THE BLOG

When 37% Is a Pass: Winning on a Failure

11/05/2015 09:39 BST | Updated 09/05/2016 10:59 BST

One of the things that stands out for me about this election result is the way it is portrayed as a stunning victory. As any 'A' level student knows an examination mark of 37% would be a fail, so how is it the case that a political party can claim to have won an outstanding victory when their score is a failure? We also have the statement that the result represents the will of the people. This is also clearly untrue. Given that the turn out was just 66% and the percentage of votes cast for the winning party was 37% this party can only lay claim to representing 24% of the voting population. This is certainly not the majority of people and is not the norm.

So what happens now? Well we move into a period of majority government that is supposedly stronger than coalition. Throughout this election we had the spectacle of politicians making a virtue out of not wanting to negotiate with other parties. Coalition and cooperation have become positions of weakness. Strong government seems to be one where we do not have to talk to others, we do not have to compromise, and we do not have to listen any more to others opinions. The government can now move forward with unfettered freedom to impose its policies on everyone because apparently they are the ones that supposedly the majority of people want.

From my own perspective I think we need to start reclaiming words and rebalancing our focus on strength. Majority ought to mean more than 25% of the population, listening ought to be a strength, comprise ought to be seen as achieving the best from alternative positions. It is an inevitability of this political system of enforced competition that devaluing the ideas of the other will occur. Perhaps, as in the Robbers Cave* experiment we need a period of enforced cooperation. And perhaps a little resistance to the ideas 37% being a winning score is necessary to temper the egos of our politicians who think they can do what they will in the coming years.

And perhaps we need a more sceptical attitude to the overwhelming position that democracy always produces the best results. I am certainly not saying that we should replace it, however I do think a dose of doubt helps in thinking how we might change it so it is able to cope with diversity and that the voice of the missing 75% may get heard.

* Sherif, M., Harvey, O. J., White, B. J., Hood, W. R., & Sherif, C. W. (1961). Intergroup conflict and cooperation: The Robbers Cave experiment (Vol. 10). Norman, OK: University Book Exchange.