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Monday, January 11, 2010


Iain Dale has this somewhat surprising, particularly for a leading Conservative assessment of the likely state of the parties after the next election
Over the last few days I have been going through every single parliamentary seat with the aim of trying to predict which party will win it at the next election. As you can imagine, it has been quite a task. Why have I done this? For one reason - that I do not believe in national swings, or to be honest, even regional swings. The days of uniform swings have gone and for that reason, it is difficult to put much faith in the predictions of national opinion polls...

Conservative 331
Labour 216
LibDem 69
Plaid Cymru 5
Green 1
Others 3
Northern Ireland 18

This gives the Conservatives a majority of just twelve seats.
That is certainly not gospel. It could vary substantially either with a 1% swing nationally either way or even if 50 voters each in 12 seats the Conservatives are tipped for goes the other way (ie 600 people). It would be astonishing if between now & the next election opinion did not swing, one way or another, by more than 1%.

However the underlying trend is something we can more easily speculate on. I am surprised at his assessment of how well the LibDems will do & how badly the SNP but these sort of cancel each other. Beyond all that is the likelihood that there will be about 100 seats held by parties agreed, if on nothing else, that we should have a democratic, proportional electoral system.

Add to that that Gordon Brown would have to be replaced & the only person I can see on the Labour horizon who isn't an idiot or the Prince of Darkness is Alan Johnson, whose main claim to electability is that he wants a referendum on PR.

That would mean something very close to a Parliamentary majority for PR. It is something, perhaps the only thing, on which all the opposition parties could unite.

It could be that even if Johnson takes the post & stands by his word a number of Labourites might refuse to vote for it, or even that the party would fracture, though if it fractured both portions would then have to rely on PR to survive.

So a small but significant number of Conservative MPs who are favourable to PR would have to make up their minds. Or else the party as a whole would have to bow to the inevitable.

While PR is not on the political agenda & both major parties want it so, the fact that the large majority of individuals, if only in a generalised way, support it can be ignored. If it becomes the political issue in Parliament it cannot be.

The Conservatives would find themselves not only facing a united opposition directly representing 60% of the voters but probably in reality a much larger proportion of voters since First Past the Post is difficult to defend in any democratic way.

The Tories supporting PR should look at what is the best interest of their party. Would it be holding the line & keeping FPTP at the cost of uniting both Parliament & people against them? Or would it be to defy the whips & produce a massive defeat for their party but a defeat which would end the opposition unity & allow them to fight the next election on equal terms rather than as the bad guys.

Cameron's cabinet should also look at this question from the same viewpoint. He could, seeing reform as inevitable, choose to lead it. If so he gets much of the credit & since there are various sorts of PR, get to make the choice. After all the current system, because Labour constituencies tend to be shrinking & have lower turnouts. A proportional system would mean the break up of the party monopoly into a range of parties including UKIP to the right of the Conservatives & some sort of looney leftists to the left of mainstream Labour. Though party labels might change it would be likely to benefit the free market interest.

Though this may not be a party consideration it is a reform which is generations overdue inn Britain. Our whole concept of politics is immensely stultified by the fact that party political debate is trapped within 2 centralised [parties both of which are scared stiff of any member having any "new ideas" in case they are "controversial" & might turn a few people off. Consequently new ideas is something we do without, which, in an era of daily technological progress, dooms us to be always behind the times.

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