Author Topic: What's wrong with British politics  (Read 17531 times)

Chodon

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 519
  • Molon Labe
Reply #25 on: January 22, 2008, 01:30:51 PM
That's a very interesting system, Simon.  I had no idea the monarchy had such a critical role to play in British politics, and I really didn't know that they had done such a poor job of executing their responsibilities.  Do you think there is anything that can be done to fix the system, or is it broken beyond repair?

Those who would sacrifice liberty for safety deserve neither.


Russell Nash

  • Guest
Reply #26 on: January 22, 2008, 02:01:42 PM
Simon,  A request from someone who showed his ignorance up-thread.  I described the German form of a parliamentary government without fully appreciating the differences between that system and the British system.  I would appreciate it if you could answer what I hope are a couple simple questions.  Simple meaning I hope you don't have to write a PhD thesis to explain them.

1)  I described an example of coalition building to form the government.  You told us it doesn't happen in Britain.  Is that because they never need to or does the system not allow it?

2)  You mention "first past the post".  I took that to mean: the first party to get a certain number of seats.  Is that 50%?  What happens if neither large party gets 50%, because the third party gets 6%?  Or is it 45% or so?  What happens if both get more than that?

I'm sure these two questions roll into one big answer.  Thanks in advance for your answer.



Simon

  • Peltast
  • ***
  • Posts: 117
Reply #27 on: January 22, 2008, 05:37:54 PM
Simon,  A request from someone who showed his ignorance up-thread.  I described the German form of a parliamentary government without fully appreciating the differences between that system and the British system.  I would appreciate it if you could answer what I hope are a couple simple questions.  Simple meaning I hope you don't have to write a PhD thesis to explain them.

1)  I described an example of coalition building to form the government.  You told us it doesn't happen in Britain.  Is that because they never need to or does the system not allow it?

2)  You mention "first past the post".  I took that to mean: the first party to get a certain number of seats.  Is that 50%?  What happens if neither large party gets 50%, because the third party gets 6%?  Or is it 45% or so?  What happens if both get more than that?

I'm sure these two questions roll into one big answer.  Thanks in advance for your answer.

Yeah, sorry about the epic above...  I realised how incomprehensible that must be to foreigners afterwards.  Our constitution is based hideously heavily on precedent.  So where you have the Roosevelt ammendment firmly cemented into your constitution to prevent any more 12 year terms of government, we get weird little diversions like The Parliament Act (used by the commons to beat the lords over the head).  The British Constitution really only makes sense if you've paid attention to all the details of the last 300 years of history...

"First Past The Post" is the system used in Britain and in the US, it means that in each individual seat (chosen by region) the person with the most votes wins the seat.  Our Parliament operates in a similar way to Congress, so if a party gets an overall majority (greater than 50% of total seats) they have the ability to push any bill through parliament and become the government.  This is as opposed to "Proportional Representation" as used often on the continent, under PR a party who has 2% support, widely spaced across the whole country, will get 2% of the seats (or city in a local election).  Proportional voting systems are the reason why smaller parties do better in most European countries than they can in Britain and the US (Ron Paul for instance, would win 10% of the total Republican caucus, as opposed to being treated as lunatic fringe).

In Britain, The Liberal Democrats have continuously polled at about 20% of the popular support since the early 90's, but have got at absolute best 10% of the total seats because their support isn't as regionally strong as the two main parties, and votes for losing candidates are non-transferable.  Coalition's aren't impossible under the British system, they are just extremely unlikely.  A minor swing in popular support tends to convert into quite a large swing in terms of parliamentary seats , and since parliament is so heavily dominated by the two main parties (and each vote applies only to individual seats) we move from one to the other and back again.



Russell Nash

  • Guest
Reply #28 on: January 22, 2008, 05:49:57 PM
So the example I gave before is roughly the way it works in British Parliament?  It's just that the two main parties are so strong the third isn't needed by whichever of the big two wins?



eytanz

  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 6109
Reply #29 on: January 22, 2008, 06:07:45 PM
So the example I gave before is roughly the way it works in British Parliament?  It's just that the two main parties are so strong the third isn't needed by whichever of the big two wins?

It's not so much that they are strong in absolute terms, but that the system is non-linear - having a small advantage in the popular vote makes a huge advantage in the outcome. The only way a coalition can emerge is if the two largest parties are evenly matched or very close to it.

In the British system, party A can have support of 40% of the population but 75% of the parliament, if it just happens that in 75% of the regions, that party is the most supported one (say, if party B has 35% of the support and party C has 25%).

So while, once a parliament exists, it operates much by the same rules as the one you proposed, the chance of a coalition situation emerging is miniscule.



Simon

  • Peltast
  • ***
  • Posts: 117
Reply #30 on: January 22, 2008, 11:46:29 PM
That's a very interesting system, Simon.  I had no idea the monarchy had such a critical role to play in British politics, and I really didn't know that they had done such a poor job of executing their responsibilities.  Do you think there is anything that can be done to fix the system, or is it broken beyond repair?

Laughs, the thing about the British system is it has always been completely knackerred..  It's similar to our legal system: a huge mess of precedents and prior rules built on top of each other, more like a pyramid than a wall.  And a lot of people like it that way, they call it tradition.

Now, at present, the biggest things that are wrong as many Americans would see it with our political system are having an established church, this electoral system that favours the big two and our farcically badly organised second house (the lords).

Personally I'm quit a big fan of having an Established church, I think it makes the country's main religion a little more toothless, because by being linked to the state it means they are constitutionally prevented from trying to drive politics according to their moral agenda.  I think part of the reason religion is so weak in Europe nowadays is because we have established churches, which pull the teeth out of the blood and death side of religions.  As an agnostic I'd far prefer to live in a country with an established church than in one with a separation of church and state allowing them to blaze fury at elected politicians.

The Lords is a hideously bad idea, but somehow, for the last decade (since a major reform kicked out the hereditary peers I was complaining about above), it has proved extremely good at it's role as a wisened check and balance.  As a vast room full of old men and women who consider themselves wise and untouchable (you get appointed a Lord for life if you've done sufficient good works, or have made friends with either party, and for the rest of your life you can go there and vote laws down), they've done a pretty superb job of shooting down the insane ideas professional politicians on the other side of Parliament come up with.  They have shown a much, much greater concern for individual liberty than the commons.  Furthermore, both the main parties suggestions of reform have sounded like a plan to professionalise the second house, and thereby stuff it with the same yes-men career politicians that infest the first house.  Fundamentally I don't trust any attempts to democratise the second house that come from our current generation of political leaders, because the government hates the Lords on principle.

Same applies to the electoral system... They've both got a long and horrendous history of (we call it jerrymandering) changing the goal posts of individual elections for partisan reasons.  So, personally, the only situation where I would trust the government to reform itself is that extremely unlikely coalition between Labour and The Liberal Democrats mentioned above.  If that happened, the Lib Dem obsession with giving themselves a fair chance at winning (the one issue they all agree on is that they hate the constitution) might just lead to a constitution with a viable valid system of checks and balances.

Yes, it's really, really broken.



Chodon

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 519
  • Molon Labe
Reply #31 on: January 23, 2008, 02:01:23 AM
As a vast room full of old men and women who consider themselves wise and untouchable (you get appointed a Lord for life if you've done sufficient good works, or have made friends with either party, and for the rest of your life you can go there and vote laws down), they've done a pretty superb job of shooting down the insane ideas professional politicians on the other side of Parliament come up with.

Okay, I have decided what I want to do with my life: be in the House of Lords.  What do I have to do to get in?  Wear a powdered wig?  Check.  Eat crumpets?  Check.  Drink tea?  Check.  What am I missing?  That sounds like the best job EVER!  Almost like a federal judge here in the US!

Those who would sacrifice liberty for safety deserve neither.


Tango Alpha Delta

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1778
    • Tad's Happy Funtime
Reply #32 on: January 24, 2008, 01:08:45 PM
Okay, I have decided what I want to do with my life: be in the House of Lords.  What do I have to do to get in?  Wear a powdered wig?  Check.  Eat crumpets?  Check.  Drink tea?  Check.  What am I missing?  That sounds like the best job EVER!  Almost like a federal judge here in the US!

Pristine set of inbred genetics?  No check?  Sorry... you're out, chum.

This Wiki Won't Wrangle Itself!

I finally published my book - Tad's Happy Funtime is on Amazon!


Loz

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 370
    • Blah Flowers
Reply #33 on: January 27, 2008, 11:05:29 AM
We like the House of Lords when they stand up to the Government on civil liberties, we're less keen when they start talking excitedly about sodomy and how everything except heterosexuality in the missionary position should be outlawed, even though all of them went to public schools.



stePH

  • Actually has enough cowbell.
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 3906
  • Cool story, bro!
    • Thetatr0n on SoundCloud
Reply #34 on: January 27, 2008, 05:01:10 PM
Alasdair and Simon, thanks for having a discussion like this.  Here in the US we don't hear anything about politics outside of our borders.  I'm sure the media just doesn't report on it because our simple minds can't handle what's going on in other places. ::)

I think it's more like "nobody here really cares about politics outside of our borders.  We're more interested in Britney Spears' latest meltdown."

Chodon:  The reason other countries have more than two political parties is because they use Parliamentry Systems.  They work totally differently.  The US is the only country to have ever had a Presidential Democracy and not fallen into a Dictatorship.

(... yet.  But with the executive branch aggregating more and more power to itself, we could find ourselves under a de facto dictatorship not too far down the road if a correction is not made soon.)

"Nerdcore is like playing Halo while getting a blow-job from Hello Kitty."
-- some guy interviewed in Nerdcore Rising


Chodon

  • Lochage
  • *****
  • Posts: 519
  • Molon Labe
Reply #35 on: January 27, 2008, 05:15:46 PM
(... yet.  But with the executive branch aggregating more and more power to itself, we could find ourselves under a de facto dictatorship not too far down the road if a correction is not made soon.)
Representative democracies always have this issue though.  It's essentially tyranny by majority vote.  Also, the majority isn't always right.  I think we straddle the line between representative democracy and dictatorship quite a bit.  Nixon and Watergate.  Johnson and Vietnam.  Jackson and the banks.  It goes back a long way.  Bush and the oil cartel is just the latest.  The people who become president don't get there by being nice.  They get there by lying, cheating, stealing, and sometimes murdering.

Those who would sacrifice liberty for safety deserve neither.