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Government United Kingdom Politics

UK Election Arcana, Explained By Software 568

Posted by timothy
from the ask-the-queen dept.
An anonymous reader writes "For the first time in 35 years the UK government is looking to be at risk of getting a hung or coalition government. (The most recent previous hung parliaments were in 1974 and 1929.) The voting rules are somewhat arcane and the votes this time are such that there are many strange possible outcomes and a surprisingly large number of permutations of coalitions that could be formed and political strategies that may go into their forming. There are at least 60 permutations, some more politically plausible than others. Adam Back wrote some software to work out the permutations, and lists some of the arcane factors affecting the outcome. If Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown chose to, it would appear even that he could simply refuse to resign, ostensibly trying to form a coalition indefinitely, maybe even forcing the Queen to dismiss the current government, which last happened in 1834 under King William IV."
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UK Election Arcana, Explained By Software

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  • Silly Brits (Score:5, Funny)

    by ShakaUVM (157947) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @06:07PM (#32149632) Homepage Journal

    Silly Brits.

    This is why they need a reasonable, commonsense system like our electoral college.

    • Re:Silly Brits (Score:5, Interesting)

      by xaxa (988988) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @06:18PM (#32149712)

      It's why we need to Take Back Parliament [takebackparliament.com] and get a fair voting system. I went to the protest in London [nyud.net] yesterday, and I encourage anyone that can to come to the next one, on Saturday (14:00, 15th May, Parliament Square, London).

      • Re:Silly Brits (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Darkness404 (1287218) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @06:33PM (#32149826)
        Just be glad your broken system is a lot less broken than the US system. At least you guys -have- minority parties. Good luck finding a single person in the US congress that isn't a republican or democrat (or an 'independent' who votes 99.999% with one of the 2 parties).

        While the UK system may be broken, its a lot better than the system from across the ocean....
        • Re:Silly Brits (Score:5, Insightful)

          by vadim_t (324782) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @07:07PM (#32150064) Homepage

          No, that's the wrong way to see it.

          "Well, at least it's better than in bumfuckistan" is a justification for complacency. Don't wait for it to get worse, do some work and help make it better.

          At least you guys -have- minority parties. Good luck finding a single person in the US congress that isn't a republican or democrat (or an 'independent' who votes 99.999% with one of the 2 parties).

          So are you trying to do something about it, or just complain about it online?

          The grandparent is setting an excellent example here.

          • Re:Silly Brits (Score:5, Interesting)

            by WillDraven (760005) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @09:32PM (#32150878) Homepage

            I can't speak for the parent poster but personally I'm working on it [pirate-party.us].

            We just launched a new site so the forums are a bit sparse. We're still working out the kinks in the organization and it sure will be a long hard road but at least I feel like I'm finally doing something about it instead of bitching on the internet and getting pepper sprayed at protests.

        • Re:Silly Brits (Score:5, Insightful)

          by OnlyJedi (709288) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @07:11PM (#32150088) Homepage

          Mod parent up. As much as it seems silly that the two losing parties still remain in power, it isn't when you think of it. If combined they still represent more votes (and thus a higher percentage of people's views), shouldn't they be the ones in power rather than a party that a majority of people didn't want?

          This is pretty much what happened when Nader "spoiled" the vote for Gore in Florida back in 2000. Even if you discount the whole recount issue, if Nader hadn't been running most of his votes would have likely gone to Gore (both being liberals), and Gore would have easily won the state and the election. Similarly, if the UK were a 2-party system, the Labour and Lib Dems (which if I recall are both more similar to each other than the Conservatives) would be a single party and easily have won.

          The benefits of having multiple parties is that no matter who "wins", without a clear majority the ruling coalition needs to be built on compromise. Whether it's Conservatives + Lib Dems, or Labour + Lib Dems, or one of the other permutations, the government can't go too far to one extreme. More importantly, minor parties are still needed to form a coalition, giving them a chance to make some of their views heard.

          This can give new ideas—ideas that may be popular with the electorate but too risky/unknown to make traction with the main parties—a chance to be tested while still having a sort of buffer preventing them from being taken too far to quickly. Think, for example, the Pirate Party; major parties are too beholden to big corporate donations to advocate sensible copyright reform, yet that doesn't mean there shouldn't be advocates for it in the legislature.. Compare this to the US, where the two parties have been pretty stagnant for as long as anyone can remember, and new ideas are quickly shot down as "radical" from both sides

          • Re:Silly Brits (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Jenming (37265) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @07:43PM (#32150256)

            Those are valid points, but it is not as black and white as you make it sound.

            First the two parties have not been stagnant "as long as anyone can remember". They have not even been stagnant over the last 1-2 decades. While one party will win and have need for only limited compromise with the losing party that does not mean no compromise or coalition has been formed. Rather the party platforms are fluid and coalitions are formed within the two parties with certain interests moving to the party that will best represent them.

            For example, what do labor unions, gay men, women and environmentalists all have in common? They were not well represented by the Republicans when the Republicans where in power. They compromised and brought in other interests until the democratic party was strong enough to take power. Looking at the same party in different regions of the country will also show just how much compromise and coalition forming goes into the US parties.

            Its not an ideal system certainly, but I would look at the electoral college and various senate problems as bigger problems than our current 2 party system.

            • Re:Silly Brits (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Miseph (979059) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @10:27PM (#32151148) Journal

              "but I would look at the electoral college and various senate problems as bigger problems than our current 2 party system."

              Of course, most of those problems are directly related to the two-party system. In the case of the electoral college, it is the primary means by which the system is enforced, and most of our Senate shenanigans are a direct result. Serious reform of any one will result in changing all three.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by DragonWriter (970822)

                Of course, most of those problems are directly related to the two-party system. In the case of the electoral college, it is the primary means by which the system is enforced,

                The electoral college is not the primary means by which the two-party system is enforced. The primary means by which the two-party system is enforced is using majority-runoff or plurality elections for most purpose plus having independently elected executives (both at the state and federal levels) rather than a parliamentary system.

                The

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Sir_Sri (199544)

            what coalitions actually mean is that the lunatic fringe (yes including the one trick pony pirate party who has nothing meaningful to say on things like EU tax rates, monetary policy, Ukraine or georgia membership in NATO/EU, muslim immigration to europe etc) gets a disproportionate share of power in exchange for not toppling the government, or they get a free reign on a collection of their particular issues, which may, on the whole, be disastrous for the country, but in the short term prop up one party.

            In

            • Re:Silly Brits (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Don_dumb (927108) on Monday May 10, 2010 @02:21AM (#32152210)

              The vast majority of britons looked at what the lib dems offered, said 'he looks nice but no thanks' and actually reduced their vote share - yet they could get cabinet seats.

              Wrong. The Lib Dems got 23% of the vote, an INCREASE of 1%. Citation - BBC Full election results [bbc.co.uk].
              They had a reduction in the number of seats. - more votes, less power.

              It has to be a broken system that gives them less than 10% of the seats for almost a quarter of the vote. Especially when you consider that they increased their vote, yet decreased their number of MPs and that Labour got 29% (only 6 per cent more) of the vote somehow giving them 4 times as many seats. In fact both Labour and the Tories (Conservatives) got over 10% more power (seats) than their share of the vote.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by blackest_k (761565)

                To make British politics work for its citizens a system of proportional representation is needed.
                The current system forces you to vote for the party you think can defeat the party you really detest.

                Luckily for me I chose non of the above and left the UK however as I found out a couple of days ago I can vote in British Elections for fifteen years after leaving where I was last registered.

                In a system of proportional representation you finally get the chance to have a representative that more closely aligns wi

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by Shrike82 (1471633)

                  It is unlikely that Gordon Brown can remain as prime minister , he makes a better chancellor to be honest.

                  Yeah, he did a great job presiding over the economy last time, deregulating the banking sector because banks said they needed less regulation. That worked out brilliantly.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by DragonWriter (970822)

                It has to be a broken system that gives them less than 10% of the seats for almost a quarter of the vote. Especially when you consider that they increased their vote, yet decreased their number of MPs and that Labour got 29% (only 6 per cent more) of the vote somehow giving them 4 times as many seats.

                Any system with single-member districts assigned simply by the vote winner (whether by simple majority with a runoff to settle ambiguous results, or plurality, or any other system that just looks at the first-p

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Chris Mattern (191822)

              The vast majority of britons looked at what the lib dems offered, said 'he looks nice but no thanks' and actually reduced their vote share

              Their seats in the House of Commons went from 62 to 57. Their vote share *increased* from 22.1% to 23%. First past the post voting does funny things.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            This is pretty much what happened when Nader "spoiled" the vote for Gore in Florida back in 2000. Even if you discount the whole recount issue, if Nader hadn't been running most of his votes would have likely gone to Gore (both being liberals), and Gore would have easily won the state and the election.

            Wow. Still this crap 10 years out. I'm no Nader fan, but the logic of this argument is (and has always been) preposterous. Nader didn't "spoil" anything. Gore did. To wit:

            Gore needed 0.5% of Nader's votes to win. But Gore needed only 0.01% of Bush's votes. Which would be easier? Getting 1 out of 200 people dedicated enough to a third-party candidate to buck the mainstream, or 1 out of 10,000 random sheep who chose one of the two main candidates by default?

            Also, 12% of registered Florida Democrat

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Darkness404 (1287218)
      The way the British do it -is- a reasonable commonsense system and it lets -everyone- more or less have their voices heard. There are 650 seats in the house of commons there are 535 seats in the US congress. The UK has a population of 62,041,708, the US has a population of 309,230,000. That means that there is one representative for every 95,448 people in the UK, in the US there are 578,000 people for every one representative. In the UK, that leads to a lot more accountability. Similarly look in the US, the
      • Re:Silly Brits (Score:5, Informative)

        by 0123456 (636235) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @06:33PM (#32149830)

        The way the British do it -is- a reasonable commonsense system and it lets -everyone- more or less have their voices heard.

        Oh, bollocks.

        If I remember correctly, the UKIP got about twice as many votes as the SNP and the BNP got about the same number of votes as the SNP, yet the SNP got six seats and the UKIP and BNP didn't get any. The British government is determined primarily by the votes of a million or so voters in central England, because most of the rest of the country is a safe seat for one of the three main parties... consequently the main parties crap on the core supporters while they all fight over those few voters who can determine the outcome.

        It's an abysmal system and it's hard to see how you could create something worse if you really want to to 'let everyone have their voices heard'. Where I used to live my vote was utterly irrelevant because the Tory MP had such a large majority that they would get elected regardless of who I voted for.

        You may be right that the US system is even worse, but the idea that the British system 'lets everyone have their voices heard' is simply absurd. That's precisely what it's designed to _NOT_ do.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Angostura (703910)

          Please stop modding this disingenuous argument as 'Informative'.

          The Scottish National Party (SNP) fielded 59 candidates in the Westminster parliamentary elections - one in every of the 59 Scottish constituencies.

          The BNP fielded more than 300 candidates across the whole of Britain and UKIP fielded over 500 candidates. So UKIP stood in for nearly 10 times as many areas, but only got twice as many votes in its 500 areas as the SNP did in its 59.

          Let's face facts. The BNP put its leader up in an East London con

      • Re:Silly Brits (Score:4, Informative)

        by CowboyBob500 (580695) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @06:36PM (#32149850) Homepage
        Bollocks. The Liberal Democrats got 25% of the vote but only 8% of the seats. How is that common sense? Due to constituency boundary changes their share of the vote went up but the number of seats they have actually went down. The system we have is crap and needs to change.
        • Better than the US though, a party could easily have 25% of the popular votes and no representation.

          While I agree that changing of boundaries to undermine the political system, its still better than the US.
          • Re:Silly Brits (Score:5, Insightful)

            by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @07:06PM (#32150052) Journal

            Better than the US though, a party could easily have 25% of the popular votes and no representation.

            That's also possible in the UK. Each seat is contested on a first-past-the-post basis, and the winner typically has 30-40% of the vote. The remaining 60-70% are then discarded. If you get 25% in every constituency but another party gets 26% then you get no seats. It's even more fun than this, because it doesn't have to be the same other party; one other party could get 26% in 326 seats and 0% in the other 364. They would then have a majority of seats and control of Parliament, with only 13% of the popular vote, while the party with 25% of the popular vote had no representation at all.

            There's a reason why electoral reform is the key issue for all of the smaller parties. One or other of the two major parties needs to get them on board to be able to form a government, but the price of doing so is likely to be a form of proportional representation for the next election (which, if we go by 1974's precedent, will be in a few months) and then neither Labour nor the Conservatives will be able to get a majority ever again. Even the 36% or so that the Conservatives got is probably a lot more than they'd get under PR - a lot of people voted Conservative because it meant not-Labour (just as a lot of people voted not-Conservative in the past), and would likely vote for a smaller party if their vote would actually be likely to affect the outcome.

      • Re:Silly Brits (Score:5, Insightful)

        by xaxa (988988) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @06:40PM (#32149886)

        The UK system is crap -- it's not as bad as the US system, but it's still pretty awful.

        In many areas it's more-or-less irrelevant who you vote for -- the same party wins every year.

        In other areas it's a contest between two of the biggest three parties, and not voting for one of those two is essentially wasting your vote; many people in these situations vote for the "less bad" of the two parties. (e.g. they might like party B, but 'know' that either A or C will win. A isn't as bad, so they vote A to try and stop C winning.)

        The Liberal Democrats get a decent number of votes all across the country (23% this year) but don't get a fair number of seats in Parliament (9%). Labour got 29% of the vote and 40% of the seats, the Conservatives got 36% of the vote and 47% of the seats in Parliament. The smallest parties are even worse-off than the Lib Dems: the Greens got 1% of the vote this year, and for the first time got a single seat -- 0.15% of the seats! (results [bbc.co.uk].)

    • by funkatron (912521)

      From reading wikipedia, the systems sound similar. In the UK each region elects an MP and then the MPs vote in a government. The current problem is that none of the parties has enough MPs to actually vote in a government. If one party tries; all the other parties will vote against and prevent it. The US hasnt had this problem because only 2 parties seem to get elected there.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)

        In the UK each region elects an MP and then the MPs vote in a government

        Not quite true. The MPs don't vote in a government ever, the Queen invites someone to form a government (typically the leader of the party with the majority). The MPs can hold a vote of no confidence in the current government and force an election, but they don't vote to form one. All members of the government are appointed by the Prime Minister, and must be MPs, but they may be either Commoners or Lords (in a few cases, people have been given peerages to allow them to hold government office, but it's q

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by MightyMartian (840721)

          Governments exist because a majority of MPs back a given government. The Westminster system didn't evolve full-blown political parties until near the end of the 18th century. Previous to that, the Whigs and Tories, while in some ways being ideological centers of gravity, did not exist as definite parties with a singular hierarchical structure. Even with the evolution of political parties, the development of the party system didn't happen for a few more decades, along with the tradition that Ministers wer

    • This is why they need a reasonable, commonsense system like our electoral college.

      Your electoral college was probably based on the UK parliament. We vote for MPs who then effectively determine the prime minister. The only difference is that the 'electoral college' then hangs around to pass laws in place of a separate house of representatives. In this way we have fewer elections and avoid the deadlock that would result from having a prime minister without legislative support.

      I should also point out that the original article is wrong in that the UK is not 'at risk' of a hung parliament

    • by martin-boundary (547041) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @06:38PM (#32149856)
      It all went downhill when they got rid of the Ministry of Silly Walks.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by tepples (727027)
        As I understand it, the UK never really got rid of Silly Walks; they just folded gait correction into the National Health Service.
    • by Kjella (173770)

      From what I gather the UK system was rather screwed up and in 1832 they had a huge reform, making it more like the US system with first past the post. Not sure how much the Brits cared about what the Americans did at the time, but it seems they already brought the US system back. Not the best choice, then again there weren't that many great choices in Europe at the time...

  • by ickleberry (864871) <web@pineapple.vg> on Sunday May 09, 2010 @06:13PM (#32149666) Homepage
    What will Slashdot do without the steady stream of news about how the UK is becoming more of a surveillance state? There will hardly be anything here anymore.

    I'll be going back to hang out with the overzealous teenage ubuntu fanboys and militant atheists on Digg
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Erosion of civil liberties isn't a party political or, indeed, national issue. It's a constant battle - eternal vigilance and all that. But the 1984 references work best when talking about the UK.

  • Arcane? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NotoriousDAN (588957) <dglynch@dglyn[ ]com ['ch.' in gap]> on Sunday May 09, 2010 @06:15PM (#32149688)
    How is this arcane? The article plainly describes how a British-style parliamentary system works, as practiced in many countries throughout the world (including Canada), and with a special emphasis on the outcome of the most recent election. This is only confusing to foreigners and people unfamiliar with basic civics.
    • Re:Arcane? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <etreufamla>> on Sunday May 09, 2010 @06:33PM (#32149832)

      Well, your whole democracy is a patch. A hack. You still keep the queen around, of course, she has no political power and her role is to produce news for the tabloids that the illiterate of your country can follow. The queen in the UK = Oprah in the states. Except, that according to the law, the queen can still intervene. Her powers, while null in practice, are still intact on paper. Please remember the Fear of queen-intervention in Canada a few months ago, and a similar situation now in the UK. So, this arcane bitch that you keep for decorative purposes has actual power that she can use at any time. Off course, nobody will actually let her use it. The deal is: She gets to keep the crown and go to boring parties as long as she doesn't use her power. If she does, the people will kick her out in the blink of an eye.

      So, that's what I call Arcane. That's an ugly hack. A workaround.

      Off course, there are systems that are even more stupid and broken that the on in the UK, for instance, the electoral-college, two-party system in the US. /Disclaimer: I am neither from the States nor the UK.

      Is this the M.P.L.A
      Or is this the U.D.A
      Or is this the I.R.A
      I thought it was the U.K or just
      another country
      another council tenancy

      Isn't it sad that Lyndon is doing ads for margarine, and that Dave Mustain said he won't do the cover of Anarchy in the UK anymore because he's now a stupid Christian?

      Sorry to go off-topic ... my mind wonders ....

      • You still keep the queen around, of course, she has no political power and her role is to produce news for the tabloids that the illiterate of your country can follow. The queen in the UK = Oprah in the states.

        No, not true. The queen still has absolute control in at least the UK and Australia. I have a copy of the Australian constitution and it is a very thin book. It pretty much says "the queen may set up the government in a particular way, or she may not".

        The people may not like it but the queen is effectively a dictator.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by gmhowell (26755)

          You still keep the queen around, of course, she has no political power and her role is to produce news for the tabloids that the illiterate of your country can follow. The queen in the UK = Oprah in the states.

          No, not true. The queen still has absolute control in at least the UK and Australia. I have a copy of the Australian constitution and it is a very thin book. It pretty much says "the queen may set up the government in a particular way, or she may not".

          The people may not like it but the queen is effectively a dictator.

          You underestimate the power that is Oprah.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)
        Actually, the Queen does serve a useful purpose. She is still there for exactly this kind of situation. A new government is formed at the Queen's invitation, and she is able to act as an apolitical mediator between parties. She also meets with the Prime Minister every week and, as someone who has met with the PM every week for the last 57 years, provides a lot of advice and a useful historical perspective.
      • Re:Arcane? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Angostura (703910) on Monday May 10, 2010 @05:52AM (#32152992)

        It's actually a rather elegant workaround in my opinion. The UK's monarch is the equivalent of a permanently disabled root account, she holds the notional power, but cannot wield it. Politicians are the sudoers.

    • Re:Arcane? (Score:5, Informative)

      by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @06:43PM (#32149912) Homepage
      It's not arcane but it is a bit outdated and arguably unfair in the sense the Lib Dems had nearly as many votes as Labour but a fraction of the seats.

      If you look at the numnbers, they have the following number of seats:
      con: 306
      labour 258
      lib dem 57.

      It sounds like the conservatives trashed the lib dems but that's not really the case.

      If you look at the actual votes it goes like this:
      con: 10,706,647
      labour: 8,604,358
      Liberal Democrat 6,827,938

      While I don't want Labour back in power if they do form a coalition I don't think it's that bad of a deal. More people did get what the party they voted for and Labout and Lib Dems do actually have more in common.

      I think the system needs tweaking to reflect the portion of votes that each party received. Should Lib Dems have such little power (assuming no coalitions) compared to Labour when nearly as many people picked them? Arguably all systems are like this when you group a whole nation's total votes but the UK is small enough, imo, that perhaps it should. You can't really say different blocks within London, for example, are so different that we should leave things as is.
  • Hmm (Score:5, Informative)

    by EyeSavant (725627) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @06:20PM (#32149728)
    There are really only 3 permutations that matter.

    1/ The conservatives go it alone, and try to run a minority government with occasional help from the Northern Ireland parties they are allied with, and possiby the liberal democrats on some issues. This is unlikely to last long to be honest

    2/ The conservatives and Liberal democrats do a deal, and make a joint platform. This is the only one that has got any possiblity of lasting. The tricky part is as the 3rd Party the Liberal Democrats want some form of proportial representation (which would double their seats in parlament). The conservatives don't want that at all. They like the current system. I don't know what is going to happen here. I guess the Lib Dems will blink "for the good of the coutry", and a deal will be done.

    3/ Labour and the liberal democrats do a deal, this does not give them a majority though, so they will need the help of again ulster parties (different NI parties are alligned to each of the mainland parties). and the welsh/scottish natioanlist parties. This will probably fragment after a while too. This grouping is possible as they limp along for a while, and would bring in some form of proportional representation or other electoral reform and eventually we have an early new election.

    Some of the more outlandish things like Gordon brown not resigning if there was a viable alternative is just silly. He *could* do it and it would be a mess if he did, but it would destroy most of the support for his party for years to come. You have to be gracious in defeat in these things if you want to bounce back.

    I suppose there is

    4/ They just call a new election, as well, but that is not going to be popular with the public and noone really has the cash to fight it (particularly the liberal democrats, who have the most to lose from a new election).

    • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

      by slim (1652) <john@h[ ]nup.net ['art' in gap]> on Sunday May 09, 2010 @06:31PM (#32149816) Homepage

      2/ The conservatives and Liberal democrats do a deal, and make a joint platform. This is the only one that has got any possiblity of lasting. The tricky part is as the 3rd Party the Liberal Democrats want some form of proportial representation (which would double their seats in parlament). The conservatives don't want that at all. They like the current system. I don't know what is going to happen here. I guess the Lib Dems will blink "for the good of the coutry", and a deal will be done.

      The other sticking point for the Lib Dems is Europe. They are very pro, the Conservatives are very anti.

      There's strong public campaigns at the moment for the Lib Dems not to compromise on electoral reform -- after all this is a once in a generation opportunity.

      Electoral reform is the one thing I want to see achieved in this parliament.

    • How about:-

      5) They just fucking grow up and vote on new laws according to what they actually believe individually.

      All MPs are allowed to introduce legislation to be voted on. Why not just carry on doing this and allowing a free vote every time? We need to tell them to stop being so childish and that voting on strict party lines is no longer acceptable.

      For the budget and other national issues, take the 3 most expert people on each subject from each party, and lock them in a room until they agree.
  • TFA is wrong (Score:5, Informative)

    by pmc (40532) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @06:27PM (#32149782) Homepage

    TFA is wrong - the most recent hung parliament was 1997 (before the election that year). Second most recent was 1977.

    Full details in http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons/lib/research/briefings/snpc-04951.pdf [parliament.uk]

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by OzRoy (602691)

      They occurred in a different way though. In those cases the government started with a very slim majority, but lost that majority due to losing by-elections and defections.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ArwynH (883499)

      That is not the only place the TFA is wrong. Here are just a few of the other places that were incorrect:

      1) Labour are not socialists.
      2) There is nothing indefinite about it. The Queen makes a speech at the end of May, which is then voted on in parliament. If the vote fails, it's game-over for the proposed government.
      3) You don't need a majority to form a government, you just need to survive votes of no-confidence.

      In other words, the most likely outcome is a Lib-Lab minority government, with the Greens, SDL

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 09, 2010 @06:31PM (#32149808)

    1. Brown can't refuse to resign indefinitely -- there is always a confidence motion after the Throne Speech at the beginning of parliament, which is scheduled for the 25th. If he can't put together a majority vote in parliament then he will be gone then. So it'll be over in at most two more weeks, although it's unlikely to take that long. We'll probably know what's going on in the next couple days.

    2. There are a bunch of tiny regional parties, but some of them are closely bound to one of the big players (SDLP is effectively Labour, Alliance is LibDem, DUP is Conservative), so there's really fewer options. In particular, if you consider a Labour/LibDem/Green/DSLP/Alliance combo they STILL wouldn't have a majority. Neither would Conservative/DUP.

    In that scenario, the balance of power on every vote would come down to the nationalist parties: SNP (Scotland), Plaid Cymru (Wales), and Sinn Fein (Northern Ireland). [Note: Sinn Fein MPs make a point of *NOT* attending Parliament as a political statement, but if they thought they could control the balance of power they could always change that!] This would be completely unworkable and everybody knows it.

    There's really only three options on the table right now:

    • Conservative/LIbDem (plus, presumably, DUP and Alliance) combo. That's what the parties are working on right now.
    • Conservative minority government. Neither Labor nor LibDem are in a position to fight an election right now, so a minority government would have a couple years at least. The risk is that they would be too weak to force strict budget controls
    • "National Unity" Conservative/Labour coalition. Don't hold your breath for this one, but it is technically possible
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      "Sinn Fein MPs make a point of *NOT* attending Parliament as a political statement, but if they thought they could control the balance of power they could always change that!"

      This is very unlikely; it would require them to swear fealty to the British Crown.

  • A government which can't use its whip to push its Party's MPs into voting a particular way such that a majority vote is inevitable is the best sort of government.

    After all, an MP is voted in by his constituents to represent his constituents, not his Party.

  • Um... (Score:5, Informative)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @06:57PM (#32150004) Journal

    For those not trained in the intricacies of the Westminster system, while it is true that Gordon Brown could refuse to resign, that's not quite the way it would happen. Gordon Brown, as the incumbent PM, has first dibs under the Westminster system to form a new ministry. Because, in the Westminster system, a country is never without a government, Brown's Labour party is still technically the government and still advises the Queen. Thus he could go to the Palace and advise the Queen that he is still capable of heading a government. Now, theoretically, the Queen could use her Reserve Powers to dismiss the PM, but such a thing has not been done in a very long. The normal constitutional procedure would be for the Queen to accept the advice of Her Prime Minister and Labour again would form the government, despite having less seats than the Conservatives, and no configuration of coalitions (there aren't enough Liberal Democrats, SNP and other groups who tend towards left-of-centre to add up to a majority in the House of Commons).

    Now what happens at that point is entirely up to the Opposition. Immediately upon forming a new government, there is the Queen's Speech (or, as it's referred to in the Commonwealth the Speech from the Throne), which is a confidence motion. The Conservatives and whoever else they allied with would have the votes to topple the government. A vote of no confidence in the Westminster is instant death for a government. At that point, Brown would cease to hold the constitutional monopoly on advising the Queen, and she would have the choice of either calling a new election or asking someone else to form government.

    However, political realities being what they are, if the Conservatives and the LibDems form a coalition, it's almost certain that Brown will resign.

  • by Budenny (888916) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @07:03PM (#32150032)

    The problem both Labor and the Conservatives have with PR, is that it would lead to coalition governments. This is easy to see. The Liberals had 23% of the last vote, the Conservatives 36%, and Labor 29%. This is more or less the share of the popular vote that the three parties have had for the last 30+ years.

    You can see that if each party has the same number of seats as they have percentage of the votes, then no party is generally going to have a total majority over the other two. You will just about always have a situation, like in Holland, where the third party is in every government, sometimes in coalition with Labor and sometimes with Conservatives.

    The reason why both of the two larger parties do not want this, is that they represent essentially minority interests. The Conservative Party historically represents inherited wealth and also the rural areas. Which are dominated by large landowners. The Labor party represents big cities, the industrial workforce and the public sector trade unions. And of course the large welfare population of dependents. Both are ready and eager to impose heavy costs on the country as a whole, as long as they get some, often fairly small, percentage of those costs for their own interest groups. This tendency, which is a form of looting, gets more extreme with the second and especially the third term of any government. In the first term of any government, it tends to behave responsibly. The first Blair term, for instance, was marked by restraint in public spending and no deals with the public sector unions.

    The second and third terms have seen enormous public spending, mostly on public sector union wages, which has been marketed as 'investing in our great public services'. This has imposed costs on the country which dwarf the benefits to the recipients of the benefits, but no-one cares what it costs the country, as long as they are doing better.

    The Conservatives are no better. We can expect something similar in the second and third terms of any Conservative government. The interesting difference about this Labor government has been its approach to the finance sector, which is referred to in the UK as 'the City'. This Labor government has been much closer to the City than any previous one.

    You can see that this pattern of behavior will be eliminated by coalition governments. The problem is, in your first term you generally govern for the country, the better to get a second term. When in the second or third term you move to payoff time, and start the outrageous rewarding of your interest group, if its a coalition government, the other partner will just say no, force an election, and then move into coalition with the other large party. It will be game over.

    The sheer rage that the idea of proportional representation arouses in the hearts of Conservative Party stalwarts is due to this. They are seeing the prospect of the second and third term troughs being smashed before their eyes. No more feasting. The whole rationale of the parties goes.

    What happens with coalition government, on say the Dutch lines, is that it replaces the focus on who is in power, with a focus on what the program is going to be, what the policies are. In the UK at the moment all anyone cares about is who is in power, because whoever it is, can hand out the spoils. Once you cannot do this any more, you have to focus on governing for the country. Now that is not what either of the two large parties want to do, at least, no more than they absolutely have to.

    And this is why far more of the UK wants PR than anyone in either of the two big parties will admit. It is not just the 25% that vote Liberal. It is also those who routinely switch from one party to the other, to give the other guys a chance.

    If you think about it, in the situation I have described, what does the rational voter do? He/she is confronted with a two party system in which the second and third terms of any government are going to feature irresponsible looting of a sort mos

  • by digitig (1056110) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @07:35PM (#32150216)
    Britain's last hung parliament was in 1996-97, under John Major, not 1974. 1974 was the last time a hung parliament was elected; Major was elected with a slim majority, and the government became hung due to attrition during the course of the parliament.
  • by Lord Bitman (95493) on Monday May 10, 2010 @01:41AM (#32152006) Homepage

    As an American living in the U.K., I can't for the life of me figure out why having no clear majority, necessitating that opposing viewpoints actually talk to each-other and compromise, could possibly even begin to be anything other than a very good thing. All I've heard are vague notions of "strong government", but when I ask what that actually means, and why it would be a good thing, I haven't heard an answer at all.

    And parliament still looks a thousand times more sane than congress.

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