A hung parliament: punishment or poker?

I’m off to play poker tonight.

At my poker group we play for bottles of wine, rather than money. (Old nonconformist dissenting background. Still suspicious of gambling.) But had to come up with a system that was fair, because otherwise, all that happened was that it led to one huge hand at the end and one person went away with everything.

So we do things differently. After the first couple of rounds whoever is in the lead gets first choice of a bottle. Then whoever is in the lead at the next round gets another choice. And then, finally, the winner, second and third get a choice. It’s proportional poker playing.

Gambling seems an appropriate thing to think about this week as we head into the election. And it looks like we’re heading for a hung parliament. Typically, the scare stories are out about the dangers of a hung Parliament, but it seems to work quite well in a lot of countries. (One thing that has really annoyed me is statements about the effect on the economy of the hung parliament. It will lead to financial uncertainty, apparently. So now we’ve got to vote the way the banks want, have we? For a good rebuttal of that see this from the Economist.)

One of the things I like about the idea is that it will force the politicians to co-operate, to seek consensus. It’s the electorate behaving like a primary school teacher: forcing people to work together as a punishment for their squabbling. The idea of a hung parliament is quite appealing to people because anything that makes the Politicians work harder is, at this time, quite appealing.

But the other important this is that it could, finally, lead to a fair system of voting, where everyone gets a say. The first-past the post majority system hasn’t worked. Labour’s majorities of recent years have actually beenĀ  damaging for democracy: it’s allowed them to force through ill-judged and badly thought out legislation. It’s made them immune from detailed analysis. What we need, I think, is a Parliament which legislates much less, and much more carefully.

Politics, being driven so much by the media, always needs to be seen to be doing something. We’re being criticised: quick do something, do anything. Don’t think: act! The result is a raft of stupid legislation, like the recent Digital rights Bill and any number of pointless security bills.

In my constituency my vote counts for very little, mainly because my MP is a little-known bloke called D. Cameron. Any vote, not for the Tories is, then, pretty pointless. But it cannot be allowed to go on this way. A vote should count for something. The system is broken. It cannot be right that a government can form a massive majority with only a third of the popular vote. The more this happens, the more the disillusionment with politics will just continue. Even if the parties were not to reform the make up of the House of Commons along these lines, there are other options. I like Billy Bragg’s idea: that the second chamber (the present House of Lords) should be composed on the basis of the proportion of votes cast in the election. So, even if your vote doesn’t count for much in the first-past-the-post system, it would still affect the make up of the second chamber.

The point is that every vote should count for something. I want a system that is not winner-takes-all. Every votes should, politically, give voters the chance to go home with a bottle of wine.