Monday, May 10, 2010

Hung Parliament

Jon Elster once wrote that “An indecisive jury most probably is not composed of indecisive jurors; rather the contrary.”
source: Jon Elster, Logic and Society (Chichester, John Wiley, 1978) p 98

So there are two contrary explanations for the result of the 2010 UK General Election, which has produced the following outcomes.
  • Disappointing results for all three main parties. No party has an overall majority of seats.
  • All party leaders forced to appear reasonable and willing to cooperate.
  • Delicate position for the Liberal Democrats, wishing to act in the national interest while at the same time not wanting to waste a once-in-a-generation opportunity to protect and improve its future electoral position.
  • No party will be able to implement its more extreme policies.
  • Visible disparity between the share of votes and the share of seats.
Those voters who followed the campaign closely cannot be particularly surprised by any of these outcomes. A wide range of possible outcomes had been considered by journalists and other commentators. Indeed, given the curious distribution of constituencies, it was technically possible that Labour could have got fewer votes than the Liberal Democrats and still won more seats than the Conservatives.

So there is some comfort in the results for all parties.
  • Having got the largest share of seats, the Conservative Party seems likely (at the time of writing) to form the next government, possibly with Lib Dem involvement or passive support. However, they will be inhibited from pandering to the extreme anti-European and pro-rich policies of their more right wing supporters.
  • Having lost a few seats on an increased share of the vote doesn't make a lot of difference to the Lib Dems' power in parliament, but it further highlights the moral argument for a change in the voting system.
  • Having avoided the humiliation of third place, Labour survives to represent a continued progressive force.

So was this what the voters collectively wanted - neither Blair nor Thatcher? Is this really the wisdom of crowds? Or is the political situation merely the result of the three camps fighting to a draw?

David Aaronovich, Unsure how to vote? I can help (Times 5 May 2010)

Armando Iannucci, The result perfectly expresses contempt, confusion and sheer bloody-mindedness (Independent 10 May 2010)

Jonathan Raban, After the Second Debate: The Clegg Catharsis? (New York Review Blog, 25 April 2010). Britain: A False Dawn? (New York Review, 15 July 2010)

Poll shows UK ‘very happy’ with lack of government (NewsBiscuit, 8 May 2010)

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