Friday, May 07, 2010

Britain - Proudly Celebrating Mediocrity

Last night saw the culmination of a historic election in Great Britain - resulting in the first hung parliament since 1974.

The residents of this building couldn't organize a piss up in a brewery; yet they're responsible for running the country. Yikes!

The results saw the Conservatives with the largest single party in Parliament; but not large enough to form a majority government. The incumbent Labour party were thrashed in the polls - a clear message from voters that they were sick of 'New Labour' and their insipid policies. Most shocking of all were the results for the Liberal Democrats - who'd been predicted to scoop up a windfall of votes, but ultimately landed short of where they were even after the previous election.

This leaves Gordon Brown with a constitutional right to remain Prime Minister and try to form a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats and a number of MPs from other parties (including Britain's first Green MP.) If he fails to have his version of the Queen's speech ratified by Parliament, he must then give David Cameron, leader of the Conservatives, his opportunity to form a coalition government.

What I find most remarkable about the election isn't the result - a hung parliament had been predicted for some time. It's how each party's unmitigated failure has been turned - in classic British style - into a purported victory. We Brits worship mediocrity.

The Conservatives are crowing that they 'won' the election by winning the majority of seats. However, the fact that they didn't win enough to secure a majority means that the victory is absolutely hollow. It's possible that David Cameron will have to lick a lot of peanut butter to win a partnership with the Liberal Democrats - like conceding to the introduction of Proportional Representation and destroying the Tories' chances of ever truly being in power again.

The Labour party is equally claiming 'victory' - in that Gordon Brown remains Prime Minister and even has a chance of forming a coalition government. This victory is truly a failure in two regards. First off, the results were a clear and unequivocal message by the voting public that they wanted Labour OUT.

Secondly, the failure of the political system to oust the losing prime minister from 10 Downing Street is indicative of everything wrong with British politics. The people said they want Brown evicted; but like with everything else politicians do in the UK, the voter's wishes remain secondary to what the MPs think will serve their own best interests.

But the most unmitigated failure belongs to the Liberal Democrats; who are also the most smug party of the bunch. Despite having simply horrible results - turning what was to be their 'best election ever' into a thoroughly disappointing one - they've ended up securing the balance of power. Nick Clegg will become 'king maker' and it's likely his number one priority will be forcing either the Labour Party or the Conservatives to introduce proportional representation; securing his party more seats during each election, but condemning Britain to a homogeneous electoral system that guarantees hung parliaments in practically every election.

In the most important respects, each political party has performed diabolically - yet each considers themselves the victors and the rightful bearer of Britain's political power. It's the most flagrant example yet of how the voting public has been entirely disenfranchised by a self-serving political elite.

Perhaps the scenes at the voting stations, in which hundreds were turned away and unable to vote at all, best represents what's happened all across the country. Last night, the people unequivocally spoke out, but within the hallowed halls of Westminster, it appears nobody was listening.


Susanne said...

Ah, too bad. :(

One Salient Oversight said...

Despite the outraged cries from Guardian writers, a Lib-Dem / Conservative power sharing arrangement seems like a good idea from my perspective.

You're right that no side "won" this election, and if proportion representation is introduced (as is likely) then the chances of any party holding a majority ever again are even less likely.

Countries that use proportional representation usually never have any party in a majority. As a result, coalitions are formed or minority governments rule, with legislation requiring the consent of smaller parties to pass. Sometimes this works sometimes it doesn't.

But, then again, it is the people of Britain who have chosen this. Just over one third of Britons chose to vote Tory while the other two thirds did not. A hung parliament - even by the grotesque electoral standards of the current system - was the result of Britain's political choices.