Monday, May 07, 2007

Coalition Politics


Scotland is continuing to show us what a PR system can deliver, and what British national politics might be like if we had one. Alex Salmond has failed to win over the Lib Dems who are refusing to join him in coalition, committed as they are to the Union. This leaves him without the necessary numbers to govern in a majority. The SNP have 49 seats, but need 65, and talking to the Greens may deliver two but it's hardly a giant step towards majority government.

It looks likely, then, that Salmond will be elected as First Minister (the Scottish Parliament has to elect him, and if they fail to choose a First Minister in 28 days, a new election is called...hmmm, 28 Days Later, definitely a film possibility there). However, he will have to rule as head of a minority government, gaining support for each measure as it comes up, which could lead to a strong level of consensus politics. Hardly what he had in mind, I guess. The fact is, PR in this instance has preserved Scotland from the radical measure of a referendum for leaving the Union with only minority support. In an election where only 51% of voters turned out, Salmond received a mere 32% of the votes - hardly a loud or ringing acclaim for his cherished independence project. * Just 0.7% separates him from Labour's vote, and given that the other parties are all unionist, one can justly claim that unionism is still the majority voice in Scotland. In addition, much of Salmond's vote came from those looking for an effective way to kick the Scottish Labour administration in the face.

PR's opponents will point to the horse-trading that's going on between parties as evidence that PR is an inadequate system that doesn't deliver strong government. But it does, perhaps, deliver a greater realisation of electoral mortality than the huge majorities ratcheted up by FPTP.

* The BBC's election stats are here.

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