Saturday, April 17, 2010

Election Reflection

The campaign seems to be warming up, courtesy of a somewhat unexpected result from the leaders' debate: Nick Clegg is now recognisable. I always thought he had everything to gain, as polls often indicate the leader of the third party is much less recognisable. However, I would have thought even his closest allies and biggest fans didn't expect quite such acclaim, or a new catchphrase: "I agree with Nick". At least it's freshened things up a bit.

The poster campaigns haven't exactly been great. First we had David Cameron's face, then the "I haven't voted Tory before..." set, both of which are brilliantly spoofed at The one with George Osborne reading Economics for Dummies is my personal favourite. Then came Gordon Brown smiling, along with various failings attributed to him. The one laugh in the part of the debate I saw was generated by Brown thanking Cameron for making sure it was a photo where he smiled. Second unlikely headline "Brown gets the only laugh".

The problem with the debate and the posters is that they go against something which is fundamental to UK general elections - we don't directly elect a prime minister. Every constituency elects someone to represent them in Parliament. Most candidates belong to political parties, although they don't have to, and even many current MPs have support as a result of them being good constituency representatives, rather than the party badge they wear. So do you vote for the local person, the party or for Nick/David/Gordon (that's the order they stood on the TV debate)?

The House of Commons in Wilberforce's day by A...Image via Wikipedia

The latest talk is of a 'hung' parliament being the likely outcome. Usually seen in a very negative light in Britain (partly because 1974 and 1929 weren't great years for British government) it is now being talked about more positively. I seem to remember that the old SDP-Liberal Alliance preferred the term 'balanced Parliament' at one time, but it never caught on. Although here it has been seen as potentially a source of instability, it needn't be so - other European countries have navigated it successfully in the past. UK governments have increasingly taken for granted that they can get legislation through, and there is a general sense that the House of Commons has become less important for scrutiny and debate. If a minority government were elected, or some form of coalition were formed, maybe the actual elected representatives would have to be taken more seriously. I can't help thinking that a more diverse Commons could only be good for democracy at this point in Britain.

And if you'd like to hear a message from Nick, Dave and Gordon to Christians, click here for a video made for Christians in Politics, and see if it helps you make your mind up. (Other parties are standing at the General Election, of course)
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