Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Harris paradox revisited

For the second night in a row, a post from Tom Harris that vividly (and unwittingly) illustrates the extent of his muddled thinking on the underlying principles of electoral reform -

"RENEWAL of Trident was supported by the 65 per cent of the electorate who voted either Labour or Tory in May.

Ah, but you see, that was before the era of The New Politics of democracy, accountability and transparency...

This isn’t about the rights and wrongs of nuclear weapons, or the cost of Trident. It’s about democracy, or rather, the lack of such in the era of coalition government."

Now, wait just a cotton-pickin' minute here. "Democracy" demands that Trident must be immediately renewed, because the combined vote for two parties that backed the policy was greater than 50%? That is - no ifs, no buts - the logic of proportional representation. Indeed, it's indistinguishable from the argument that it would have been perfectly democratic for Labour and the Liberal Democrats to form a government in May, on the grounds that they had more than 50% of the popular vote between them. And yet Tom had a rather severe problem with that view, as I recall.

Someone needs to urgently take Tom by the hand and remind him how this first-past-the-post malarkey that he's so keen on actually works - the minority is supposed to get its way at all times. I think perhaps he misunderstood the rules, and imagined that they only apply when the minority policy being advanced is right-wing, illiberal or militarist. To be fair to him, that's usually how it pans out, so the confusion is probably understandable.

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