Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 12:19AM
I'm a bit of an anorak when it comes to UK politics, and I'm finding the whole run-up to this election fascinating. The prospect of the first hung parliament in years is decidedly exciting to people like me, however much the money men are trying to scare us off one (next time you hear a guy in a pin-stripe suit warn you that a hung parliament is a Very Bad Thing for the economy, remember that he and his chums were largely responsible for the current economic crisis in the first instance).
If on May 7th there isn't a hung parliament, it's fairly likely that the Tories will have won the election. With a foreign-owned, right-wing media providing the party with acres of free publicity and a bag-full of Lord Ashcroft's foreign-generated (and untaxed) cash to pay the marketing bill, a Conservative victory remains a very likely prospect.
So what would a Tory government be like? You've probably noticed by now that the Conservatives have gone for an Obama-esque slogan, positioning themselves as the party of change. Interestingly, a lot of journalists have rubbished this idea somewhat, pointing out that the Tories have watered down their Thatcherite stance (or at least language), are now quite New-Labourish, and that a Tory victory would provide more of the same; business as usual.
Wrong. I think a Tory victory at this point in the UK's history could result in some of the most profound changes that Britain has ever seen.
Firstly, the Scots don't like the Conservative Party very much - in fact, at all. They never really vote for them these days. If the Tories win power -- thanks to the efforts of English voters ("Motorway Man" and his other carefully-segmented friends) -- there is a much greater chance of the Scots voting for full independence in a referendum.
Secondly, the Tories have promised to reduce the number of MPs in Westminster by 10% (65 or so MPs). Somewhat unsurprisingly, the proposed cuts will mean that it is mostly Labour MPs getting the chop. This would have a massive effect on the make-up of future parliaments.
Thirdly, the Tories don't like the idea of electoral reform, or more specifically, proportional representation (the idea that the number of seats in parliament should proportionally reflect, er, the wishes of the voters). The reason that Tories don't like proportional representation is because they know that the only way that they could ever get into power is under the existing arrangements, where 40% of the vote can deliver 50%-60% of the seats in the House of Commons. Coupled with the new constituency boundaries which will help to deliver even more bang for the Tory vote, we're looking at a situation where it would be extremely hard for other parties to win elections.
So, at this point - say, three years after a Tory win, what are we left with? An independent Scotland, and an England and Wales which have a voting system that is hard-wired to elect Tories (and no reform to this system in sight). Now, the Welsh don't like the Conservatives much either. Could a more vigorous independence movement start in the valleys, if it looks as though an eternally Conservative half-Britain is a likely prospect? The end of the Union beckons! And ironically, brought to you by the Conservative and Unionist Party.
It sounds far-fetched. But an independence referendum is the centrepiece policy of the current Scottish administration; the reduction in the numbers of MPs is a key part of the Tories' response to the expenses scandal; and David Cameron has come out firmly against electoral reform.
Ready for change?
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