mdsh00
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Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Thu May 05, 2005 6:29 pm

Written by a Brit. Quite Amusing! Big grin

http://www.slate.com/id/2117174/entry/0/
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GDB
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Fri May 06, 2005 3:20 am

Amusing with some truth, though a bit superficial, for example, this stuff about no debates between candidates, er....it happens every week in the Commons, it's called question time, though it can get farcical, it can at times be compelling.
I don't know of any US counterpart of TV attack dog interviewers like Jeremy Paxman or John Humphries, both of the BBC.
So politicians are treated with less 'respect' here.

Simon Schama, a US based history professor, (who UK members will know from his excellent series on the history of Britain a few years ago), returned home to take a look at the election, finding huge contrasts with the contest he covered last year in the US.
It's long, but funny at times;
http://politics.guardian.co.uk/election/story/0,15803,1476621,00.html
 
JGPH1A
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Mon May 09, 2005 10:56 pm

From the article: "("We arrive; it rains. It always rains," said one campaign Eeyore on the battle bus)"

Hehe  Smile

Good article, and highlights that despite superficial appearances to the contrary, the UK is still nowhere near being the 51st state, thank goodness !
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QANTASforever
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Mon May 09, 2005 11:08 pm

"Tony Blair seemed mighty miserable at the "declaration" of results in his home constituency of Sedgefield early Friday morning, and his wife, Cherie, seemed to be fighting back tears. "

I don't blame them. I'd be morbidly depressed if I was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom too.

My goodness - seriously, on topic, how on earth can you Brits stand 'First-past-the-post'? It's absolute insanity. How can electoral reform for so long have slipped beyond the British political agenda?

QFF
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Banco
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Tue May 10, 2005 12:14 am

Quoting QANTASFOREVER (Reply 3):
seriously, on topic, how on earth can you Brits stand 'First-past-the-post'? It's absolute insanity. How can electoral reform for so long have slipped beyond the British political agenda?

Put simply; because it works. The trouble is, people often talk about another system in terms of saying "Let's have PR". But that's meaningless. There are a million and one different systems that can be referred to as PR, and all have their drawbacks.

First past the post is simple and tends to produce decisive results. The disadvantage is that in safe seats votes can be irrelevant. You could get around that by introdicing approval voting, but that would increase the complexity dramatically, and slow down counting to an absolute crawl. That's not a reason not to consider it, but in order to have a change, there has to be overwhelming evidence that change is needed. That's just not there. Our system is actually pretty good at deciding the will of the people. It's not perfect, not anywhere near, but it's survived for hundreds of years largely unmodified in principle. That alone is a plus point.
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Klaus
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Tue May 10, 2005 1:42 am

Banco: Our system is actually pretty good at deciding the will of the people.

Are you sure? About 60% voted against Blair. Result under the british system: They got Blair!  crazy 

Banco: It's not perfect, not anywhere near, but it's survived for hundreds of years largely unmodified in principle. That alone is a plus point.

Up to a point, yes. But massive distortions like the one described above can be a reason why so many britons don´t even bother to vote any more. The risk that their vote is simply discarded is much larger than 50%. So why vote at all?
 
Banco
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Tue May 10, 2005 1:52 am

Quoting Klaus (Reply 5):
Are you sure? About 60% voted against Blair. Result under the british system: They got Blair!

It's far more complex than that. People do not necessarily vote for a Prime Minister, they may vote for local reasons, for tactical reasons, for any number of reasons. In this particular case, anecdotal evidence suggests that people are quite content with the outcome - the Tories weren't credible, but Labour had a dramatically reduced majority. I'm not for one second claiming the system is perfect, it's not anywhere close. But as I say, most systems have drawbacks - in Germany you had a change of government without an election. Fine for you, becuase you accept the foibles of your system, but for us, such an event would create uproar.

Quoting Klaus (Reply 5):
Up to a point, yes. But massive distortions like the one described above can be a reason why so many britons don´t even bother to vote any more. The risk that their vote is simply discarded is much larger than 50%. So why vote at all?

Depending on where you live, your point can be exactly right. It's one of the weaknesses of it. Having said that, low turnout in 2001 was more to do with everyone knowing who was going to win, and no genuine alternative. Turnout rises and falls according to many things, such as if it's close, if the government is loathed, if the argument is ideological etc etc.

But yes, where you are opposed to the sitting MP in a constituency with a huge majority, you are effectively disenfranchised. It's a problem, I won't dispute it.
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Klaus
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Tue May 10, 2005 2:06 am

I see you´re not in a fighting mood today.

I can live with that. Big grin
 
Banco
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Tue May 10, 2005 3:32 am

Quoting Klaus (Reply 7):
I see you´re not in a fighting mood today.

I've decided to adopt a tone of eminent reasonableness when conversing with lunatics.  Wink Big grin
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Klaus
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Tue May 10, 2005 3:46 am

Banco: I've decided to adopt a tone of eminent reasonableness when conversing with lunatics.

That is exceedingly considerate of you. Big grin
 
gkirk
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Tue May 10, 2005 3:52 am

Quoting Banco (Reply 8):
I've decided to adopt a tone of eminent reasonableness when conversing with lunatics. Wink

Klaus is much more than a lunatic remember....I believe he is actually French.
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GDB
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Tue May 10, 2005 3:52 am

I think we need to get away from the idea that the vast majority of seats are a foregone conclusion, all elections throw up surprises, 1997 did way beyond the expected Labour victory, this one did too.
While it is true that in quite large areas, anyone wearing a red rosette wins, in others, ditto for a blue one, look how many 'safe' Tory seats fell in 97, ditto for Labour in 1983.
What is a safe seat changes over time, far too much time for much of the media to handle.
This time, some very threatened Labour seats survived, much less vunerable ones fell.
You can say that this election saw disaffected Labour voters going Lib Dem, in many cases letting in a Tory, (since the Tory share of the vote stayed in the low 30's percentage wise).
As for the 39% who did not bother, as said elsewhere, they have ensured their views do not count, no-one did that to them, they did it to themselves.
 
Banco
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Tue May 10, 2005 4:05 am

Quoting GDB (Reply 11):
What is a safe seat changes over time, far too much time for much of the media to handle.
This time, some very threatened Labour seats survived, much less vunerable ones fell.
You can say that this election saw disaffected Labour voters going Lib Dem, in many cases letting in a Tory,

The constant constituency boundary changes make a lot of the difference there. Seats that were once solid for one party or another can suddenly become much less so when council estate/rural village suddenly becomes part of the equation. Unfortunately, the changes tend to lag behind reality somewhat (there's no real way around this) and at this election the Conservatives were actually rather disadvantaged, having to work a lot harder to win their seats than Labour. The reverse was the case in the 1980's. This is why ensuring the independence of the Electoral Commission is so important.

But essentially yes, I agree with you. What happened in 1997 was a sea change in British politics, and everything became up for grabs. In the same way, the result in Blynau Gwent this time shows what happens if one or other of the parties takes the piss in terms of assuming victory.
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whitehatter
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Tue May 10, 2005 4:10 am

Quoting Banco (Reply 12):
In the same way, the result in Blynau Gwent this time shows what happens if one or other of the parties takes the piss in terms of assuming victory.

or Withington. That was an absolute shocker but in a different sense.

Look at Sheffield as well, no longer Old Labour heartland any more, or Mondeo Man in Essex for the Tories. Everything seems to be so much more dynamic nowadays.
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Banco
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Tue May 10, 2005 4:17 am

Quoting WhiteHatter (Reply 13):
Everything seems to be so much more dynamic nowadays

Psephologists have been banging on about what they call "partisan dealignment" for thirty years plus. It's simply a euphemism for, as you say, a more dynamic electorate, with many fewer people solidly behind a political party and many more floating voters. As one of them memorably put it "I see it in myself. In 1970 I strongly supported one party. Now, I just don't give a shit". Big grin

But that's why you see 5, 10, 15% swings even in a general election. Despite what Kirkie might tell you, I'm not so old that I've seen dozens of elections, but this one was the first time I was watching and thinking that I genuinely didn't know what the hell was going on.
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whitehatter
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Tue May 10, 2005 4:21 am

The first one I remember vividly was 1979. And look how that turned out.

This is the first one where I honestly could not understand just how fluid the voting was turning out to be. Some of it defied explanation, but the BBC and YouGov got their polling spot on overall.
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Banco
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Tue May 10, 2005 4:26 am

Quoting WhiteHatter (Reply 15):
Some of it defied explanation, but the BBC and YouGov got their polling spot on overall.

And I've got to say, considering the Tories weren't really seriously electable as a government, I think the electorate played a blinder. Labour back in but with a dramatically reduced majority? Well done everyone!
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whitehatter
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Tue May 10, 2005 7:33 am

Quoting Banco (Reply 16):
And I've got to say, considering the Tories weren't really seriously electable as a government, I think the electorate played a blinder. Labour back in but with a dramatically reduced majority? Well done everyone!

I agree. That huge majority was not healthy in my opinion, nor is having an opposition as clueless as the Filthy Conservative Party.

At least one of those points has been dealt with and there is always the possibility that the Usual Suspects can work to ensure accountability.
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QANTASforever
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Tue May 10, 2005 10:41 am

I just see it as less democratic than proportional representation or (my preferred option) preferential.

I just find it bizzare that theoretically an MP can be voted in by an extremely small minority of people in his or her constituency. It just seems like lunacy to me. You'd be hard pressed to find an MP in Australia who didn't at least gain 40% of the primary vote in order to gain a seat in Parliament.

QFF
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Banco
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Tue May 10, 2005 5:40 pm

Quoting QANTASforever (Reply 18):
I just see it as less democratic than proportional representation or (my preferred option) preferential.

You can't just make a sweeping statement like that. What form of PR? Alternative vote isn't remotely proportional, single transferable vote isn't really proportional either. Simple list system? Well, the Knesset is hardly a bastion a political stability. Additional Member System? As indicated above, Germany once had a change of government without an election, and the Free Democrats are permanently in government despite being a minority party. Preferential voting is an interesting concept, but there's a tendency to elect the least offensive candidate rather than the one that is most wanted.

None of these are "worse" systems, but all have drawbacks. Every system has drawbacks, that's the point. I look at your system in Australia and think that OK, it works for you, but I wouldn't want it here.

Quoting QANTASforever (Reply 18):
just find it bizzare that theoretically an MP can be voted in by an extremely small minority of people in his or her constituency. It just seems like lunacy to me. You'd be hard pressed to find an MP in Australia who didn't at least gain 40% of the primary vote in order to gain a seat in Parliament.

You need to separate the national split with the local one. I suspect most MP's here would be elected with 40% plus of the constituency vote too, three way even splits in voting are relatively rare. But ultimately, the person elected is the one who gets the most votes. I don't really see that as being bizarre at all.

The thing that always strikes me is that a lot of the people who don't vote failt to do so because they feel it won't make any difference in their constituency. Of course, if they all did, it bloody well would make a difference!
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cornish
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Tue May 10, 2005 5:57 pm

Quoting WhiteHatter (Reply 15):
This is the first one where I honestly could not understand just how fluid the voting was turning out to be. Some of it defied explanation

Absolutely. I can't remember an election that threw up so many smaller surprises - even if the overall result wasn't a surprise.

Quoting Banco (Reply 19):
Germany once had a change of government without an election, and the Free Democrats are permanently in government despite being a minority party

Yep that change of government came as a result of the Free democrats changing their allegiance didn't it? Ridiculous situation that the smallest party in parliament can wield so much power. If we did it here then the power of the LibDems would increase significantly without them having to gain any more support. They could possibly in effect determine the government of this country being Labour or Tory, and also push forward their policies if they threatened the other party in power with moving their support if they didn't agree.

It certainly isn't a perfect system that we have at present, but PR brings a whole new set of problems - none of which I'd particularly like to see.....
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QANTASforever
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Tue May 10, 2005 5:59 pm

By preferential I mean voting directly by secret ballot with preferential voting by means of a single transferable vote.
You have a list of names, or a list of parties - and you tick 1,2,3,4,5,6,7.

I just like the idea because while I might (for example) wish the Labour candidate to win my local seat - I REALLY don't want to Conservative candidate to win. So, as a compromise - I can put Liberal Democrats at number 2 - so even if my guy doesn't win, I still potentially get a say as to who does. In first past the post that potential is completely lost.

I feel the system is broader - however it is extremely rare amongst democracies. The only other nation to employ preferential voting is Nauru (or is that proportional? - we use both in Australia).

Still, I can of course appreciate that the UK is a vastly different system to Australia - and what works for one mighn't necessarily work for the other...blah blah blah.

Quoting Banco (Reply 19):
None of these are "worse" systems, but all have drawbacks. Every system has drawbacks, that's the point. I look at your system in Australia and think that OK, it works for you, but I wouldn't want it here.

Why wouldn't you want it in the UK?

Quoting Banco (Reply 19):
Preferential voting is an interesting concept, but there's a tendency to elect the least offensive candidate rather than the one that is most wanted.

Well it does depend on how strong an electorate is with regards to supporting one party or another. I like the system because it gives me a wide range of choice.

QFF
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cornish
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Tue May 10, 2005 6:02 pm

Quoting QANTASFOREVER (Reply 21):
By preferential I mean voting directly by secret ballot with preferential voting by means of a single transferable vote.
You have a list of names, or a list of parties - and you tick 1,2,3,4,5,6,7.

I just like the idea because while I might (for example) wish the Labour candidate to win my local seat - I REALLY don't want to Conservative candidate to win. So, as a compromise - I can put Liberal Democrats at number 2 - so even if my guy doesn't win, I still potentially get a say as to who does. In first past the post that potential is completely lost.

I feel the system is broader - however it is extremely rare amongst democracies. The only other nation to employ preferential voting is Nauru (or is that proportional? - we use both in Australia).

Still, I can of course appreciate that the UK is a vastly different system to Australia - and what works for one mighn't necessarily work for the other...blah blah blah.

But in many countries I would guess that it would naturally be a big advantage to parties in the middle - as those on the left would not want the right in and viceversa.

In the UK, it would certainly play into LibDem hands - even if they are more left wing than Labor in many ways now.
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Banco
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Tue May 10, 2005 6:20 pm

Quoting QANTASFOREVER (Reply 21):
By preferential I mean voting directly by secret ballot with preferential voting by means of a single transferable vote.
You have a list of names, or a list of parties - and you tick 1,2,3,4,5,6,7.

I just like the idea because while I might (for example) wish the Labour candidate to win my local seat - I REALLY don't want to Conservative candidate to win. So, as a compromise - I can put Liberal Democrats at number 2 - so even if my guy doesn't win, I still potentially get a say as to who does. In first past the post that potential is completely lost.

Yes and this is what I mean about the party who is least offensive to you winning that seat rather than the one you actually want to win. There are unquestionably advantages to it. You aren't quite right, they use a form of STV in the Republic of Ireland, and what it means is that you essentially have the choice of six local MP's, so you can choose the one most likely to be sympathetic to your needs/requirements. One issue with STV that isn't a criticism in itself is that it's only ever been used in countries with small electorates as a job lot, rather than a fundamental change to a mature system, so any introduction into the UK would involve a degree of uncharted territory. As I say, it isn't a reason not to, but it would involve making a massive change where it hasn't been demonstrated change is required.

Quoting QANTASFOREVER (Reply 21):
Why wouldn't you want it in the UK?

I hope you don't think I'm being evasive when I say why would we want it in the UK. For a change to be made, it has to be unquestionably better, and I really don't see why this would be the case. You shouldn't underestimate complexity as an issue either. Under our system everyone knows and understands what they are doing when they vote, and what the likely outcome will be. Tactical voting is very easy whereas in Australia you aren't quite sure what the outcome will be if you do it.

As I briefly mentioned earlier, one alternative put forward as a modification of our system is approval voting, whereby you just tick all those candidates you wouldn't mind seeing elected. It's still first past the post, but every vote will really count. The downside to this is that counting becomes a nightmare, you have to study each and every ballot form closely.

Quoting QANTASFOREVER (Reply 21):
Well it does depend on how strong an electorate is with regards to supporting one party or another. I like the system because it gives me a wide range of choice.

Agreed. I am interested to know how likely the (for want of a better expression) minority candidates chances of getting in are under your structure?
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QANTASforever
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Tue May 10, 2005 7:58 pm

I'll leave the rest of your comments unchallenged as they effectively describe your position - and I have no argument with that.

Quoting Banco (Reply 23):
Agreed. I am interested to know how likely the (for want of a better expression) minority candidates chances of getting in are under your structure?

There are 10 parliaments in Australia - each with different rules and regulations with regards to elections. I'll focus on the federal parliament. Traditionally minority groups have found it extremely difficult to gain a seat in the House of Representatives - this uses a Preferential voting system. On the odd occasion you might have one or two seats going to the Greens, 4 or 5 to the Democrats and about 4 to independents.

So - that is about 10 or so MPs out of 150 who don't belong to either of the major parties (the Liberal-National coalition, or the Labor party).

The senate is a completely different story. It uses proportional representation. The Senate has 76 Senators - 12 are elected for each of the 6 states, and 2 each for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. State Senators are elected for 6 year terms, territory Senators for 3 year terms.

Up until the last federal election the Senate was a very powerful Chamber. Bills could not become law unless they were agreed to in the same terms by each House, except in the rare circumstances of a double dissolution followed by a joint sitting of both the houses.

In an unusual move, the Australian people voted for a majority of the Liberal-National coalition senate - basically allowing John Howard to now pass any and all legislation he likes. Traditionally the Senate has had a much higher proportion of minor parties than the HOR due to the use of proportional representation.

In order for a senator to be elected they must gain 7.7% of their state or territorial vote for a full Senate election, or 14.3% for a half-Senate election.

Not since 1981 has an Australian government had a majority in both houses of parliament.

The system obviously fails the 60% of Australians who DIDN'T vote for the coalition - but still, I believe it makes for a more powerful individual vote.

(Sigh) - if only we were a republic, things could have been so different....

QFF
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Tue May 10, 2005 8:04 pm

Quoting Gkirk (Reply 10):
Klaus is much more than a lunatic remember....I believe he is actually French.

It could be worse, he could be Welsh...
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Banco
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Tue May 10, 2005 8:28 pm

Quoting QANTASforever (Reply 24):
There are 10 parliaments in Australia - each with....

I see. So how do the minorities get elected at all? Is it a combination of local factors making them more popular in a specific area than nationally, or something else?

Quoting QANTASforever (Reply 24):
The senate is a completely different story. It uses proportional representation. The Senate has 76 Senators - 12 are elected for each of the 6 states, and 2 each for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. State Senators are elected for 6 year terms, territory Senators for 3 year terms.

And this where we could benefit from some form of proportional election - for the Upper Chamber in the House of Lords. Now, it must be said that the Lords works reasonably well as a revising chamber, and does have the advantage of offering a pretty wide range of membership so you do have expertise on just about any issue there is going (e.g. need an expert on the rights of dogs? Make Desmond Morris a Lord!  Wink ) but nevertheless it should be elected - in part at the very least. Governments are reluctant to make it so because if it becomes elected, it has democratic legitimacy, and therefore when they say no, you can argue that they should be obeyed. So there's an issue about the primacy of the Commons. Not, from my perspective, an insurmountable one, it hasn't become one in the US or Australian Senate, has it?

You could still make it regionally based, as you have on a federal level, so you'd ensure that, say, Scotland and Wales have the various nationalist parties, and Northern Ireland can elect whoever has the most armalites at any given time.

Quoting QANTASforever (Reply 24):
In an unusual move, the Australian people voted for a majority of the Liberal-National coalition senate - basically allowing John Howard to now pass any and all legislation he likes

This is an interesting one, because in France they often have the opposite scenario, where the President and the government are from different political sides. Notwithstanding what you wrote about recent events, it does seem that electorates quite like it when they have the two Houses (or in the French case, the two arms of the executive) from separate parties.

Quoting QANTASforever (Reply 24):
The system obviously fails the 60% of Australians who DIDN'T vote for the coalition - but still, I believe it makes for a more powerful individual vote.

Is there realistically any way around that though? I mean, if you have a straight list system (for ease of argument) you might get a coalition that, because of horsetrading between the member parties, doesn't really reflect what the voters wanted at all. So whether a government is formed that only reflects a minority of the elctorate or not (as both here and in Australia) you're always going to have some kind of issue with governmental legitimacy.
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QANTASforever
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RE: Myths About The British Debunked (UK Elections)

Tue May 10, 2005 10:30 pm

Quoting Banco (Reply 26):
I see. So how do the minorities get elected at all? Is it a combination of local factors making them more popular in a specific area than nationally, or something else?

There is a division of responsibility between the Federation and the States. All state and territorial parliaments have a Labor government, while federally there is the conservative coalition. Perhaps people want a more left wing or socialist government to oversee hospitals and schools, while they want a conservative federal government to keep the economy in the black and keep out asylum seekers. Who knows?

Quoting Banco (Reply 26):
So there's an issue about the primacy of the Commons. Not, from my perspective, an insurmountable one, it hasn't become one in the US or Australian Senate, has it?

It's all John Howard seemed to talk about before the election. Senate reform was definitely on the coalition agenda before the election. Howard wanted to make things so if a bill was continuously rejected, the Prime Minister would have the power to request a combined sitting of parliament until the bill was passed or some other agreement was formed. Now he really doesn't have to do that.

Personally, I like a bi-cameral system. The more scrutiny with regards to proposed legislation the better in my opinion. Lord knows a blind eye is turned to any and all bills at the very top!!

Quoting Banco (Reply 26):
You could still make it regionally based, as you have on a federal level, so you'd ensure that, say, Scotland and Wales have the various nationalist parties, and Northern Ireland can elect whoever has the most armalites at any given time.

Rarely do political parties form along regional lines - aside from the obvious case of the National party which was previously the country party. There is no Queensland party or Victoria party - there are usually state branches of national political parties. And of course any and all parties are able to run for state parliaments just as they do for federal.

Quoting Banco (Reply 26):
Is there realistically any way around that though?

That is the realm of electoral think-tanks, hardly within the sphere of lowly Republican lobbyists such as myself.  Wink

Quoting Banco (Reply 26):
I mean, if you have a straight list system (for ease of argument) you might get a coalition that, because of horsetrading between the member parties, doesn't really reflect what the voters wanted at all.

I don't believe that in the last 70 years or so a minority government requiring a post-election coalition has existed.
Rarely, if ever - do Australians elect minority governments - the GG wouldn't ask them to form a government if things were going to turn all Italian, where you have a big mix of minority parties populating the upper echelons of executive government. There simply would have to be another election.
Fighting for the glory of the Australian Republic.

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