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Further Electoral Reform in Britain off the Agenda For a Generation

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Electoral reform of some sort has long been an objective of the Liberal Democratic Party. More recently they have increased their support but electoral reform has long remained an objective. Over the last forty years there have been two hung parliaments. The first in 1974 and more recently in 2010.

In 1974 Edward Heath having called an election, was unable to secure a majority in the House of Commons. There was, very unusually a hung parliament where no single party were able to reach a majority of votes. After a few days Edward Heath had to resign. Linking an affiliation of separate parties proved impossible at that time. More recently in 2010 we had a position where no single party achieved an overall majority, but the combined votes of the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives was sufficient to achieve power within a coalition. The main price of this coalition was a promised referendum on voting reform. The vote on voting reform followed in May 2011. The result was conclusively rejected. The concession of a referendum on the AV vote was their high point on achieving coalition in 2010. They had their once in a lifetime chance for reform and they blew it. This defeat leaves the Liberal Democratic Party who are the main "left wing" component of the coalition government in some disarray. In the referendum the Yes campaign were unable to link the Labour leader Ed Miliband and the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg in any constructive way. These two individuals didn't perform together suggesting a lack of coherence in the message that they were promoting and were regarded as being hostile to each other.

In the south of England, individuals who are not supporters of the conservative party are very unlikely to get any representation in the first past the post system in more countryside seats. This required these individuals to vote tactically for an alternative party that could potentially win the seat. In many respects the liberal democrats were therefore the beneficiaries of this tactical vote. By shifting to the coalition with the conservative party these tactical voters were probably put out by the liberal democrats' manoeuvres towards the conservative party. Over the last few decades the liberal party, now the liberal democrats, have increased their standing via the first past the post voting system from the 14 seats that they won in 1974 with 2.2% of the popular vote; to the 57 seats that they won in 2010. Over the last 10 British general elections between 1974 and 2010 they have gradually built up this form of representation. First past the post is an electoral system that applies in Britain that is typically unfair to the liberal democrats. The hope was that in the vote of 2011 that they would break this problem. They had their rare chance which failed to come off. Having had this opportunity and having built up their support over recent decades, where will these protest votes that the liberal democrats clearly enjoyed go to. The worry is that this support could fade substantially. Over time the Liberal Democrats have changed their name to attract essential support. The hope is that in 2011 having had a period in shared government that their esteem in voters' minds may increase. Over the next few years before the election the British government must endure the consequence of the eradication of deficit spending. This will mean that gaining popularity from what are the coalitions more left wing elements will prove very unpopular, and could rebound against the Liberal Democrats in the election of 2015. The liberal democrats' hope is that at the next election, voters will associate their actions in government as forcing an otherwise more right wing government towards the centre of British politics.

2011 and the adjustment of the worlds economic fortunes is a bleak time to be in government; but having had the vote for reform in this year it is unlikely to return for, as I said in the title, a generation.