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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Electoral reform and a possible Liberal Democrat government

Philip Johnston of the Telegraph concurs with my assessment that tonight’s leadership debate could make or break British Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg. Mr. Johnston also points out an interesting possibility that I had not considered. Could the electoral system actually help the Liberal Democrats?

For decades the Lib-Dems have complained about the electoral system and have championed reform. This makes sense considering they have been at a constant disadvantage. They have consistently won a smaller proportion of the seats than the popular vote. Making the system more proportional was clearly in their advantage.

But as their support grows this dynamic could change radically. The reason they win so few seats is because they tend to come in second in many electoral districts. If Lib-Dem support gets above 30%, according to Mr. Johnston’s article, they will start winning the seats where they traditionally came in second and possibly win a higher proportion than their popular vote. Furthermore if their popular support gets as high as 40% they can expect to win a majority government.

The question is: after calling the ‘first-past-the-post’ system a travesty for so long, will their rhetoric change once that ‘travesty’ works in their favour?

Politicians are human beings just like anyone else. They respond to incentives. If they can gain power under the current system what would be the incentive to change? How deep goes Mr. Clegg’s desire for a ‘new’ kind of politics?

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on April 22, 2010 | Permalink


Hugh: Is there some way of watching the debate live online? Would you be so kind as to alert us to the possibilities?

Some of us across the pond would like to see this thing as-it-happens.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2010-04-22 11:42:39 AM

Sorry for not checking my e-mail sooner, but there was indeed a Sky News live feed. If you missed it you can easily catch it on You Tube.

Posted by: Hugh MacIntyre | 2010-04-23 2:18:40 AM

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