Three countries, three political dramas, one disturbing themeby Peter Kellner / March 2, 2016 / Leave a comment
Here in Britain, both main parties are badly divided: the Conservatives over Europe, Labour over Jeremy Corbyn. It’s not unusual for either to be fractious, but I cannot recall a time when both have been so deeply divided at the same time. Increasingly, voices are heard proposing that they should split. One proposal is that we should have a choice of seven substantial parties: socialists, social democrats, greens, liberals, two centre-right parties (pro- and anti-EU) and far right nationalists. (That’s for England; the choice for Welsh and Scottish voters would be slightly different but no less varied.)
The trouble is that under our present first-past-the-post voting system, that wouldn’t work. New parties, with fairly evenly-spread support, find it far harder than old parties with their strongholds. In 1983, Labour slumped to 28 per cent support but still managed to retain 209 seats. The SDP-Liberal Alliance won almost as many votes, 26 per cent, but far fewer seats, just 23.