As much as we're all fed up of the election campaigns, these will be the rosy, perfumed days of contentment we look back on when the screaming about who has a right to form a government really takes up in earnest in about two days' time.
I don't understand something about this. Or rather, I think I do understand something about it but everyone else seems to be thinking in another direction, which makes me suspicious about my own reasoning:
Legitimacy. We are being told that the party that gains the most votes/seats is the legitimate government, no matter whether they actually achieve a majority.
Why? Surely whatever agglomerate, collection or - to use another word - 'coalition' of parties that can assemble themselves with enough seats to form a parliamentary majority are the legitimate government. Isn't that how our system works? If the Labour party have the most seats, but no-one else wants to join their gang, then the other gang get to govern. If the Tories come out of the vote with the least bad failure to gain a majority but enough of the others would rather govern together, that's it for them. Right?
Because - and correct me if I've massively misunderstood the aspect of democracy that's been explained to me and everyone else I've ever met since we were first taught about Parliament - isn't each one of the MPs the representative of their constituency? And do they not all have equal say (the Speaker excepted, pedants)? And is that not the case whether they be from Cumbria or Leicestershire or Glamorganshire or Antrim or Strathclyde? And if a majority of those local representatives who all have equal say agree to form an alliance for the purpose of government is that not, in the way our democracy is agreed to work, the majority of constituencies agreeing to that? And is that not, therefore, like, a totally legitimate government? By the most basic metrics of democracy/primary school level maths?
Now, you could argue that legitimacy is drawn not from the number of seats gained by a party but the number of votes cast nationwide for that party. And I would have to say that it's a very strong argument. Except that it's not the voting system we have. We have First Past The Post, democracy's idiot younger sibling. And it's not as though this system has been imposed on us from outside - we voted for it in a referendum less than five years ago. A terrible referendum, granted, in which the alternative we were offered was basically the same system with some sprinkles and raspberry sauce on. But during the course of the campaigns that attended that referendum, the parties who are now screaming about 'legitimacy' fought tooth and nail to ensure that FPTP remained in place, arguing vociferously that it was the best system available.
So how can they now scream about 'legitimacy'? It's the two-party system talking, isn't it? Trying to protect itself. It's the centuries-long beneficiaries of a system rigged to keep two parties in an endless cycle of power-swapping trying to recast that discredited system as the moral high ground. They are suggesting that because we have a system that has historically tended to return a majority for one party, it's always been about the party with the most seats. Which does rather ignore the principle on which our Parliament is actually based - local areas send their own representative, who then vote for laws as they see fit. 'Party' is a thing imposed on our democracy, not an integral part of it, as much as it may look like that.
The only legitimate government - and the only practical one - is one which carries with it a majority of the representatives voted for by the people, no matter how rag-tag that band may be. Anything else is terrified spin.
This blog first appeared on Chris' official Facebook page, and can be read hereSuggest a correction