Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tory Supporters Start To Worry About the Electoral System

I suppose Fraser Nelson, the editor of the 'Spectator', counts as a Tory supporter, even if he's clearly not much enamoured of Cameron at the moment (see previous blog posts). Anyway, he uses his weekly News of the World column today to attack the voting system in no uncertain terms:

First he tells us that "Britain’s weird electoral system tends to deliver two outcomes. A strong PM, or a hamstrung PM at the mercy of his party." Then, ratcheting up the anger in good old tabloid fashion, "The unfair Westminster voting system means the Tories could win FIVE MILLION more votes, but still barely control parliament."

Take away the specifics of the Tory problem, and these words would be manna to any Liberal Democrat. Nelson - who is an influential commentator in Tory circles - limits himself to pointing out the woes of the voting system in his column, but he has history in proposing reforms of our political system, and this could be the start of a gathering realism amongst Conservatives that, while it is hardly top of the average voter's list of concerns, they may need to review their stance on the existing voting system. Who knows, perhaps there's even the substance for some future coalition collaboration with a Lib Dem party who have longed wanted to put electoral reform on the table.

Nelson goes on to suggest that Cameron's real fear must be that he gets elected as a young leader promising radical change, and finds himself hamstrung by a weak parliamentary position. He suggests that Cameron need only look across the Atlantic to see a similarly fresh young leader up-ended by inactivity -

"Barack Obama has done precious little since his election. Last week, voters in the Democrat heartland of Massachusetts turned on him."

Mind you, I have to say that Nelson, whilst giving us the standard rightist view on Obama, is harsh - putting healthcare on the table, with the possibility of a Bill still highly likely, radically changing global perceptions of the US, and arguably pushing through a necessary stimulus package might all count as pretty impressive achievements for a first year president, even in good times.

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