Nick Clegg and Proportional Representation

I remain convinced that the sublime instincts of the British people will cause them to make a decisive break with the past and vote for change. In fact, my money is still on a Tory majority of 40 seats or more

It seems I just can’t get away from him at the moment. They have the 24-hour news running in my outer office, and every time I come out for a breather – there he is. He’s churning the airwaves with his Polyfilla sound bites, all of them perfectly balanced, on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand feats of meaningless mutual contradiction.

With his purple ties, his neat grey suits and his air of youthful earnestness he’s like some cut-price edition of David Cameron hastily knocked off by a Shanghai sweatshop to satisfy unexpected market demand. I open the papers to find him consulted daily, like some oracle, about every problem from the Taliban to babies crying in the night – and in both cases, incidentally, he adopts the classic Lib Dem position of simultaneously favouring intervention and leaving well alone.

Boris asks:  “Why are we putting up with this muddle? Can anyone explain the current ubiquity of Nick Clegg? Is it because Cleggie and his colleagues are finally about to break the mould of British politics and storm to victory at the next election? Is it because the Lib Dems have managed to capitalise on discontent with both main parties, and achieve a real shift in the opinion polls?

Absolutely not. The Lib Dems are still down at about 20 per cent, or less. They show no sign of ceasing to be the third party in British politics. They remain a dustbin for the votes of all those whose policy on cake is pro-having it and pro-eating it, and who think you can govern the country by sucking and blowing at the same time.

No, I’ll tell you why Clegg is all over the airwaves with his tough-but-tender childcare solutions. It’s because the media are obsessed with the idea that there is going to be a hung parliament – and that Clegg will be the kingmaker! In this fantasy world we go back to a 1970s-style Lib/Lab coalition in which Gordon Brown remains Prime Minister, shamefully clinging on to Downing Street with the help of the Lib Dems, while Cleggie and (say) Vince Cable are rewarded with seats at the Cabinet table.

As long as this media Cleggolatry continues, and as long as people are willing to talk about a hung parliament, it is worth examining the sickening consequences of such a deal. Why is Clegg willing to give Lib Dem blood to revive this corpse of a government? The answer is that, after 13 years of ruthlessly ignoring the subject, Gordon Brown is dangling before him the prize of minority parties across the world – a referendum on proportional representation. Keep me in power, mutters Gordon, and you will have the electoral reform that eluded Grimond and Thorpe and Steel and Jenkins and Owen and all the other centrists of the last century. Keep me in Number 10, he breathes, wrapping his arm round Clegg’s shoulders – and we will keep the Tories out forever.

It is, of course, bare-faced cheek from Gordon to suggest that we should change the voting system just as the country is about to use that system to eject him from office. It is positively Mugabe-esque. And it is exactly the opposite of what parliament and politics need. The great expenses scandal has shown what happens when you allow the party machines to stitch things up in their own interests. Why on earth should we respond to that crisis by adopting PR? Under any version of PR there is a list system that transfers the power to pick MPs away from the people and towards the party machines.

You end up with two types of MP and two types of democratic mandate; you promote the rise of extremist and fringe parties, such as the BNP, which has exploited PR to capture a seat on the London Assembly; and you end up with a system that is not remotely proportional. As Clegg knows full well, the effect of PR is greatly to magnify the influence of the third or fourth or fifth party – at the expense of the first or second. Look at Germany, where the FDP was able to hold the balance of power, and retain the foreign ministry for decades, in spite of winning only 5 per cent of the vote. Look at Israel, and the disproportionate influence of the minority religious parties.

All these are grave defects, but there is one final and overwhelming reason why Britain should not and will not adopt PR – that it always tends to erode the sovereign right of the people to kick the b––––––s out. Look at Belgium or Italy and see the disaster of coalition governments, endlessly forced to appease their constituent parts, chronically unable to take the decisions necessary for the country.

Imagine if the Lib Dems really held the balance of power. Think of the confusion. Are they in favour of tuition fees or against? In favour of means-testing child benefit or not? In favour of a supertax on £1 million houses or not? Who knows? Clegg recently called for “deep and even savage” cuts in public spending. Labour finally responded last week with – wait for it – a footling proposal to cut some of the 28 scholarships the Foreign Office funds at the College of Europe in Bruges.

You might think that was pretty sensible. These College of Europe characters earn shedloads on graduation, and a lot of the British scholarship holders turn out to come from other EU countries. You might have thought that no one, in current circumstances, would oppose this tiny cut. You reckoned without Mr Nick “Deep and Savage” Clegg, who condemned the proposal as “short-sighted.” There in a nutshell is the kind of inertia and hopelessness that would result from a Lib-Lab pact. There is a disreputable last-ditch plot afoot, to gerrymander the system and keep Gordon Brown in power. It must be exposed.”

This article appears in The Daily Telegraph in full today

13 thoughts on “Nick Clegg and Proportional Representation”

  1. I note that my invitation to comment here is contingent upon my enjoying the post. Hello, my name is Scurra and I am a gatecrasher.
    Let me summarise what Boris just said:
    “I,” (and remember this is Boris talking) “am scared that, even though everybody is fed up with Brown, they can see nothing that the conservatives offer that is substantially different. I will therefore attack the Libdems, using some well-worn, if not worn through, phrases just in case they have a chance.”
    Boris, you and your Tory chums are a pathetic anachronism, and soppy Cameron is so woeful that we cannot even look forward to a revival of satire under his premiership. I will be entering my twilight years with Cameron in number 10 and Palin in the White House. Magna Carta obviously died in vain.

  2. Hurray for Boris! This is the sort of fighting talk we need, by someone who has the courage of his convictions. All this talk about Hung Parliaments is being perpetrated by a bunch of losers who hope it will become a self fulfilling prophesy. They have probably been reading those books about “your thoughts become your future” or some such New Age clap trap.

    “Boris and his Tory chums” as Vicus puts it, may not have all the answers now but that would be impossible, and compared to the lying, cheating, ignoramuses who form our present government, they are geniuses and saints.

    I believe Boris will restore our democracy if he ever gets to lead the party and David Cameron is a good, intelligent honourable man, who would never dream of misleading Parliament and the country like the last disgraceful mob of “Inglourious Basterds” to quote the title of the Quentin Tarentino movie.(that is Quentin’s spelling).

    Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Lord Mandelson have brought so much sorrow to this country it cannot even be quantified and they have also shamed us. Boris, David Cameron and “their chums”, William Hague, Dominic Grieve, Michael Gove, all first rate minds, will put that right.

  3. Usually truth and reason do lie between the two extremes nominally presented by the two big parties. Medio tutissimus ibis. On the other hand, as Clegg might say, ‘Dave’ fails to present any clear image or idea at the moment. Is he a liberal, an old-style easy-going aristocratic Tory, a radical, a libertarian or a Blairite? Is he, perhaps, a PR man and nothing more? “Once in the racket, you’re always in it” said Al Capone. Can Dave change so as to become a convincing candidate for Prime Minister?

  4. Dave is good, but too enigmatic. It is hard to know where he stands on certain issues, but he is unquestionably very intelligent and has integrity.

    Medio tutissimus ibis. What does that mean, must look it up.

  5. My political comment is: Suppose there is a well hung parliament and Clegg sides with Cameron rather than with Brown? What’s wrong with anything made by a Shanghai sweatshop? We all buy £millions worth of fireworks made by a Shanghai sweatshop. Most clothes and shoes sold in the UK are made by a Shanghai sweatshop nowadays, Boris.

    Edna, are you there? D’you know they said if you posted an off-topic comment, they would erase it. So we have to say something in-topic to get around their system. Anyway, Edna, there seem to be a lot of cry babies now the general election is coming. Brown went on telly and cried. Alastair Campbell on telly and wailed. I wonder if Oprah is their PR?

    ( Under pressure Alastair Campbell broke down during a live TV interview yesterday. Blair’s former spin doctor fought back tears during the grilling about the inquiry into the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

    Quizzed on BBC by Andrew Marr’s Sunday politics show, Campbell said: ” I’ve been through a lot of that inquiry. Look, Tony Blair is a totally, totally honourable man. ” It came less than 24 hours after Gordon Brown wept on TV over his newborn daughter’s death in a TV interview. When asked by Marr about Brown’s crying, Campbell replied: ” Gordon has drafted me back into No 10 to help him prepare for interviews in the run-up to the general election. But I don’t think he meant to cry during this Piers Morgan interview. Honestly. ”

    SUNDAY BLUBBY SUNDAY by Tom Newton Dunn, The Sun 8 Feb 2010 )

  6. Edith, seems to me you are misunderstanding the Mayor. He does not say that Nick Clegg has no good points whatsoever. I am sure Boris would agree there are lots of good things to be said about articles made in Shanghai sweatshops.

  7. Alreet, Edith? Let me go and make my political comment first and I’ll get back to ya straight away, OK?

    Well my political comment is: I agree with Mr Johnson. Well said, Mr Johnson!

    There we are, Edith! Done. Don’t mind me love. I just wanted to balance things out a bit. Balance, Edith. “Well hung parliament”, Edith? Oh that word always reminds me of me late Cyril. Magnificent he was, me Cyril! Alreet, Edith? Now where were we? Ah, yes cry-babies everywhere nowadays. Eeeeeeevrywhere. New Wave Public Relation Tricks I call them.

    I watched Marr interviewed Campbell on the telly, love. He told Marr: “People said me and Tony Blair were devoid of humanity. It’s not true.” Then he cried and wiped his tears like a drama queen. Geez, I mean this Camp-bell is well known for having a history of depression, Edith. Cranky people they all are indeed. And they run our country.

    Camp-bell admitted to Marr that he himself helped set up the Piere Morgan interview for Brown. Think about it, Edith:

    Morgan, a diehard Labour supporter, a former editor at the Daily Mirror- a diehard Labour supporting paper. Morgan was sacked by Daily Mirror after he had been exposed by other papers for faking stories and photos against British troops supposedly torturing prisoners of war in Iraq! Camp-bell is well known for sexing up the WMD dossier.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Camp-bell had told Morgan beforehand to remember to ask Brown about his unborn’s death so Brown would have a chance to shed a few tears on the telly watched by millions of people!

    Oh my sweet Lord. Isn’t nothing sacred any more? I mean, Edith, at the time Brown said: ” It’s sad. Thanks for sympathy from the public. But we ask for privacy so we can grieve in peace. That was many years ago. His unborn’s death has been well talked about and written of and well documented. So why did he want to talk about this painful subject again now the election is coming soon? In order to gain some sympathy votes? I don’t know. I’m only saying, Edith. I’m only saying.

    Yeah, New Wave Public Relation Tricks I call them. Like when H Grant got caught having his lollipop licked and was advised to go and cry on OPRAH Show. And it worked. Like when J Terry got caught scoring at the Bridges and was advised to go and cry with The Sun. It worked again. Like Batman Joker Cherie Blair got caught fiddling with her multi-property purchases using her husband’s position and was advised to have a press conference to cry in front of them: ” I’m not a superwoman. I have kids and husband to look after like other women. Too busy. I made mistakes! “. It worked.

    To tell ya the truth, Edith. The only time I cried was when me Cyril popped me cherry. By the way, Edith, what is your cherry situation, love? Anyway, must dash. Keep me well informed Edith, love, alreet. Take care love. Oh and it is ever soooo nice for us to have Mr Johnson’s blog as our converse site, eh Edith? Take care love.

  8. My political comment is: I disagree with Boris.

    Good afternoon, Edna. My cherry situation, Edna? Well to tell you the truth last year our cherry bore lots of fruit but then the black birds helped themselves to them before we could sample any so this year my John said he’s going to get a bird net and cover the tree with it to be on the safe side to be honest with you, Edna.

    Oh d’you know Angela and Brad Pit are going to divorce, Edna? Basically it’s because Angela been messing around with other gals and Brad can’t take it any more. He can take me, no I mean don’t blame him really. And they said she wants to turn herself into Jackie O and Diana. The mind boggles innit? Oh I don’t know. This country has gone to the dogs. Over to you Edna.

  9. My political comment is: I agree with Mr Johnson.

    Alreet, Edith love? Messing around with other actresses? Oh my sweet Lord. Never! Is Angela really into that? Oh Edith. What you just told me really sends a chill down me love box, love. Is she reeeeeeally into that, Edith? Oh Edith. Me Cyril would turn in his grave I’m sure. He didn’t fight in the war for her to behave like that. Oh my sweet Lord! And you said she wants to turn herself into Jackie O and Diana?!!! Never. That evil Angela has more bad bones in her body than a mackerel believe you me. Jackie O me ass. To be honest with you Edith, the only person who can replace Diana is Philipa, I mean Diana’s two kids. Period. I mean does nobody has any respect for anybody anymore? Oh my sweet Lord. Anyway keep me well informed love. Must dash, alreet love Edith? Take care love.

  10. I must say i cannot bring myself to navigate away from this page without leaving a comment!

    What an exceptionally entertaining piece of writing!

    This is the reason that i am unable to put down any of the books written by good old Alexander De Pfeffel! Which can rather hinder everyday tasks having only one hand available :o) .

    Boris is indeed a talented man and i hold great respect for him, as he does not think twice about voicing his honest opinion ! Unlike other people in the political world Boris has no worries about how his true feelings will be viewed by others and is able to laugh at himself whilst other political practitioners are so cautious of how people will react that we rarely see their full potential.

    Boris truly has a way with words and it would be a great shame if he were to deny us of these carefully conducted creations, which i believe comes so naturally to him he probably doesnt even have to look at his screen while typing, in fact hes probably guiding his greek army to victory in age of the empires at the same time.

    i can see know why Boris idolizes Pericles so, let us resurrect the long lost Grecian government and invoke the spirit of Pericles through Boris Johnson, he already hosts so many buds of knowledge in his mind , why not throw the founding father, who formed the foundations that we built the houses of parliament upon into the mix?

    (before anyone says it no i didn’t mean literally, Pericles would of had a pretty hard time traveling back and forth to England to build the foundations himself, and an awful job mixing the cement i would of thought???)

    Then again with Pericles calling the shots, everyone would have their say so who knows how many multiple-handed variations of Nick Clegg would rise from the ashes?

    …..Maybe we could just replace Gordon brown with a bust of Pericles?
    I’m sure no one would notice!!! :o)

  11. Advocates of PR and FPTP will have to compromise. For an Additional Member system which maintains the constituency link and provides as much proportion as you like, while avoiding party lists contact me at Document is too large (7 pages) to post on website.

  12. Hi, I am a HR professional, I was made redundant from my post of HR manager for a group of three companies almost five years ago.
    Having a huge mortgage to pay each month, been married to a wonderful HGV driver who was away from home all week. I found it very difficult to work my way through colledge, see to my three children, seeing and trying to help them through thier GCSE’s. I then went onto university, not doing well in school myself. May I add at this point I was myself a youngster in the care regieme.
    I have been married for 29 years, my Husband and I have worked our socks off to get where we were up to four years ago. Labour was in power then, “oh for the good times”. Since loosing my full time role, I was fortunate to move from one assignment, right onto the next. Wo all of that stopped two years ago. My credit, after having a wonderful credit limit is now worth nothing! My role, (what role), my house, (what the hell is happening?) Nick Clegg I made my 18 year old Son vote for you!!!! I am surely about to loose my house, my children’s inheritence????? don’t make me laugh. Job, what job, I cannot and do not endevour to find another job somewhat soon. I hope you can sleep well at night?
    I got a crumby parking ticket today, and for why???? The car park is waste land, the bays are not properly assigned, £60 pounds in Wakefield, my goodness what is his coming to? My job seekers allowance finished on 27th January 2011??? this is after I have paid my full N.I. stamps for such a long time. My Husband works, so I can get no help with my Council tax, mortgage or whatever else. I see immigrants coming into this GREAT COUNTRY OF OURS what we have paid for. They are getting all the assistance and aid. HELP ME SIR!!! I AND MY FAMILY VOTED FOR YOU AND FOR WHAT.

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