19 April 2010

The End Of First-Past-The-Post?

A general election where the Lib Dems get 33%, The Tories 32% and Labour 26% could mean Labour getting 250 seats, the Tories 240 and the Lib Dems only 130 (if they are lucky) - so the Lib Dems would get half the seats of a party in THIRD place that they BEAT by 7%. If anything highlights how ridiculous our electoral system is, this is it. People must be baffled when they hear these numbers (It's all to do with the spread of the vote between constituencies). Even the Sun newspaper is finding it hard to defend.

It seems about 200 seats for Labour and 200 for the Tories are pretty much impregnable. But are they?

Well, if the Lib Dems 12 point leap in the polls after the first debate is followed by another 6 or 7 point leap after the second, we are looking at history in the making and surely finally the end of first-past-the-post. Some are suggesting that the Lib Dems might not be in any hurry to scrap the system if suddenly they are the beneficiaries. Well at 33% in the polls they are still likely to get only 20% of the seats. Even 40% of the vote might not give them 40% of the seats, so I doubt the Lib Dems would ever be in favour of FPTP.

The political establishment are terrified. The Tory press are running all sorts of smears on Nick Clegg and criticism of Lib Dem policies. They would prefer to ignore the Lib Dems, but now they can't. The Tory press used to say it was wrong to criticise Cameron for being posh, now NIck Clegg's posh background is under attack by the same commentators. They are throwing everything they can to stop 'the Lib Dems going viral'. Unfortunately even the BBC are trying to play down the Lib Dem lead, when if this was Cameron we would hear nothing else. The Volcanic ash story is helping the media do their best to first downplay cleggmania and secondly completely ignore it.

The Lib Dems have overtaken the Tories into first place, if the momentum from the second debate took them to say a 5 point lead or more, even the Tory media would have a job to downplay that. Yet this is well within the realms of possibilities.

It is clear people do want change - but not the sort of change proposed by Cameron and the Tories. There is plenty of 'soft' vote out there. Twice as many registered electors do not vote as vote for the winning party. A huge potential for change should they switch in large numbers to the Lib Dems. Also it is clear that the Lib Dems are pinching votes intially equally from both Tories and Labour. As they take the lead, if Labour voters feel the Lib Dems can stop the Tories more effectively there could be a collapse in Labour support. Voters clearly do not want Gordon Brown, but nor it seems do they want David Cameron either.

The 'core' vote of Labour has in the past been placed around 28% - the percentage it got in 1983 under Michael Foot. The lowest for the Tories was around 30% under William Hague in 2001. But the recent Euro elections had Labour down at 16% and the Tories (even with Cameron riding high) at 29%. It is clear there are plenty of potential switchers about. People have had enough of both Labour and the Tories - most people want neither. Even the Tory scare mongering of a hung parliament is look ing risky when polls say a majority want exactly that. The Tories new ploy is to say vote Clegg get Brown - that is harder for the Lib Dems to bat away and it will be interesting to see how Clegg handles this and the new pressure he is under.

The next debate will be closer and expect the Tory media to do their utmost to call it for Dave. It is on Sky TV so a lot less people will see the debate first hand and more will rely on the Tory media reports afterwards. It will be easier for the Tory media to rig the reaction. Expect some very dodgy polling afterwards - Sky viewers are much more Conservative - ITV reach out to a much wider and non-political background. Also expect the questions to be rigged to help Dave.

After the Telegraph compared Clegg to Churchill, it is almost impossible for him to live up to those expectations - which is probably why the Telegrapg did it. Much harder to explain is the BBC playing along with the Labservative agenda and even the Guardian seems to giving a lot of column inches to Cameron and his propaganda. The Lib Dem lurch could disappear as quickly as it came, the political and media establishment hope it does, but they are terrified that it won't. If we are to get real change, the people have to defy our Tory press. Lets hope they do.

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