Demonstrators Urge King-Maker
To Insist on Election Reform
Saturday, 8th May
Hundreds of demonstrators are gathered outside LibDem HQ in London as I am blogging this, shouting "PR, Nick", demanding that Nick Clegg should stick to his promises of reforming the political system in the UK. "PR" or "proportional representation" in its simplest form, is an election system which distributes the seats of a parliament amongst political parties according to the "popular vote", i.e., the number of votes, each Party gets. Nick Clegg, leader of UK's LibDems, is currently the king-maker of UK's power struggle after the general election came with an inconclusive results and a "hung Parliament", something that the UK has not seen since 1974.
Having to form a coalition to gain Parliamentary majority is a common practice in the political scene of many countries in Europe and beyond and even in local governments in Wales and Scotland, inside the UK itself. But to the British people, a "hung Parliament" on the national level still seems unusual and risky.
Mr. Clegg rightly and honorably said that he will first consider a deal with the "Tories", the Conservative Party of the World's oldest democracy, to acknowledge that this is the Party which got most of the votes and seats. David Cameron, is currently the leader of the party which managed to get the largest number of seats (306), 20 seats short of the clear majority of the House. Cameron had made it clear before that PR (Proportional Representation) was not on the Tories menu. Why should it be? This is a party which can govern the country with 40 something percent of votes in a system where the winner takes it all. Regardless of the number of votes a party gets on the national level, the candidate with the largest number of votes on the constituency level gets the seat. As a result of this system, if your party enjoys a consistent popularity throughout the country of, say 20%, you can theoretically end up with not a single one of the 650 seats of the House of Commons!
This is more or less what happened to Mr. Clegg's Party, UK's Liberal Democrats. Lib Dems got 23% of the votes of the British people, yet, they won only less than 9% of the seats !! And this is exactly what the demonstration outside Nick's office is all about. They want to see the will of the British Voter translated into political power, an ability to shape UK politics.
What the demonstrators fear is that Mr. Clegg, under the pressure of having to quickly form a government that can send comforting signals to the markets amidst bad economic times and intensifying deficit and debt problems in the UK, Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, he (Mr. Clegg) will be rushed by Mr. Cameron into a deal that falls short of the reforms promised by Mr. Clegg during his campaign.
This is a unique opportunity, as the demonstrators and indeed many British people see it, where LibDems have a chance to really shape the political system and thus help bring about historical reform which will potentially reward them with many more seats in future elections. Seats which will better correspond to the votes they get from the people.
On that morning, Gordon Brown, leader of the Labor Party, still governed Britain from number 10 Downing Street as the Prime Minister according to Britain's unwritten constitution of doing things. The Labor got only 258 seats of the 650 seats of the House of Commons. Brown came out yesterday and announced that he respected the fact that Mr. Clegg wanted to talk to the Tories first, but that if such negotiations came with nothing, then he will be happy to talk with Clegg and then skillfully put the issue of proportional representation on the table. He knew that Cameron was tough on the issue which is considered as the "Holy Grail" of the LibDems, since it is the issue which can give UK's third largest Party the power it thinks it deserves in making decisions in Westminster. The problem is, added together, Labour and LibDems still do not have a clear majority in the House of Commons. So, why, in Tories' eyes, would a coalition of Labour and LibDems be allowed to form a minority government when Tories alone can do that? The traditions, however, gives the incumbent Prime Minister, Mr. Brown at this case, first right of forming a government.