Tag Archives: two party system

Who Is To Blame?

In this week’s Question Time, Farage and Brand squared off, each making it clear whom they thought was to blame for the nation’s woes. Like the broken record he is, Farage blamed immigration for every conceivable ill that might have befallen Middle England. Brand, on the other hand, blamed the politicians for letting the rich stash away large amounts of cash whilst the poor live hand-to-mouth.

Who is really to blame? In such a complex society as ours, are we really able to single out one group and place all the blame upon them? It’s easy to see that Farage’s rhetoric is hollow – he is scapegoating a minority to further his career as a populist right-winger.  But does Brand really mean to say that the political classes are the only ones to blame, and that no-one else could change our ailing society?

That is the self-fulfilling prophecy at the roots of our corrupt modern politics – if we all believe strongly enough that there is nothing we can do, and that everything is the fault of ‘the bankers’ or ‘the politicians’, then it becomes a reality. If we allow it, then our political establishment will run away with itself, unchecked, unjust, and unstoppable.

The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.

These remarks from the very quotable Edmund Burke are all you should need to convince yourself that there is another way. Our society has been through so many changes, moving from feudalism all the way to universal suffrage. It is in our genes, in our very lifeblood to be the ‘good’ of which Burke speaks. It is for us to rail against any system which deprives individuals of their rights and liberties.

To do otherwise would be to accept a share of the blame.

So, dear reader, I put it to you: do not seek simply to blame others for what is happening to our society. Do not fall into the illusion that politics is for other people, and that you might merely watch from the sidelines. Stand for what you believe in, or else share the blame for its failure.

Loss of Representation in the Two Party System

The UK’s political system, as it currently stands, is a two party system. This has been in large part due to the First Past The Post (FPTP) system, in which only those voting for the winning party in their constituency are actually represented in parliament. If your favoured candidate doesn’t win, then your vote is essentially discarded.

Contrast this with proportional representation such as used for European Parliament elections, where constituencies are larger and elect a small batch of MEPs. In this system, the winner still gets the most seats, but the second and even third place parties are also rewarded in proportion to the votes they receive. If your favoured party doesn’t win, you don’t automatically lose your say on who gets elected – and more voters are actually represented in parliament.

As a result of First Past The Post, it’s common for the two largest parties to gain a disproportionately large number of seats in parliament. Worse, most of these seats are ‘safe’ to varying degrees, meaning they are unlikely to change hands. The outcome of each election depends on a small number of ‘marginals’ where undecided swing voters decide which mainstream party gets to have an MP in that constituency. Whoever wins back the greater number of marginal seats wins overall power (unless of course there’s a tie, in which case either a hung parliament or a coalition government will emerge).

As a result, we see a system where one party will have a clear majority, and will be able to push more or less anything they want through the Commons. To make sure that their MPs all vote the ‘correct’ way, each party will have up to fourteen MPs nominated to be party whips – so-called because they whip their fellow MPs back in line. Failing to follow a party whip’s instruction can lead to an MP being expelled from their parliamentary party, so they will usually toe the line. With the exception of free votes and outright rebellions, MPs will therefore vote the way that their party tells them, rather than doing what their constituents want.