Coalitions And The Myth Of The Strong Government

With the newly formed coalition of Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs there has been an increasing amount of talking about how coalitions are a weaker or more unstable form of government than a majority, like the government Labour ran. This depends on how you define a strong government. Most people take this to mean a Government that can make decisive moves fast, without interference from other parties. However this type of government can easily become one which makes foolish decisions and leads the country astray precisely because there is no input from the other parties, parties that represent a huge percentage of the country. The purpose of the establishment in a democracy like ours is to serve these people and so a strong government might be better defined as one which best represents the people. A party that doesn’t consult others and moves ahead regardless of opposition can make a lot of mistakes, but a coalition government of two parties that have to consult each other on every policy and law that they want to push through the house of commons is more democratic, more representative and less likely to make rash moves that effect everyone, regardless of what party they voted for.

The Conservatives only represented 36% of the voters in Britain and if they had created a government on their own they would have been put in power by much less than half of the people in the country. Their decision to make a coalition has given us a government that represents 59% of the voters, a much greater percentage of people than Labour ever represented at only 35% of the vote in 2005. This fact alone makes it more democratic and in an increasing number of peoples eyes, better.

The way people think about coalition governments is very important for the future of our political system as there is a growing movement to adopt the Proportional Representation model of voting which allocates seats depending on the percentage of the vote a party gets. This would mean that in this election instead of getting almost 25% of the vote and only a sixth of the seats the Liberal Democrats would have been give 25% of the seats. This means that your vote would really count as it would directly translate into seats, rather than possibly being ignored.

The current government seems to be set on a course of reconciliation between two parties which have very different ideologies but have come together to create a government. More than just deciding the direction the country goes in the next five years, this new coalition’s success could make or break the attempts to reform our electoral system in way that would radically alter the level of influence every voter has on a government that can so deeply affect their lives.

Ewan Lindley

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