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The UK General Election 2017, What Next?

20/06/2017 11:58

Nick Clegg lost his seat in the General Election winning 19,756 votes but still losing to Labour's 21,881 votes in Sheffield Hallam. Frustratingly for the Liberal Democrats, under an alternative proportional representation system it is likely that Nick could still be in Parliament.

In 2011 Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats managed to form a coalition with the Conservative Party and persuade them to hold a referendum on changing the electoral system. They lost that referendum, arguably not due to the weakness of the argument, but the poor campaign fought for promoting AV and lack of resources to solve the problem of asymmetric information intrinsic to any referenda (ring any bells?). Another lost referendum later seen in the EU Referendum, and another issue which the Liberal Democrats famously campaigned for has been lost along with a fall in the share of the vote for the party, and a pronounced return to two party politics.

Two of the last three elections have delivered hung parliaments and a return to backroom deals which could threaten the legitimacy of the Government and undermine their mandate. Coalition governments are uncharted territory under our electoral system and there are no generally accepted standards on how best to resolve the stalemate caused by hung parliaments without damaging the credibility of either parties involved (as Nick Clegg learnt the hard way, and Theresa May could find out after doing a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party).

This time, a hung parliament has thrown up a range of issues and problems for the country and therefore, many want to go back to the polls, despite three elections being called in 2 years (General Election 2015, EU Referendum in 2016 and the General Election in 2017). There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, the British Pound Stirling fell drastically, even with the prospect of a hung parliament, due to the uncertainty it caused. Secondly, we realised that the Conservatives would not be able to form a Government without forming an alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party. The later must be kept separate from the UK Government, for it to fulfill its role as an independent arbiter under the Good Friday Agreement.
So what next? Another election? There is still a danger of a tied result and anther hung parliament. It could be argued that we have come to the end of the road for our electoral system when we have not been able to deliver a large majority Government in the last three elections. Importantly, society is now more diverse than it once was and cannot be solely divided upon class lines, and therefore, it could be argued that our First Past The Post (FPTP) electoral system is no longer fit for purpose.

With the EU Referendum vote passing with only 52% of the vote, it is clear that we live in a divided society. We are in danger of leaving half of the country behind during our exit negotiations from the EU. With the range of outcomes involved and multitude of scenarios where we might vote differently, perhaps the only way to effectively negotiate our exit from the EU should be through a consensual, and measured approach to ensure that the interests of all sections of society are considered.

In 2011, the Conservative Party gave the UK an opportunity to change our electoral system, to move to the Alternative Vote (AV) system. This was rejected and many will claim there is no point in revisiting this now, as a result. However, I'd challenge most who are opposed to give me a clear analysis of the pros and cons of AV, FPTP as well as the reasons why we only considered these two systems in the referendum we held. The problem with that referendum and the referendum we had last year is that information is asymmetric and those who can afford to, disseminate information in a way that furthers their own interests. Hence, why many do not think that such important matters should be decided through referendums, which are increasingly open to manipulation.

This election showed the increase of voters who voted tactically (as seen in the success of campaigns such as Best for Britain), and as such we can clearly see that the electoral system has failed us. It looks like we will only be in a stalemate or come to a Nash equilibrium outcome if we do not address the fact that we now face too many competing views and complex issues for a two party system to deal with, and hence it can no longer provide us with a strong and stable government.

I've been campaigning for a change in the system since I was 16, and I know there has been no appetite for it previously, but during times of change and important decision making I'd argue there's a case to revisit the issue.

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