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So… now what?

May 9, 2010

So the election is over and everything is done and dusted (apart from the small matter that we don’t have a clear winner and those left disenfranchised by the chaos at some polling stations are being encouraged to sue).

On the plus side, there was evidently not enough love for the Tories to sweep them into power in a mirror-image of Labour’s 1997 election, and Labour voters haven’t deserted in droves. The BNP were rejected quite convincingly, as were UKIP, and we have a voice for Green issues.

On the minus side, we lost Evan Harris (replaced by a lady from the Conservative Christian Fellowship which may or may not bode well) and, of course, the government which emerges after the horse-trading may not be terribly effective – so we might end up with another election in the near future.

So, what should we do now?

I think this election has made a very powerful case for the need to reform the electoral system. The Liberal Democrats’ share of the vote was about 23%, with Labour on 29%, yet the Lib Dems have about a fifth of the number of seats that Labour have (57 compared to 258). The Lib Dem vote was actually up 1% on last year, yet they are 5 seats down. I would defy anyone to tell me with a straight face that the make-up of parliament coming out of this is a reasonable representation of the will of the British people.

Also on the ‘tinkering with the system’ front, I would like to see Rupert Murdoch removed from having an influence in British politics. It seems that Murdoch is happy to offer use of his media empire as an extension of a party’s propaganda machine in return for… well, we don’t know for sure what he gets from it, but his antipathy to the BBC and Europe are well known and it’s hard to believe that he’d give his services for free just for the kick of being seen to back the winner. I don’t think the situation is (yet) as bad as it is in America, where Fox have given up any credible claim to be a news organisation (instead devoting all of their energies to smearing Obama and the Democrats), but the shameless promotion of the Conservatives and poor portrayal of Labour / the Lib Dems in the Sun and the Times is not a good omen and doesn’t contribute to the democratic process one iota. Their shameless promotion of Labour and misrepresentation of the Conservatives during the 1997 campaign when Murdoch decided to back Blair was equally obnoxious, of course. I have no good suggestions for how to achieve the political neutering of Murdoch – suggestions welcome.

Apart from that, I think we need to press on with libel reform, dealing with the growing energy crisis and related global warming, campaigning for evidence-based approaches to policy (i.e. avoiding a repeat of the David Nutt fiasco) and keep on plugging away at it. My new MP (a chap called Chris White – don’t know much about him at the moment) will be getting a letter from me on the first of these issues sometime this week.

My dad occasionally brings up a scene from a Muppet Show episode in which Kermit and Fozzie are trapped in a basement. They are pondering their predicament and searching for means of escape when Fozzie spots a telephone on the wall. Full of excitement at the prospect of release, Fozzie grabs the phone and, unfortunately, breaks it. Kermit’s response to this is simply to observe “This is going to take longer than I thought”. I think politics is like this – you feel that progress is being made (e.g. on libel reform, for which there was quite a lot of cross-party agreement in the wake of the Singh case), there’s a bit of a setback, and the only sensible option is to stay optimistic and fight on.

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