« | Home | »

How to Break the System

Tags:

I never liked David Owen much – even by the standard of politicians, he always seemed to be a self-interested egomaniac – but his interview with David Hare in the Guardian today is interesting.

Owen’s most striking claim is this one:

I’m pleased that the great British public out there in their strange, almost instinctive way are groping towards a solution. They always do. The British electorate has got every election right in my lifetime, and I include the two in which I got kicked out.

Not sure I agree, but it’s an interesting way of putting it – and I suppose the last three elections at least can be said to have been got right, in that ‘we’ wanted the Tories out, then wanted Labour to have a big enough mandate to do the things it had promised to do the first time but hadn’t begun, then wanted them back in power because we couldn’t face the alternative but also wanted them to have had a nasty scare from the electorate and a reduced majority. What would getting the election right this time mean? I think the polls are starting to hint at an answer. Of the last 12 national opinion polls, four have shown the Lib Dems ahead, and one has been tied. Translated through the magic of our electoral system, that would leave the Lib Dems with the most votes and the fewest seats, Labour with the most seats and the fewest votes, and the Tories in the middle.

That result would break the electoral system. Nobody could defend an outcome with the top party coming bottom and vice versa. It would come close to breaking our unwritten constitution too. I’ve heard a theory that one reason there’s going to be a longer-than-usual 12-day gap between the election and the recall of Parliament is to avoid ‘embarrassing the Queen’. The fear is that Brenda herself might in some circumstances be seeming to choose the winner, when the electoral system had manifestly failed to do a fair job of it. Brenda could, of course, just invite Clegg and leave him to sort it out… yeah, right.

At least there’s a tentative glimpse of an optimistic scenario, in which the election result crashes the electoral system, and we get genuine structural reform as a result. Holding your breath for this outcome? Not advised.

Comments on “How to Break the System”

  1. pinhut says:

    “The British electorate has got every election right in my lifetime,”

    Owen plumps for the inherently sane qualities of the British electorate.

    It’s nothing more than flattery.

    Owen appears to have forgotten elections that were swayed by ridiculous PR stunts like The Falklands War and the first Gulf War, rather than by anything resembling reason on the part of the voters.

    In my lifetime, the only genuine good sense that was demonstrated by the British public, en masse, was the instinctive reaction to the Poll Tax.

  2. Camus123 says:

    “I’m pleased that the great British public out there in their strange, almost instinctive way are groping towards a solution. They always do.” The great British public will be pleased and humbled that you are pleased. What a pompous ass! Firstly, nothing strange about its certainly not an instinctive response – I agree with pinhut!

  3. pinhut says:

    “I agree with pinhut!”

    First time I have ever come across this phrase. Upon careful reflection, I like it!

  4. hexam says:

    David Owen’s most self-regarding remark is near the end: ‘I had power young. It’s healthy.’

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • Graucho on Inauguration Day: In a just world the Iran Contra affair would have had Reagan impeached and imprisoned, but it isn't a just world.
    • Rikkeh on The Prince and the Ladybird: Would as many people have bought or talked about a Ladybird Book on climate change had the Dolphin not been involved? Almost certainly not. Is there a...
    • Thomas Jones on Earthquakes, continued: A hotel was buried under an avalanche in Farindola, Abruzzo. According to one of the rescuers, who were able to reach the place only on skis, 'there a...
    • Josef C. on At the Gogol Centre: Certainly Kurt Schwitters (* 1887, Hannover, Germany; + 1948 in Kendal, Cumbria, England) and his 'Ursonate' belongs to this artistic league of the pl...
    • Phil on Cold War Ghosts: The conclusion may or may not be a ghost. A USA-Russia propaganda alliance sounds like a weak force, compared to actual trends, which are internal and...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

Advertisement Advertisement