Saturday, June 12, 2004

Reflections On Elections

There's confusion amongst them.

Labour's vote collapse isn't really reflected in their loss of seats or councils. The Tories actually dropped a percentage of the vote (39 to 38) from the Hague days. And the Lib Dems improved, but not markedly.

There seem at first glance to be few national trends, except perhaps that Labour are being punished, not by the remnants of the working class but by middle class liberal voters. British Spin has an interesting comments section in which the Cynical Archivist suggests that Labour actually gained support in towns with large working class populations (Stoke, Hartlepool, Rhondda, Cynon Taff, Redditch, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Merthyr) but were punished in towns where there were local scandals (Cardiff, Oxford, Swansea, Doncaster) or where there were commuter villages or large yuppie populations (Newcastle, Oxford, Ipswich, Hastings, Bridgend).

Spin thinks that "It looks like we're seeing three distinct battles. A Labour-Tory battle in parts of the midlands and the south, with the Tories gaining a slight edge, a Labour/ Lib-Dem battle in the North, with significant gains for the Lib-Dems and a Lib-Dem/Tory battle in the South, with real progress for the Tories".

Meanwhile at the ends of the spectrum (although given that they both think Iraq is 'all about oil' and that the world is run by Jewish neocons, they may meet soon), both the BNP and Respect are chucking the toys out of the pram, Respect because the Independent didn't print their letters, the BNP because of alleged theft of votes.

The news on electoral fraud in Birmingham was worrying. And elsewhere it is not beyond the bounds of possibilities that the students who threw rocks at the National Front in the 1970s (I was one) may as respectable members of society consider stealing votes to be acceptable. It it were true, it would be more worrying than a hatful of BNP or Respect councillors. Democracy would not potentially be at risk -it would actually have been destroyed in some areas of Britain. I think it may already have happened in Bordesley Green and Sparkbrook, if not in Oldham.

Matthew Parris in the Times makes the point :

“A bad night for democracy.” A bad night, that is, if in an election held by secret ballot on a universal adult suffrage, a small party advancing opinions held by many but with which the major parties disagreed, were to gather votes? A bad night for immigrants, certainly; a bad night for liberal values, too; but a bad night for democracy?

What then would be a good night for democracy? How are Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats using the word “democracy” if when they see the number of voters holding an opinion translated into the election of candidates who share that opinion, they think democracy is under threat?"

To hear some of my friends in politics and political journalism talk, you would think that democracy is a kind of jolly charabanc on to which all reasonable citizens have clambered, even if we may argue about the route.

No, my friends, democracy is more than the bus. Democracy is also the ditch, the pothole, the rock in the road.

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