David Cameron, the UK's prime minister, will go down in history for a blunder of monstrous proportions that could precipitate a constitutional crisis. When he made a coalition with the reformist party, the Liberal Democrats, he refused a plebiscite on all but the simplest and most inadequate form of electoral reform, whereas the Lib Dems had asked for full proportional representation. Cameron opposed the change and the Lib Dems lost, so we kept the system as it is. First past the post is the system in which the candidate with the largest number of votes in a constituency wins, but that causes problems because in multi-party elections you can win with under fifty per cent of the votes, often significantly under. The trouble is that first past the post works if you only have two significant parties, with three it struggles, but now the party system has proliferated. We have a range of parties contesting the election with an electoral system designed for two.
How did this come about? In the thirteenth century when first past the post was instituted, there were no parties and each constituency elected an independent. But hundreds of years have elapsed,the franchise has expanded to the whole population, parties have risen and fallen, but first past the post clung on because it was in the vested interest of two parties. Thatcher clung on to it with spurious justifications. Not only did she refuse to make any change, uttering the peremptory no that was her trademark, she even had the impertinence to tell the Europeans that they should adopt our defective British way of holding elections.
So what's the problem? We now have the following parties all contesting the general election:
Conservative [Tory] slightly in the lead at present, but tend to represent the rich.
Labour, slightly behind behind, but with a leader lacking credibility, especially in Labour's Scottish heartland.
Liberal Democrats, much behind. They are currently junior partners in the coalition, but have been responsible for major reforms to the tax system. But at eight per cent of the vote disaster is looming.
United Kingdom Independence Party. [UKIP] On fifteen percent. Wants Britain out of Europe, you know blame the immigrants for your problems.
Greens: Five percent. Great policies, but a leader not up to the job.
Then there are the nationalists: Welsh and Scottish. The Welsh are small in number, but the Scots could win a large number of seats in Scotland at Labour's expense. They would make no coalition with the Conservatives, the Lib Dems would make no coalition with them, but there is talk of a coalition with Labour; and this is getting England incensed.