Commentary Magazine


Contentions

British Vote May Doom the Liberal Democrats

In the end, it wasn’t close. British voters rejected the Alternative Vote by a thumping margin of 13 million against with only 6 million for. By region, the margin was even more devastating: 10 areas in favor, 430 against. It tells you perhaps all you need to know about AV that three of the areas it won were high-toned Islington and university-dominated Oxford and Cambridge. As the Telegraph summed it up, the results were “a titanic butt-kicking for the Yes campaign.”

It must be said that neither campaign covered itself in glory. The No campaign invested heavily in the dubious argument that switching to AV would cost too much money, a classic effort to turn a molehill into a mountain. If AV really were the better system, it would be foolish not to spend the money on it. But the Yes campaign was sillier still, with the President of the Liberal Democrats taking the top prize for claiming Britain’s current first-past-the-post system “predates the empire, predates slavery and helped sustain both,” and if that were not bad enough, it allowed Margaret Thatcher to preside over “organised wickedness.” In politics, hyperbole correlates reliably with desperation.

That desperation is now being felt throughout the Lib Dems. Indeed, it’s not clear if the British public was voting against AV on its merits, or against AV as a proxy for the Lib Dems. The Tories, by contrast, had a good night. Apart from the AV victory, they took control of three more local councils, on a night when virtually everyone expected them to lose. But the big winner were the Scottish Nationalists, who took a majority in the Scottish Parliament, setting the stage for the possible breakup of Britain. This is confirmation of Jonathan’s comment on the Canadian election: looking for international trends in national elections is generally a waste of time. In the same week that the Bloc Quebecois was crushed in Canada, its Scottish counterpart swept the field.

The irony of the AV referendum is that the Lib Dems thought it would make them into Britain’s third party. Instead, it may end up destroying them, and in the process return Britain to a two-party system, which is ideally suited to the first-past-the-post system for which the British people have shown such enthusiastic support.



Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »





Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.