Thursday, 8 April 2010

Hung parliament strategy is an un-unionist strategy

The following piece appears in this morning's News Letter.

The starting gun has sounded and the UK’s political parties are out of the blocks. Conservatives and Labour, determined to secure mandates, are anxious that May’s election should not produce a hung parliament.

Yet the DUP, and various nationalists from the UK regions, are hoping for precisely that outcome.

Most commentators agree with the main parties, that an indecisive election result would be to the national detriment. Why is there an overwhelming consensus that a hung parliament would be bad for Britain?

Elections for the House of Commons are decided using First Past the Post. The merit of the system is that it most often produces a conclusive result and avoids the weak government which minority administrations or coalitions often produce.

If there is a hung parliament following the next election it will be only the fifth time that that has happened in one hundred years. They have all been short-lived affairs.

A few, unsatisfactory options will then be available to govern Britain.

Gordon Brown has already indicated his intention to carry on, in the result of a hung parliament, so he would have first crack at forming a government. Any deal would hinge on his ability to negotiate a coalition or a workable minority administration, haggling case by case on important issues and avoiding defeats in votes of confidence.

Whichever option prevailed, the upshot would be government by committee and a lack of direction for the country. The UK would be plunged into a spell of political volatility.

Financial markets, which depend on a sense of stability, are particularly susceptible to the effects of a hung parliament. It is almost inevitable that a crash would accompany an indecisive election result. That means jobs lost, in Northern Ireland, as in every other region of the United Kingdom.

If a government were to be formed successfully, its chances of long-term survival would be slim.

In 1974, the last time a hung parliament followed an election, Harold Wilson’s minority administration lasted a few brief months. Ramsay MacDonald kept together a government for two years, after an indecisive result, but that was in 1929.

A hung parliament might give small parties a little blackmailing power - for a month or two. But to rely on it as a political strategy is short-sighted in the extreme. It is also profoundly un-unionist, because a minority administration, or a coalition, would profoundly damage the UK.

1 comment:

Kevinho said...

Meh. None of this stopped the UUP from helping out John Major when he was close to loosing his majority, or the DUP from helping out Labour against rebellions. Its amazing how flexible politicians are when they smell a little power.

As for the 'hung parliament would cause a crash' argument, I doubt we'd see anything too major come out of it, because an unstable government would give the economy a breather from intervention. I know how desperate the media are for a double dip though.