Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Is Britain learning to 'do' balanced parliaments?

One thing that's been most notable from my exchanges with CyberTories over the last few months has been the synthetic outrage from them whenever anyone dares to suggest that a balanced parliament might just - whisper it gently - be quite a desirable outcome, not merely because of the extra clout it would give the SNP, but also because it represents Britain's one chance for meaningful political reform. No no no, chant the Tory thought police as they shout us down - such talk is reckless irresponsibility at a time of national crisis. And you should be careful what you wish for - the British public simply don't "do" balanced parliaments, so the more you talk the prospect up, the more 'responsible' people will coalesce around the leading party to ensure a decisive mandate. (Note the convenient and rather patronising narrative that, while this election is nominally a free choice, everyone knows in their heart of hearts that the only 'responsible' choice is a Tory vote.)

Well, if the latest Populus poll for the Times is to be believed, our CyberTory friends may need to urgently update their most basic assumptions. Not only is a balanced parliament the single most popular of the possible outcomes to this election, but it's also becoming increasingly difficult to see why voters would suddenly coalesce around the Tories to head off the "threat" of a balanced parliament, when fewer people want a Tory majority government than are actually planning to vote Tory. It rather looks like anyone 'Tory-minded' who is currently flirting with the Lib Dems or other smaller parties is among the group thoroughly unperturbed by the prospect of a balanced parliament, so that particular scare tactic is highly unlikely to gain traction with them.

It really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone to learn that the fundamentalists and the absolutists are already firmly in the Tory or Labour camps, but sometimes the most obvious things do need to be pointed out.


On another subject, has it not occurred to the Tories that an open invitation to the entire population to "join the government of Britain" must, by definition, extend to Gordon Brown as well? Not to mention Tony Blair (shudder). Will we never be free of them?

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