Government, the Party system and democracy: do they actually work?

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Schnellzug

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I think everyone can agree that, while the CameronCleggCoalition has set new standards for ineptitude, this is certainly not a new phenomenon, and it is hard to think of any Government that, over the last half century or so at least, has either (a) had the faintest idea what it was doing, or (b) has had the interests of the nation and its people at heart, rather than being obssessed with following some dogma or other. And when you come down to Local Government level, then surely it gets even worse; I realise I cannot speak for everywhere, but round this way just about every tier of Local government sets new standards for incompetence and arrogance and a blithe disregard for the views of the People nearly every week.
Now, the question is, is this the fault of the Party system? Or is it an intrinsic weakness of Democracy? Does Democracy actually work at providing competent Government? Other countries in Europe (some of them, at any rate) do seem to be capable of running things reasonably efficiently and providing efficient, and cost effective, public services. It is because most countries in Europe don't have just two parties that ever get into power (sorry Nick, but you don't count) , but because they often have so many, Party dogma isn't so influential and in fact the identity of the Party in power doesn't really matter so much?

(leaving the U.S. out of it for now, which is every bit as bad as the UK)
 
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Xenophon PCDGS

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I feel that there are other European countries that have had a coalition government, where a check upon the perceived political views of the largest particular party can be somewhat moderated. The problem is where the largest party in the coalition has a voting majority over all the other parties, which has not been the case in past European coalition governments.
 

NSEFAN

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The way I see it, the situation is like a merry-go-round.

1) The current X government is awful!
2) Let's replace them with the Y party!
3) Horray, the Y party won! We'll never vote for that X lot again!
4) <Decade or so passes>
5) The current Y government is awful!
6) And repeat.

This probably happens because either people forget how bad X was, or they are too young to remember the bad old days when X was in power, and can only go on misrepresented stories from their elders.

In a way, I don't mind this system, because it almost guarantees that one particular party cannot hold power for too long. That said, I do wonder how much waste is caused by political rivalries, especially during election seasons. This goes not only for party vs party, but also rivalries within the parties (Blair vs Brown, anyone?)
 

yorksrob

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I don't think that you can get to the bottom of the current malaise by just looking at the political system alone. You also have to look at big business, which seems incapable of generating wealth in this country without also generating socially divisive levels of inequality. There is also a legal/judicial system which seems to be continually out of step with public views of justice (the prisoners votes fiasco being a case in point). There is a democratic defecit in the regions, aggravating a concentration of wealth and power in the South East.

There is a lot wrong at the moment.
 

LE Greys

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I think Churchill put it very well,
"Democracy is just about the worst system of government, until you look at all the rest."
 

AndyLandy

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"Democracy", such as it is, is basically the best of a bad bunch. There is no real fix here, we simply make do with a system that at least implies some level of control. I daresay we could tweak it a little bit to make it a bit better, but there's no actual fix.

The only true representation of the people would be to hold referenda for every decision and that'd be exorbitantly expensive...
 

SS4

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Allow me to quote The Who: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Is it really that hard for each party to get a number of seats equivalent to their share of the vote rather than based on how concentrated said support is? This in turn leads to gerrymandering but let's face it, it's not in the interest of Labour or the Conservatives so it won't happen.
 

jon0844

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Let's have everything decided based on the Facebook group with the most likes, or a policy that gets the most re-tweets!
 

Schnellzug

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The way I see it, the situation is like a merry-go-round.

1) The current X government is awful!
2) Let's replace them with the Y party!
3) Horray, the Y party won! We'll never vote for that X lot again!
4) <Decade or so passes>
5) The current Y government is awful!
6) And repeat.

This probably happens because either people forget how bad X was, or they are too young to remember the bad old days when X was in power, and can only go on misrepresented stories from their elders.

In a way, I don't mind this system, because it almost guarantees that one particular party cannot hold power for too long. That said, I do wonder how much waste is caused by political rivalries, especially during election seasons. This goes not only for party vs party, but also rivalries within the parties (Blair vs Brown, anyone?)
It seems to me there are analogies with the franchising system; all the effort goes into getting the franchise/getting Elected, then come a few years of complacency because all of a sudden, the wishes of the People don't actually seem so important, then all the effort goes into campaigning to be re-elected/re-bidding for the franchise, and they don't have the time to devote any attention to running the current service. And then they expect that the People/the DfT will decide purely on the basis of what they promise next time, and hope that everyone will forget the hash they made of things in the previous term.
 

Greenback

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I don't think that you can get to the bottom of the current malaise by just looking at the political system alone. You also have to look at big business, which seems incapable of generating wealth in this country without also generating socially divisive levels of inequality. There is also a legal/judicial system which seems to be continually out of step with public views of justice (the prisoners votes fiasco being a case in point). There is a democratic defecit in the regions, aggravating a concentration of wealth and power in the South East.

There is a lot wrong at the moment.
Agreed. I am not convinced that the party political system is a good thing, and I think we also need to look at an alternative to capitalism.

It seems to me there are analogies with the franchising system; all the effort goes into getting the franchise/getting Elected, then come a few years of complacency because all of a sudden, the wishes of the People don't actually seem so important, then all the effort goes into campaigning to be re-elected/re-bidding for the franchise, and they don't have the time to devote any attention to running the current service. And then they expect that the People/the DfT will decide purely on the basis of what they promise next time, and hope that everyone will forget the hash they made of things in the previous term.
Yes, I can see the similarity!
 

Butts

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Agreed. I am not convinced that the party political system is a good thing, and I think we also need to look at an alternative to capitalism.



Yes, I can see the similarity!
Comrade Greenback do I detect a stalinist sleeper cell alive and well in Llanelli awaiting the (2nd) revolution :lol:

Seriously which system would you suggest as an alternative to capitalism ?

Personally I think the biggest problem with the current electoral system is the ELECTORATE :oops: (or a majority of them)

Most people have no interest or understanding of politics and are only really concerned when something is going to effect their pocket directly.

This enables a small clique of activists of all political persuasions to manipulate the system to their own ends.:p
 

Yew

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I would prefer a system with proper coalitions, instead cameron and his bitch.

The french have something like that, with quite a few parties, that form a coalition to make a government that is neither too left or too right, and cant force its personal ideology onto the country.
 

SS4

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Personally I think the biggest problem with the current electoral system is the ELECTORATE :oops: (or a majority of them)
In my opinion it's first past the post. It's retarded that a party can get a majority on 30-40% of the vote. First past the post props up a bipartisan system - with a fair voting system you'd get more parties.
As for the electorate what's the point? Your vote matters only if you live in a swing seat - it's hardly surprising voters are disillusioned when it doesn't really matter.

The media has too much political power now - you need only look at that infamous Sun headline ("it was the sun wot [sic] won it" or something along those lines) and, more recently, the vast majority of media time and space enjoyed by the (emotional, not factual) arguments against AV.
 

Yew

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As for the electorate what's the point? Your vote matters only if you live in a swing seat - it's hardly surprising voters are disillusioned when it doesn't really matter.
Thats true, my area is always labour, so my vote doesnt really count for anything does it?

Maybe we could have it so you vote for your MP, but then they have a big vote for the prime minister?
 

SS4

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Anyone remember this poster:


Doesn't it ring very hollow all of a sudden?
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Thats true, my area is always labour, so my vote doesnt really count for anything does it?

Maybe we could have it so you vote for your MP, but then they have a big vote for the prime minister?
As since your area is always Labour (as is mine) that enables them to parachute in candidates making a mockery of the close link between constituents and MPs.

Voting for a separate PM could be tricky especially if he was a different party to Parliament - nothing would get done. Abolition of the party whip would be nice but I could see anarchy developing with nothing being passed.

I don't want to make this a topic about voting systems but is it really that hard to have STV? If STV is too hard why not have a pool of candidates and you vote for a party who are then given the appropriate number of seats?
 

Butts

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In my opinion it's first past the post. It's retarded that a party can get a majority on 30-40% of the vote. First past the post props up a bipartisan system - with a fair voting system you'd get more parties.
As for the electorate what's the point? Your vote matters only if you live in a swing seat - it's hardly surprising voters are disillusioned when it doesn't really matter.

The media has too much political power now - you need only look at that infamous Sun headline ("it was the sun wot [sic] won it" or something along those lines) and, more recently, the vast majority of media time and space enjoyed by the (emotional, not factual) arguments against AV.
Mind you look what happened up here at the last Scottish Parliamentary Elections, the SNP obtained an overall majority on a minority of the vote with a PR system in operation :p
 

SS4

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Mind you look what happened up here at the last Scottish Parliamentary Elections, the SNP obtained an overall majority on a minority of the vote with a PR system in operation :p
That is true. Aren't some MPs elected by PR and some by FPTP? I'm not entirely sure how SMPs are elected :oops:
Certainly a freak result though.

Speaking of politics, as a resident of Birmingham we're to have a referendum on whether to have a directly elected mayor in May (iirc). What have we heard? Nothing. At local level this is a serious issue, we're not given enough information to make an informed decision. Sure one can seek information for themselves but how many can you see doing so?
 

ainsworth74

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In my opinion it's first past the post. It's retarded that a party can get a majority on 30-40% of the vote.
Indeed the last government that actually won a majority of the votes cast (rather than seats) was the Baldwin government of 1931. We had a few come close in the 50s and 60s but certainly has been a while since a government had the majority of people vote for them.

Maybe we could have it so you vote for your MP, but then they have a big vote for the prime minister?
Well if Prime Ministers are going to continue to be presidential in the way they conduct themselves then we should certainly consider such a thing. Certainly I don't think it should be possible for a prime minister to stand down and there not then be a general election (the business with Brown taking over from Blair still leaves a bitter taste, there should have been an election).
 

LE Greys

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Mind you look what happened up here at the last Scottish Parliamentary Elections, the SNP obtained an overall majority on a minority of the vote with a PR system in operation :p
Aren't they a great advert for the party system. Allow all the others to sabotage their reputations, pick a bunch of populist policies, win a landslide, then use a mixture of McCarthyite tactics to sabotage any sensible argument against independence whilst using salami policy to gain it no matter what the result of the referendum is. Presumably to be followed by declaring victory whatever the result is. :roll:
 

Butts

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That is true. Aren't some MPs elected by PR and some by FPTP? I'm not entirely sure how SMPs are elected :oops:
Certainly a freak result though.

Speaking of politics, as a resident of Birmingham we're to have a referendum on whether to have a directly elected mayor in May (iirc). What have we heard? Nothing. At local level this is a serious issue, we're not given enough information to make an informed decision. Sure one can seek information for themselves but how many can you see doing so?
You vote for a candidate in your consituency on the first paper and a party on the 2nd - I suspect you are correct the first one is FPTP and the second STV I think or some other PR deritative.

I voted SNP on the first and Conservative on the 2nd - I believe I was the only person in Falkirk to do so :p
 

Zoe

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You vote for a candidate in your consituency on the first paper and a party on the 2nd
However if your party does well in the First Past The Post seats, it puts you at a disadvantage in the Proportional Representation seats.
 

Butts

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However if your party does well in the First Past The Post seats, it puts you at a disadvantage in the Proportional Representation seats.
Thats the idea of the PR element to redistribute the votes and second choices to the other parties and give them some representation based on the votes they garnered.
 

exile

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Quite right. Abolish democracy and have a benevolent dictatorship. I volunteer to be the benevolent dictator.
 

Schnellzug

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What i think (puts glass down on table and addresses bar in raised voice) What I think is that one of the basic problems is not so much the system of electing MPs to represent Constituents, but the system of promoting these MPs to Ministers and Secretaries of State and so on. That way, becoming an MP just means that (to many) it's just a step on the ladder; for many an ambitious MP, they're not interested in the Little People who actually voted for them, they couldn't care less about their whines about bus fares or the cost of parking or whatever; they're just interested in getting noticed and getting to be Junior Minister for Somethingorother, as a first step towards the Cabinet.
And that's another basic problem; to become Defence Minister or Transport Secretary, the only qualification you need is to be a succesful Politician; you don't need to have any knowledge or experience of the field of transport or the military. Look at Richard Hammond; last year he was in charge of Transport, now he's in charge of "Defence"*. Are we expected to believe that he's an expert in either of those fields? Is the Chancellor actually required to be a financial expert? George Osborne's only actual qualification appears to be a 2:1 in Modern History.[5] And he doesn't seem to have any experience in the field of finance at all. I think a bit step in the right direction, even if we must retain the Party system, would be to seperate consituency MPs from Ministers and insist on people being appointed to Ministerial positions who actually have knowledge & experience of those areas; have a former senior military officer as Defence Minister (or Secretary, I'm never sure which outranks the other), someone with experience in, say, the transport industry as transport Secretary, and so on.

*funny how little "Defence" is actually about defence, isn't it ..
 

Ivo

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Quite right. Abolish democracy and have a benevolent dictatorship. I volunteer to be the benevolent dictator.
I challenge you to a joust for the right to be crowned Benevolent Dictator of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The battle site shall be Parliament Square in the City of Westminster. Prior to the joust, both sides shall unite to destroy the House of Commons that sits adjacent to the battle site.

<D

Thats true, my area is always labour, so my vote doesnt really count for anything does it?
I can't help but feel sorry for you having heard that :( All I can suggest is that you move away at the first opportunity - or overthrow the MP.
 

Schnellzug

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I can't help but feel sorry for you having heard that :( All I can suggest is that you move away at the first opportunity - or overthrow the MP.
isn't that Democracy, though? Even if one person doesn't like it, if that's what the majority of the People choose, then that should be accepted, should it not?.
 
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