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article imageShun the Tories, leading commentator tells UK Lib Dems

By Andrew John     May 9, 2010 in Politics
As shuttle diplomacy continues among political parties to determine who will rule Britain, one of the country’s leading economic and political commentators is urging Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg to shun the Tories and throw in his lot with Labour.
The Tories (or Conservative Party) got the highest number of seats (306) in last Thursday’s general election, but not enough to form an overall majority.
Labour – who have ruled for 13 years – got the second-highest number (258), with the Lib Dems holding their customary third position (57), putting Clegg in the position of king maker.
More talks are due today between Clegg and Tory leader David Cameron. But Will Hutton, writing in the Observer, says: “The Liberal Democrats have the opportunity to create a proper coalition government that can last for at least two or three years and transform the country. There can be fair voting, fair deficit reduction and fair capitalism.”
Among the major changes the Lib Dems wish to see – and one that repeatedly appears in their manifesto – is electoral reform. The Tories would not wish to go too far down that road, because they believe the current first-past-the-post voting system makes for a more stable parliament.
Hutton disagrees: “Conservatives in both principal parties warmly approve of British democracy as delivering strong, decisive and stable government. It does no such thing. It delivers strong, one-party government, which is very different.”
Hutton says Clegg has real power – power that comes once in a generation.
“It is power to insist on a referendum on proportional representation. Power to break up the banking system and reconstruct British finance. Power to insist on civil liberties and repeal of the legislation on ID cards. Power to require that British newspapers are owned by EU, if not British, nationals who pay UK tax and conform to British competition policy.”
Discrepancy
Although the Tories have claimed they have the moral right to take power and have the most seats, they did not get the majority of votes in the country – a discrepancy that some form of proportional representation would iron out.
The Tories won 10,706,647 votes (36.1 percent), with Labour gaining 8,604,358 (29 percent) and the Lib Dems 6,827,938 (23 percent), indicating that the country is basically left of centre.
If other parties joined in a coalition to support Labour and the Lib Dems, a workable majority could be achieved, and this is what many campaigners are hoping for.
About a thousand protesters gathered outside the building where senior Liberal Democrats were meeting in Westminster yesterday to discuss a possible deal with the Tories. The protestors were demanding a fairer voting system.
“The protesters urged the party to stand firm in their long standing policy call for changes to the system,” reports the BBC.
Among them was the campaigner and musician Billy Bragg, who said the hung Parliament was an opportunity to bring about “genuine electoral reform”.
“We don’t like these negotiations going on behind closed doors. The votes that people cast on Thursday should have given us a coalition government,” he said.
“We need a consensus government to deal with the difficult choices we have ahead. That’s what the British people voted for.”
Youngest voter
One very young voter who wanted to make a difference and keep the Tories out was just 14, but donned a trench coat and adopted a “posh accent” and managed to vote in the Northern county of Lancashire after being sent a voting card by mistake.
“It was just too much of a temptation to resist,” said 14-year-old Alfie McKenzie. “I’m a socialist, I’m really, really interested in politics. I’d been reading up on it a lot before the election, and I’d got very interested in tactical voting. Nobody asked me for ID or anything. I was literally in and out of the polling station in about 15 seconds.”
But he got caught when a teacher who knew what he’d done decided to tell the head teacher (school principal), and Alfie got a police warning. But he had managed to cast a vote. Unfortunately for his hopes, the Tory candidate did win the seat.
“As I said to my headteacher today, regrettably, I’m only sorry that I got caught. I would be a Labour supporter, but I voted Lib Dem tactically: I would have been interested in a Lib–Lab coalition, but Clegg is in [talks] with Cameron right now, isn’t he? I’m not really a Cameron man.”
Big Ben
Britain’s general election saw for the first time the results projected onto the famous tower that houses Big Ben, the iconic clock that dominates the Palace of Westminster in London.
The election projection was made possible by a deal between Westminster authorities and the BBC.
“The idea behind projecting the results is to provide a clear and simple source of information and an arresting image,” said the BBC, adding that the idea was to “provide a running tally of the number of seats won by Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, along with those gained by the smaller parties and independents combined.”
The clock (it’s the great bell that’s called Big Ben, although the name has extended to the clock and even the tower) celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2009. It began ticking on May 31, 1859, and the building is still the third-tallest free-standing clock tower in the world.
More about Electin, General election, Big ben, Nick clegg, David Cameron
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