This is Open Government, but not as you knew it, Tony

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    10th May 2010


    But for how long?

    As the representatives of the would-be coalesced leaders issue their more-or-less identical spins (oh yes, they spun) to the waiting press, dodging in and out of buildings and cars – meeting one another on the quiet – we may have pause to reflect:

    Is this what ‘new, open’ government brings us?


    Two men from different parties, with another from another party kept more-or-less in the loop, hold the future of the country’s electoral system, and perhaps the country in their 4/6 hands, as though they only are the arbiters of all opinion, of all wisdom. As though there had been some clear message from the electorate. As though A plus C equalled B plus. As though Clegg’s 23% in the election meant he had more authority than Brown’s 29%.  As though Clegg’s 57 seats were of more value than Brown’s 258.

    Is this Mr Cameron’s Big Society Idea? Mr Clegg’s NEW Politics?

    Tony Blair used to say that he had ten issues across his desk every morning, and the press only ever got wind of one or two of them.  The press do not know a fraction of what is going on in the CamClegg ‘love-in’.

    I am not the only one who wonders about the moral rectitude of all of this behind-the-scenes to-and-froing.

    Tom Harris, Blairite MP  (yes there are still some willing to admit to this) says, tongue-in-cheek – First-past-the-post is a rubbish electoral system.


    “So, this is The New Politics, is it? This is the transparency and accountability that the reformers have been looking forward to? In almost any system other than FPTP (and, arguably, the Alternative Vote) this kind of secretive, grubby horse-trading between the parties would become an inevitable part of the electoral process. Yes, FPTP has produced this particular result – for the first time in 36 years. But as we know, this is the exception rather than the rule. Under most forms of PR this result would be replicated each and every time: the voters have had their say – now we can ignore them and negotiate away the policies they’ve just voted for in exchange for ministerial cars. Nice.

    And how can it be remotely democratic to give the failed leader of the third most popular party in the country such king-making powers? Why is Nick Clegg’s opinion on who should form the government of any interest to anyone? In Scotland – often erroneously cited as an example of PR working effectively – the LibDems came fourth in both the 1999 and 2003 elections, yet ended up sitting round the Cabinet table. I’m not making an argument for either of the two other parties being there instead, but what’s so democratic about losers being in government while more popular parties are excluded?”


    We might be forgiven for wondering about all of this.  Are the quiet chats in smokeless rooms a taste of the behind-the-scenes deals that will become the norm in Britain’s new “open” politics?

    For some days, perhaps weeks we will continue to be enthralled by the political goings-on. But before too long we might yearn for the leadership and certainties of Tony Blair, if we don’t already.

    Mr Blair was and still is derided by many for his “sofa style” government and “presidential” style. Yet, to repeat the point, it was HE who provided referendums and brought us ensuing political and accompanying electoral reform via devolution.  Reform that would NEVER have been considered by the Conservatives. In fact they voted against it – all of it. But the Tories above all parties have benefited from Blair’s changes in Scotland and Wales.

    This, I realise,  is to argue against my present position, which has changed in recent years. My position today is that despite the “fairness” attractions of doing so we should dump FPTP only after due consideration. Perhaps that is as far as Mr Cameron will go along this track. One can only hope. We know that that kind of consideration in itself will not be enough for the Lib Dems.

    For them proportional representation is the Holy Grail. They want it, and they want it now.

    We should remember this –

    With the first-past-the-post system in this election we relegated the BNP and even UKIP to the backbenches.

    It has kept out the fringe, odd and extreme elements.

    In response to the question –

    “Would the assassination of Tony Blair by a suicide bomber be justified as revenge for the war on Iraq?”

    – some lunatic said this –

    “Yes, it would be morally justified”.

    Tony Blair and the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ahmed Aboul Gheit, 6th May 2010. Still plenty to talk about, and plenty of people still listening.

    His defeat under FPTP is all I need to keep things as they are. Whether or not this idiot ever turns up for his RESPECTful reckoning. With proportional representation we might well find Galloway back ranting his anti antics in parliament.

    Apart from that, in this FPTP election Scotland and Wales did not swing to the nationalists, Greens or even any of the odd parties. As for the  Tories, they did as well, or rather, as badly as they did when Tony Blair’s New Day dawned, May 1997.

    Any form of proportional representation would actually benefit the Tories. At a national level they would begin to claw back support in the parts of Britain they are yet unable to reach. This is evidenced by their position today in both the Scottish and Welsh devolved governments. It was their saving, their opportunity to re-group, after annihilation in Scotland and Wales with Blair’s first win.

    It does and would provide more Tory seats, but less resilient and irresistible power.

    Mr Cameron will be making this fine judgement right now. His party may not be so keen to hear it.

    The Tories didn’t want devolution even with a proportionate voting system. The Liberal Democrats DID want it.

    Tony Blair’s government  – that of the so-called “dictator” – provided it.

    Talking about Mr Blair, as I do from time to time here, guess what he did on his birthday – which just happened to be the day his successor brought an ignominious end to Blair’s & New Labour’s triple winning streak, 6th May?

    Postal vote already in the post of course, he was in Egypt.


    “Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ahmed Aboul Gheit, met with the Envoy of the Quartet to the Middle East, Mr. Tony Blair on May 6th, 2010. The meeting addressed the latest developments in Palestinian-Israeli situation, especially in light of the recent developments on the political path between the two parties.

    The Official Spokesman for the Foreign Ministry stated that Aboul Gheit and Blair comprehensively addressed the various developments on the Palestinian territories either the West Bank or Gaza and the means available to the international community to improve the situation.”


    John Rentoul’s ‘No’, number 300, to Tom Harris’s question:

    “Is anyone going to ask the Labour Party if it wants proportional representation before we offer it to Mr Clegg?”
    Ashdown & Blair- ‘The Great Coalition/Merger Plan’

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    4 Responses to “This is Open Government, but not as you knew it, Tony”

    1. Duncan Says:

      Another instance of the spurious ‘vote fairly, get the BNP’ argument.

      First; no. The STV system which the LibDems and the Electoral Reform Society support is unlikely to elect the full 12 which would be proportionate to the number of votes cast for them. They would be lucky to get 1 and even then that would be unlikely given that ballots are cast under STV with an order of preference and most voters, even Conservatives, are unlikely to give the BNP additional preference votes. Even if they did get elected as we’ve seen with council elections they tend to get unelected again fairly quickly as they soon prove to be incompetent and corrupt – this hurts the BNP and from what we’ve seen the most effective solution for dealing with them, other than engaging with their voter base who feel disenfranchised at the moment, is for them to hold power briefly and screw it up.

      Second, it’s an appauling argument against any electoral system that it might give results you or I would not want. Those people voting for BNP representatives want BNP representatives. I’m sure you could argue ‘I think any result which gives a non-Labour MP is absurd and unacceptable because Labour are clearly the best choice therefore we’re going to have a dictatorial system under which no one but Labour MPs get ‘elected’. This would fulfill the desiderata of preventing the BNP from gaining seats; it would also be grossly unfair.

      Third, the main advantage of a proportionate system is it means that instead of some people getting everything they want (as happens under FPTP) and most people getting nothing they want, most people get some of the things they want. This is important if you’ve been voting for a third, fourth or fifth party for many years and are feeling increasingly bitter than their many good ideas never get forwarded as public policy whereas a party which only 30-40% of the population that bothered to vote wanted to win is allowed to enact its entire manifesto with only the slightest parliamentary scrutiny.

      Fourth, even your hero Tony Blair was willing to consider a reform to AV+ back in 1997 compromise; it was Gordon Brown who vetoed it.

      • keeptonyblairforpm Says:

        Hi Duncan,

        Good points. I only draw attention to the fact that the BNP were ousted under the present system.

        Personally I had no particular preference as I stood pencil poised last Thursday, for Labour or any of the parties this time round, like many of us I would hazard. Once I was a supporter of STV but the wider issues surrounding policy have dissuaded me in recent times.

        Btw, the point of much of this post is to show that in principle, whether you voted for them or not, and I didn’t, under Blair and FPTP the LDs got much of what they wanted, and that the Tories have never been in favour officially of any P.R. sysytem, and yet they have benefited from it in parts of the country.

        I don’t accept that the Lib Dems haven’t had any of their favourite policies implemented under FPTP, indeed history proves otherwise.

        I know all about Blair’s willingness to compromise on AV+, which is used in Wales and Scotland, after the referendums on devolution which HE provided. I have written about this here before. And I also know that Brown and Prescott vetoed it.

    2. home design Says:

      Hi, nice post.

      I really like it especially this one “The Tories didn’t want devolution even with a proportionate voting system. The Liberal Democrats DID want it.”

      I can’t wait to see your next post!

    3. celia walters Says:

      Murder is NEVER justifiable. If people start killing people because they believe they’re criminal then anarchy will reign and we will have no law or order at all then God help us

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