Tuesday, 11 May 2010
Integrity and Politics
The Dangers of a Hung Parliament
As I write this (May 11, 2010) Liberal Democrat MP's are meeting with Labour representatives to discuss a possible "Lib-Lab Pact" or, as it has been named by others, a "Progressive Party". Some people (myself included) are a little worried about this possibility, but much more alarming is the possible collapse of political integrity.
The Present Situation
Some partisan commentators and party members have suggested that the people voted for a hung parliament. This is bad logic. To begin with, we cannot get inside every one's head to see what his/her intentions were. Secondly, the outcome itself does not prove that voters wanted this outcome. What we do know is that many people voted for either Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat MPs, and that the majority voted either Labour or Tory. The majority did not vote for a hung parliament or (and even this has been suggested) for some change in the voting system. There is absolutely no evidence for any such conclusion. One Labour MP went so far as to suggest that because voters have created a hung parliament situation and have NOT voted for a majority Tory government, anything is possible, and whatever emerged would be more or less what the people wanted. That some Liberal Democrats are apparently insisting that there be more movement towards a form of Proportional Representation suggests that some of them are not really concerned with what the Electorate wants. The only fair and logical position regarding that proposition is the one already suggested by the Conservatives i.e. a referendum.
Another thing that is clear is that the Electorate has not voted for a Liberal Democrat government, which means that the majority have NOT voted for Liberal Democrat policies. The negotiations now taking place are at least partially taken up with what the Lib-Dem's can wring out of either of the other two main parties. This is dishonourable. They need to be reminded that their negotiating position does not mean that they at liberty to insist on their own policies being adopted. If they insist on some further guarantees regarding PR they will have to explain - perhaps in a future election - why they were apparently ready to push this idea irrespective of the views of the Electorate.
Presumably those who belong to a particular party accept and support its philosophical outlook. How far will Labour members go in the attempt to remain in power? Some Labour spokesmen and women seem to be saying that there is not much difference between Labour and the Lib-Dem's. Is this really true? If it is, then why have they not joined before? Why have Labour politicians fought elections against them? At the same time, how far will Conservatives go to please the Lib-Dem's? Clearly, as has been said, there are more serious differences between the Tories and the Liberal Democrats, but when we listen to Labour MPs there now seems to be almost nothing separating them. Where has the Labour Party gone?
If the Liberal Democrats form an alliance or create a coalition with Labour, the government will have to rely on the support of other parties. In the General Election, English and Welsh voters did NOT have the opportunity to vote for Scottish Nationalists, so how can they now become involved in governing Britain to the extent of shoring up an unstable coalition? How could Welsh or Northern Ireland MPs - who have not been returned through any involvement of the English Electorate - have such a stake in government? This is surely dishonourable. We see how shaky democracy has become. The party with the greatest votes may well be pushed back into opposition and, on top of that, we may have another unelected PM.
The most unbelievable part of all of this - to me, at least - is that we had presidential-style debates involving the three main party leaders where the personalities were clearly important. Mr. Clegg impressed everyone to begin with (though this fell off somewhat later on). it became clear through the opinion polls and the interviews with people on the street that some were drawn towards the Liberal Democrats because of his performance. Add to that the overdone reputation of Vince Cable ("Honest Vince") and we had some formerly undecided voters going over to them. Gordon Brown, on the other hand, began to appear tired and repetitive, and one of the reasons for his resignation is precisely that many Labourites saw him - and his "personality" - as their chief liability (fair or not). His behaviour towards those who disagree with or challenge him has long been a subject of concern for party workers and journalists. His famous Lancashire gaffe into a lapel mike only served to highlight this problem. Some commentators said it was fortunate that he did not use four-letter words (as he has been known to do on some occasions). With all this in the background how is it possible that Labour could make a moral case for another unelected Prime Minister? In my view this is also dishonourable, and a travesty.
We can only hope - and pray, that the call for a "new politics" which we hear from time to time will result in a politics that pays more than lip-service to integrity and honour.
- Fr John Abberton
- I was born in Sheffield and brought up in Halifax, Yorkshire.I was trained at Ushaw College, attended Durham University and was ordained in 1975. I am a member of the Marian Movement of Priests and a Secular Carmelite(ocds). I am also a reader of "True Life in God"