyone other than Labour or Tory is a wasted vote, because they’ll never be in government anyway. The mainstay of my argument is that I only have one vote, which has been earned for me over generations by those to whom it was denied. It is now my right, and my obligation, and I’m not going to sully it by voting for someone I don’t believe in. Even if I was the only Lib-Dem voter in Glasgow, my vote would register that there was at least one dissenting voice. Moreover, my one vote may well give someone else the encouragement to follow suit in the next election. That’s how it goes in elections. Right now, neither Labour nor Conservative have a single vote in the bag. Sure, the history of previous elections, combined with opinion polls tells them the degree to which they can be confident, and that’s where my little vote comes in. You see, I know I don’t get to decide on my own who my MP is going to be, never mind the largest party or even the Prime Minister. I only get to influence the election to the extent of my one vote; just like everyone else. I’ll leave the extra clout, voters in marginal seats have, for another blog.
The Times reports today that even before the first leadership debate on TV, at least one third of the electorate polled declared that they actively wanted a hung parliament. It went on to say that “this is not an outcome for which anyone is able to vote. But a hung parliament is nothing to be wished for.” I agree that no-one can actively vote for a hung parliament, nor equally vote for a dead certain majority. It’s simply not possible for an individual voter to consider their own ballot to have this power, and try to manipulate a result by this means. Politicians of the two right-wing, sorry, major parties will recommend doing so, in order to keep an opponent out of office, and by doing so, not voting for your candidate of choice. This is about as cynical as it gets. “Don’t let Labour in the back door!” Tory candidates used to tell Liberal voters. The implication being that “your guy will never get in, and you’re an idiot”. Some politicians even declare that they would prefer their opposition to win outright, rather than have a hung parliament.
Let me say this plainly. If the British electorate elect a parliament with no outright majority, then you’d better bloody accept it, and do what you’ve been told. David Cameron in a speech today stated, in terms, that a hung parliament will only result in politicians “politicians haggling, not deciding. They would be fighting for their own interests, not fighting for your interests. They would not be making long-term decisions for the country’s future, they would be making short-term decisions for their own future.” Hold on a second, here’s the leader of the Conservatives slagging off politicians, and stating that they’re not to be trusted! Isn’t he one of them?
I ask you to put aside your preconceptions, and all the jokes, and consider this. The Scottish Parliament has never had a party with a majority. After the first election, the Labour Party formed a formal coalition with the Lib-Dems. Of course they didn’t agree on everything, but it meant that Labour could form a government, and that some key Lib-Dem policies were enacted. The current minority SNP government have neither a majority, nor a coalition, and need to seek agreements from members of other parties before anything can be passed as law. It’s not pretty, but it does mean that every single MSP counts, and they aren’t simply waiting for the day they are back in power. For the past 32 years, the UK parliament has comprised a huge number of opposition MPs who have no say in the running of the country, despite being fairly elected by their constituents. The party whip system ensures that the majority party gets everything it wants, when it wants it.
Make your vote count in this election. Vote for whomever you believe in, be it the Raving Loonies or even UKIP. You’ll regret it if you don’t.