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Westminster with Proportional Representation. Part 3

By Andy Cooke.



We all know what's happening here. Don't we?

Picture courtesy Wikimedia Commons.



This is the third and final part of Andy’s look at how Westminster might change, how the whole political arena might change had a different voting system been settled upon. Parts 1 and 2 of this series can be found Here and Here.


*****


“Good evening, and welcome to Election Night 2020. The polls are about to close and the exit poll will be revealed at 10pm precisely. There are many questions to be answered: Will Freedom finally overtake the Conservatives? How badly will the Tories be hit due to the earlier defections from them to the Moderates? Will F3 gain seats in Parliament? Will the Continuing Commonwealth Party enter Parliament...”


“Bob, I think we should emphasise that the Electoral Commission ruled that the Continuing Commonwealth were not related to the original Commonwealth Party that long since merged with the Co-operative Party.”



This is OTL's line up of party leaders for 2019.

Inspiring, wasn't it.

Picture courtesy Sky News.



“Thank you, Michael; I will confess that I’m not fully clear on why they allowed them to re-use the name?”


“It’s because the new Party...”


“The new Continuing Commonwealth Party?”



Not to be confused with the Common Wealth Party (logo above). This stood for, among other things, Morality in Politics. It never caught on.

Picture courtesy Wikipedia.


“...Just so... were founded and registered their name shortly before the rules changed to prohibit names being reused or too similar to an existing Party. It’s only since they laid their lawsuit to try to claim the original Commonwealth Party’s surprise inheritance last year, from a wealthy old lady who hadn’t not bothered to change her will, that they were forced to make that ruling.”


“Ah. Thank you. Anyway, polls are closing. Professor Curtice is remaining as impassive as ever, so no early clues there, I’m afraid. Shall we run through what we expect?”


“Indeed, yes. As always, we’re expecting Merseyside South West to provide the first indication, but Teesside, despite being a bit larger, has run them close in recent elections.”


“Just a moment, Michael; we should probably run through our standard answer to the standard question.”


Michael looked briefly irritated. “To be honest, I’d have thought that given that this is the fourth General Election in seven years, the answer would now be well known. However, to answer the standard question before someone sends it in: No, it isn’t unfair that some people have as many as twelve votes whilst some others have as few as four.”


“Or three, for Gwynedd, or the Scottish Borders.”


“Those are isolated cases; there are no fewer than six constituencies with as few as four MPs. But to answer the question: everyone has but one vote. The ranking merely governs to whom that vote is assigned – always the highest choice up your list that both needs it and can use it. It goes to your first choice unless they’re already elected or eliminated, in which case it goes to your second choice, and then your third, and so forth.”


“So forth, as long as you’re not in Gwynedd or the Scottish Borders, of course, because it would stop there at the third.”


“Thank you, Bob.” Michael looked as though it was a distinct effort for him to avoid rolling his eyes. “I think Professor Curtice has the exit poll for us now.”


“Yes, thank you. I must stress that this has noticeable margin of error, especially in some of the more far-flung county constituencies, but we do have a result.”


Over the bongs, the numbers appear.


An intake of breath. “Well, there we have it. A near three-way tie for first place...”


“Indeed. As I said, there are significant error bars, and any one of the Conservatives, Labour, and Freedom Party could be first, with 120, 117, and 116 seats projected for each in that order.


“Thank you, Professor Curtice, but the prospect of which coalitions are possible will be of greatest import.”


Michael and Professor Curtice exchange glances.


“Well, yes, of course. I notice that F3...”


“Faith, Flag, Family,” supplied Bob, helpfully.


“Thank you, yes. F3 has indeed won seats for the first time, if this projection is correct. Six seats; one in South Essex, one in North Essex, two in the Black Country – one in each of North and South, one in South Yorkshire, and one in Leicestershire, yes?”



It's a real thing on the left hand side of the Pond. Over there, it's often 5 Fs (Faith, Family, Flag, Freedom, Firearms). Clearly a modified version imported to the UK ITTL.

Picture courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


Professor Curtice nodded. “If our exit poll and model are right, yes. They could have as few as three or as many as ten, though. The new ‘Continuing Commonwealth’ Party has almost certainly fallen short, though.”


“And outside of F3 and the DUP, there aren’t many prospects to join a Conservative or Freedom-led Coalition, are there?”


“Not unless the Moderates...”


“Who were briefly known as the Country Party,” added Bob.


“Yes, yes, yes, for two elections they changed their name after defections from the Conservatives, but they’re back to the Moderates, via a stint as the Moderate Rural Party.”


“And they were originally known as National, and then Reform,” added Bob, obviously eager to show off his knowledge.


Yes.” Professor Curtis kept his tone level. “Well. Unless the Moderates, who we project to have about 75 seats, can be enticed back to join them – but they are well known to have problems with Mr Farage’s Freedom Party.”


“I don’t expect the Liberals or SDP will be tempted then, if even the Moderates see them as off limits.


“No. In any case, unless they’ve done noticeably better than projected, even a Conservative-Freedom-Moderate Coalition would fall a bit short; even with the traditional partners in Northern Ireland of the two Unionist Parties, they’d need all six of F3 to make a kinfe-edge majority of one.”


“So, looking at the other end of the Chamber...”


“Yes. Labour and the Co-operative Party will go together, almost by definition, taking them to 153 seats.”


“The Co-operative Party, of course, being the effective inheritors of the actual Commonwealth legacy, since the two parties merged in the Fifties,” supplied Bob.


“...and the Socialist Party are projected to have 33 seats. Whilst the Greens, SDP, SDLP, and the solitary MP for People Before Profit could be expected to be amenable to an offer, that takes them to only 230 seats – still just short of the Conservatives plus Freedom alone.”


“It looks like a bit of a mess. Again. Any chance of a Centrist Coalition again, like in the Eighties?”


“The Liberals still haven’t fully recovered from 2011, I’m afraid, still less the SDP. The old Liberal-SDP-Reform grouping – now Moderate-Liberal-SDP in terms of current party names and sizes – only amounts to a projected 150 seats. They’d need confidence and supply from at least two of the Tories, Labour, and Freedom.”


“That’s not happening.”


“Can the parties afford a fifth election in seven years?”


“Can their activists afford the shoe leather? I don’t know. I think we’ll see an attempt by the Conservatives and Freedom to put in a joint Queen’s Speech and dare the others to vote them down and force a new election. Or if Labour tack further to the Centre, perhaps they could form a Rainbow Pact with the Moderates and Liberals? The Socialists might not be happy with them, but if they can be convinced to provide confidence and supply to a centrist Labour-led Coalition with the SDP, Liberals, and Moderates on board, it could be stable.”


“And if the Conservative-Freedom Queen’s Speech is voted down, that’s rather what I’d expect to see. At least for a couple of years.”


*****


“It’s the second night of Election: 2020, and we now have more than half the seats declared. Some constituencies have even completed their entire quota – the smaller urban constituencies, of course. Professor Curtice, could you provide an update to your projection?”


“Well, Michael, it’s gratifyingly close to our original exit projection. The Conservatives have stayed just ahead of Freedom, who have crept ahead of Labour, but that could still reverse. One thing of interest: our data in Leeds-Bradford seems to have been correct in indicating that RESPECT have indeed failed to return to Parliament.”


“Ah – the pictures?”


“Yes, dirty tricks have been alleged as some pictures of the leading female candidate there were leaked onto the Internet. Regardless, this has damaged her vote share and she was the second one eliminated in Leeds-Bradford.”


“The fourth seat in Oxfordshire has been declared, I understand. Bob, do we have anything on that?”


“Yes, that’s now two Liberals, one Labour, and one Moderate. We expect the SDP to get the fifth seat, the Co-op to get the sixth, and the seventh could be anyone’s. The Greens, a Socialist, or a second Labour seat, or a second Moderate seat, or a third Liberal seat – even a Conservative seat.”


“Freedom, Continuing Commonwealth, and F3 all out of the question, then?”


“All their candidates have already been eliminated, yes.”


“Thank you.”


*****


“And on the second morning, Election: 2020 draws to a close. Turnout was down, as expected – a winter campaign has that effect; many activists have said they’ll not forgive the politicians for collapsing the last Government just a week after the House returned in January for a January-to-February campaign.”


“As to which politicians they blame, well, that depends on the party of the activist you ask.”


“As you say, Bob. In any case, the scores are now well and truly on the doors, so to speak. The Conservatives are the largest party again, with 121 seats, and Freedom close behind on 116. They have already said they will try to form a Government and tempt other parties to join them. Labour is third on 115, the Moderates have 76, Liberals have 54, and then a near-tie between Co-op and SDP on 41 and 38 respectively. Socialists a little behind on 32, SNP on 15, and then we’re down to the single-figure parties. F3 do indeed have 6 seats; Professor Curtice’s exit poll was spot on with that. Five for the DUP, 4 for Plaid Cymru, 3 Ulster Unionists, 3 Alliance, 2 SDLP, 2 Alba, 1 People before Profit, and the Speaker completes the tally.”


“Thank you. To quote Mr Powell in 1976: Make a Government out of that, if you can.”


“To be fair, they did end up doing so in 1976, didn’t they? The Lab/Lib/Socialist/Co-op Government looked precarious, but it lasted until 1980.”


“True. And our speculation from the night before last might well be right. Labour has already made some noises about dropping the more left-wing promises, so a Coalition led from the left hand by Labour with support of the centrists might just be on the cards. Well, we’ll learn more in the coming days. Let us hope for a quiet end of February and a quieter March with minimal controversy to let things come together.”


“Agreed. Thank you, Michael, and thank you to our viewers. We’ll be wrapping up and the Morning Show will be on after the break.”


*****

I do have fifteen hundred words or so on the unfolding of elections and coalitions between the POD and present day, but that’s mainly to keep things straight in the above and aim for plausibility; I’ll spare you the lengthy ramble.


There are so many possibilities for electoral outcomes by the present day. I’ve used a semi-porous butterfly net with much unfolding on the international front similarly to OTL. You may have worked out that we’re seeing the effects of County-level STV (or borough-level or city-level), with constituencies of 4-12 MPs in size (with counties, cities, and boroughs split as logically as possible to get down to a maximum of 12 members).


Major events have often happened as in OTL (the Great Depression, WW2, the oil shock of the Seventies, the collapse of the Soviet Union), but some are different – and that is up to the author of the TL to decide. As I said, there are so many plausible options.


Rather than go through the elections and Governments from 1928 to 2020 in painstaking detail, I’ll just summarise that parties in Parliament at the February 2020 General Election. From right to left:


F3 (Faith, Flag, and Family): Think “Cornerstone Group” meets a semi-sanitised BNP. Those for whom the Freedom Party are too woke and liberal. The spiritual successors of Oswald Moseley. Here, they’ve just won 6 seats after forming a few years earlier (but then, a hard right splinter Party always keeps on forming, pulling apart, and dissolving; this is the most recent incarnation). Hard right to far right socially; tending left to hard left economically.


Freedom Party: This TLs version of Reform/Brexit/UKIP. Off to the right of the Tories. Splintered from them after WW2 and initially adopted the name “Constitutionalist Party”, claiming to have revived Churchill’s Constitutionalist Party (which still existed ITTL and even lasted a lot longer. Note that this claim of revival was disagreed with vehemently by Churchill, who was more than displeased with them). They’ve managed to win 116 seats and this time had hoped to finally overtake their parent Conservatives. They are usually either in coalition with the Tories or are sidelined by them when the Tories want to trend more centrist.


Conservative Party: It’s the Tories. The core of them, anyway. Even when the left wing heads off to the Moderates and the right wing to Freedom, the core keeps rolling. Out of conservatism, obviously. They’ve just held 120 seats which is close to their lowest ever; they’re quite worried about Freedom (often their junior partner) becoming their senior partner.


Moderates: Originally split from the Liberals in the aftermath of WWII; they wanted to stay in the National Government. Basically, the National Liberals (and heirs of Lloyd-George’s Liberal Nationals who, ITTL, did not split from the Liberals between the wars). Named the National Party initially, these more right-wing Liberals went into coalition with the Tories, but insisted on holding themselves separate – unlike in OTL. At a couple of points when the Tories shifted to the right, the more left-inclined Tories ended up migrating to them – in the Sixties (when National, after going through a period as “Reform”, became “The Moderate Party”), and then, in the Nineties when the Tories almost split into shards, a considerable swathe of rural One Nation Conservatives jumped ship into a new Rural Party which then merged with the Moderates as, initially, the Country Party (and then back to “Moderates” a decade later). They have been in coalition with the Tories a few times, the Liberals once (in a centre grouping with the SDP) and occasionally provided confidence and supply to both the Tories and Labour (obviously not at the same time). They have just won no fewer than 76 seats and may hold the whip hand in coalition-building or support after the 2020 election.


Liberals: Despite their fissiparous nature, the core of the Liberals continues. They have been in Coalition with the Tories (although rarely when Constitutionalists or Freedom have been involved – although not never) and Labour at different times, and at one point in the Eighties, actually led a Centre Grouping for a full Parliament (Liberal/Moderate/SDP). It did not split seriously before WW2 (unlike OTL) thanks to the shift to STV, apart from a splinter group led by Churchill called the Constitutionalist Party (no relation to the later Party of that name that split from the Tories). Churchill’s original Constitutionalists eventually merged with the Tories during WW2. They had their only full-on split after WW2 when the Nationals split from the Liberals. They have had both inflow and outflow to and from the Moderates and SDP. Blamed (somehow) for the GFC after playing too clever with coalition swapping at the time and were badly smashed in the 2011 election; they have since climbed back up to 54 seats.


SDP: Labour was always going to end up splitting at some point. You knew that, right? And despite all the other names, Social Democrat was always going to be taken. Lefty liberals or liberal lefties, you make the call. Split off in the late Seventies this time, usually support Labour (at the price of pulling Labour centre-wards) but have been in coalition with the Liberals and Moderates for a memorable Centre Coalition Government from 1982 to 1987. They have also taken a lot of damage since 2011 (they received some of the blame for the GFC – it’s always smaller members of coalitions that carry the can) and are flatlining at 38 seats.


Greens: Although actually leftier than Labour, they somehow always seem to be placed here in the views of the public ITTL. They’re broadly similar to how they are in OTL; here, they have just won 13 seats. Usually not officially in any Coalition, they can be bought into confidence and supply on a year-by-year basis with appropriate offers of policies. But only by Left or Centre coalitions.


Labour: As with OTL, the Labour Party survives, albeit winnowed off of its wings. One significant difference is that Ramsey MacDonald is still revered – as he never entered a National Government with the Tories (he led a Lab/Lib Coalition from 1928 to 1932 and, after making several attempts to sort out the situation with Liberal support, as some of his Cabinet defected to a brief Independent Labour Party, he concluded it was impossible. Apologising to the King (famously quoted as saying: “Sir, I tried. I really did.”), he called a one-year-early election in 1932 which was won by the Conservatives with a shock majority – until then, thought impossible under STV. Always allied with the Co-operative Party (who have nominally remained separate ITTL), they have won 115 seats this time around. Despite coming third, they are seen as being more “Coalitionable” than either the Tories or Freedom as long as they drop the Socialists.


Co-operative Party: Started with the same history ITTL, but the advent of STV meant they chose to remain nominally separate (but in practice often co-ordinate their candidates with Labour, discuss closely on policy platforms, and reputedly even share their whip). The original Commonwealth Party (formed during WW2) eventually merged with them (rather than Labour) in the Sixties, and this is behind the fact that they are regarded as slightly to the left of Labour (not necessarily accurately). Have just won 41 seats.


Socialist Party: Definitely to the left of Labour; they first entered Parliament in the 1954 election. First entered Government in 1969 in coalition with Labour and the Co-operative Party. Often have a fractious relationship with the rest of the left (shocking, I know). Now have 32 seats.


Other Parties: SNP (15), DUP (5), Sinn Fein (4), Plaid Cymru (4), Alliance (3), UUP (3), SDLP (2), Alba (2), People Before Profit (1), Speaker (1).


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Andy Cooke is a very prolific author. His books range from political punditry to ending the world. These include the series The End and Afterwards and The Fourth Lectern [4], which predicted the rise of UKIP on the British political scene. He has also written the portal fantasy series for young adults, The Shadowlands Chronicles [5], and Skyborn [6], a post-apocalypse story with airships.





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