Vote hung parliament!

The English tend to resent people telling them what to do. But at the risk of provoking such resentment, I want to set out here why I think the best result for England from the British general election would be a hung parliament, and then discuss how best to bring about that result.

In a hung parliament, the party that was able to form a government – whether Tory or Labour – would be especially reliant on their MPs elected in Scotland and Wales (and, in the case of the Conservatives, their UUP MPs, if any) to pass legislation affecting England but not the countries those MPs are supposed to represent. If the government relied on some sort of pact with the Lib Dems (whether an actual coalition or an agreement to support the government on principle, if not in every single matter), it might be the case that the support of both the government’s non-English MPs and non-English Lib Dem MPs would be required to vote through English bills.

This situation would make the unrepresentative and unjust character of the West Lothian Question even more obvious than it has been under New Labour’s 13-year-long disproportional rule. So much so, in fact, that the WLQ could come to the attention of many more people in England who have hitherto been blissfully ignorant of it. Who knows, this could even provoke as much outrage as the expenses scandal, and English voters would be rightly furious that the government was exploiting this gerrymandering principle to impose its will on England. Even more so if the SNP and Plaid Cymru, in return for government concessions making the injustices of the Barnett Principle even more onerous to English people, decided to relinquish their self-denying ordinance by voting on non-Scottish and non-Welsh bills respectively in support of the government.

In short, a hung parliament could help bring about a constitutional crisis by waking English people up to the way they’re being ripped off by Westminster.

A second way in which a hung parliament could help along the process of constitutional reform is if the Lib Dems extract an agreement for constitutional and electoral reform in exchange for their support for the government. At the very least, this might involve proportional representation (PR); although I wouldn’t be too surprised if the lily-livered Lib Dems were content to let Gordon Brown (if Labour remained in government) have his insulting referendum on the Alternative Vote (which, as I’ve said elsewhere, is not a real alternative to First Past the Post), rather than pushing for a properly proportional system, which England deserves.

At best, the reforms that might follow could involve a constitutional convention, which the Lib Dems favour, in which potentially all options would be on the table, including an English parliament. It is, however, extremely unlikely that the party of government would agree to such a wholesale process of constitutional reform, even if the Lib Dems made it a condition of their support. However, smaller-scale reforms would be a step in the right direction; and under PR, there would at least be a reasonable chance of electing some English-Democrat and UKIP MPs, depending on which system was adopted.

How to vote for a hung parliament

Under the First Past the Post voting system, the sad truth is that, in most constituencies, it really doesn’t matter how you vote: the incumbent party will almost inevitably win. This is, for instance, the case in my constituency, which is a safe Tory seat.

However, if you are ‘lucky’ enough to live in a marginal constituency, then your vote might actually influence the eventual outcome of the overall contest, and could serve the cause of a hung parliament. This is what I’d recommend:

  • In seats where the Lib Dem candidate has a realistic chance of winning: vote Lib Dem, as this will increase the chance of a hung parliament
  • In seats where it is a fight between Labour and the Tories: either vote Conservative or any other party than Labour. Don’t vote Tory if a) the prospect of doing so makes you feel sick, including because they aren’t remotely interested in governing in the interests of England or English voters; or b) because the opinion polls nationally are suggesting the Conservatives are in danger of winning an overall majority – in which case, they don’t need your vote, and at least you’ll have voted in accordance with your conscience.

In my case, I’m pretty convinced I’ll end up voting UKIP because the only alternatives to the big three, in my seat, are UKIP and the Greens. As I said, it’s a Tory safe seat, so it essentially doesn’t matter how I vote, and none of the main parties are remotely interested in how I do so or in fighting for my vote. So I’ll vote UKIP because I’m furious with the way they all reneged on their commitments to a referendum on the EU.

If, over the course of the campaign, it started to look as though the Lib Dem candidate had a chance of winning, I’d switch to voting for him – simply in order to try and get a hung parliament.

So my recommendation is: vote hung parliament – if you can!


4 Responses

  1. Good call. Mine is a fairly safe Lib Dem seat, and although I’m inclined to vote for the Lib Dems as the best of a bad big three, I might just give UKIP my vote to help safe their deposit and piss off the Tories.

    There’s also the distinct possibility of Labour being pushed into fourth place in Lewes, if UKIP or the Greens show well.

  2. The hung parliament is certainly the best for us but it’s also, unfortunately, desirable for the EU with its raft of anti-sovereignty regulations ready to go, starting with the anti-hedge fund backdoor laws.

  3. […] in hope or vote in anger: Lib Dems or UKIP Posted on 19 April 2010 by David In a recent post, I set out why I think people should vote to bring about a hung parliament, if they can, as the […]

  4. Hi. Great post, it’s partially what spurred me and a few friends to create this website:

    It’s a website that equips people to be able to vote for a hung parliament pretty much like what you’re suggesting. Thought it might be relevant to your interests.

    We’re on Twitter as well at

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