Saturday, May 08, 2010

UK Tories Come Up Short

Click on chart to enlarge.

Conservatives are going to win the 650th seat—the final contest’s being re-run in a Tory constituency because one of the opponents died. But the resulting Conservative total of 307 will be 19 short of what the party needs to rule. Liberal Democrats, with 57 seats, could help the Tories to power, either by supporting a Conservative minority government with its votes, or joining the Conservatives in a coalition government. Talks are underway now to cement such an option. The Economist predicts Tory leader David Cameron will be the next prime minister.

It’s easier to predict Cameron will have a rough go. Liberal Democrats are a frustrated third party—it took 120,000 votes to get each Liberal Democrat seat, versus only 35,000 for each Tory seat and 33,000 votes for each Labour winner. Liberal Democrats want proportional representation, which awards seats off a ranked list based on total vote. Most parliamentary systems have proportional representation in some form. Labour has promised to hold a referendum on proportional representation, while the Tories believe any shift to proportional representation will deny them power for a long time.

Liberal Democrats would find it easier to join Labour in a coalition that led to a referendum on proportional representation if it weren’t so obvious that Labour and their leader Gordon Brown just lost the election, and the inconvenient fact that Liberal Democrats + Labour only hold 315 seats combined, with 326 needed to form a government (though other smaller parties also interested in proportional representation have offered to help make up the difference).

One wonders why Liberal Democrats will help the Tories, when Conservatives won’t help Liberal Democrats with the issue about which they care most.

And there’s a deeper problem. Britain faces severe economic difficulties caused by years of government over-spending. A Conservative majority might have fixed this problem, but cutting back on Big Government isn’t a big Liberal Democrat priority.

The UK is going downhill. The Tories might do best to go into the next election—which observers think is no more than a year away—as the opposition to a failed Labour/Liberal Democratic/Scottish and Welsh National/Northern Ireland Socialist coalition. But today, that seems less likely than Conservatives leading their own failed government.

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