Tuesday, 27 April 2010

In a hung parliament a Lib Dem vote is a Lib Dem vote.

It’s on Twitter:

“Labour claim voting #libdems =voting Tories who claim #Libdems = Labour. Clearly #labservatives think voters = stupid”

(Tweeted by @El_Cuervo)

There is one big reason why a vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote for the Liberal Democrats:
A hung Parliament

On 6th May your constituency will elect a Member of Parliament. Under the First Past the Post system beloved of David Cameron and Gordon Brown your MP would normally take up his seat in a House with a clear overall majority. As a consequence your MP would spend the next four to five years being ignored.

Most of the governing party’s MP’s sit on the backbenches and do as they are told. They vote in accordance with the whips dictates. Those who gain ministerial positions do so because they have set aside their personal convictions and their constituents interests to do what the whips tell them. The whips instructions come from the cabinet. Opposition party MP’s are totally ignored.

Unless your constituency elects a cabinet minister (and, face it, they’re all in such safe constituencies that your vote won't make a blind bit of difference) your representative will have no input. You’ll hear of the odd “rebellion” every now and again, but you know nothing will come of it. Those few MP’s brave enough to defy the whip are never enough.

In a hung parliament that changes. There will still be whips, of course. There will still be a cabinet, there will still be “party discipline”. But in a hung parliament each an every rebellion has a chance of success. Any combination of the three main parties has a majority. Each party has enough factions that, on an issue of real importance, sufficient rebels can be found.

Now I don’t think we’ll hear of many rebellions. For why is the exciting part: the cabinet will have to consult. They’ll want to make their policy and administration rebellion-proof. This they can only do, in a hung Parliament, by modifying their policy and administration to take into account the opinions of the House as a whole. Opposition MPs may still get a look in, for every opposition MP that supports you on one issue you can afford to annoy one of your own so the government will consult them as well.

Oh, it’s not going to be a utopian vision of calm rationality and open debate. Your MP won't have anything like a veto. It’ll be shouting, back room deals and party pressure. For the most part nothing will change but the MPs will not be ignored completely they will have some input. Which means that each and every Liberal Democrat MP elected will, whatever the governing coalition, have some real input into government of this country. MPs deciding things? MPs controlling the executive? No wonder Cameron doesn’t like the prospect.

But the value of a Liberal Democrat vote goes further than just the electing an MP who will be able to act, well, as an MP. A deal will have to be struck to create a government. A negotiation will take place. Most power in the negotiations will arise from the numbers of MPs each party can bring to the table. Some moral advantage, though, will come from the numbers of votes secured. Coming first in the vote will give more moral advantage than second, second more than third. 34% will count for more than 33%, not enough of course, but it will count. However miniscule the effect it will be more than the effect when a majority government is return: absolute zero.

Each and every vote for a Liberal Democrat will give some, tiny advantage to the Liberal Democrats in negotiations. Even if you live in David Cameron’s constituency, or Gordon Brown’s and have no hope of electing a Liberal Democrat MP it will have some effect. In this election no vote for the Liberal Democrats is “wasted”.

All votes will count.

Vote Liberal Democrat.

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