EXPOSED: The Tories’ secret plan to prevent hung parliaments

Much has been made in the media this weekend of the Tories’ secret plan to increase VAT immediately after the election, if they win outright on Thursday. But it is becoming increasingly clear that they have another secret plan they aren’t telling anybody about: a plan to prevent future hung parliaments.

Right or wrong (and all the facts show they are dangerously wrong), one thing that the Tories have made perfectly clear in this election is that they are fundamentally opposed to having to share power with anyone. This of course makes a complete nonsense of the title of their manifesto (“an invitation to join the government of Britain” – have you noticed they are now emphasing not our place in government, but our status as mere contractors with government?), but that’s by the by.

Howver, there are two problems they have. The first one is the dirty little secret that WE ALREADY HAVE a hung parliament, and have had one for years. The House of Lords has been hung since the early noughties. Tory policy is now to “seek consensus” on creating a “substantially elected House of Lords” (presumably under their policy the appointed element will be to ensure the House has a single party majority but they are keeping conspicuously quiet about that) but since they are the only ones who disagree with the consensus that it should be elected using a proportional system, that won’t be achieved any time soon. It is well understood that if the Tories win an outright majority on Thursday, then Lords reform is dead as an issue for the next five years.

That leaves “Dave” with the power to appoint life peers on a whim, and the commitment to prevent hung parliaments. The current House of Lords has 704 members, 188 of whom are Tories. To form a majority and prevent a hung parliament, Cameron’s oft-repeated aim, he will need to appoint at least 300 Tories to the red leather benches.

Where will these 300 people come from? One can assume that a large tranche will be failed Commons candidates, meaning that even if you manage to vote down your local Tory candidate, they will be sitting in the legislature in a matter of weeks. We can also safely assume that they will come from the ranks of the businessmen and millionaires who have been bankrolling their campaign, including this delightful bunch of evangelical Christians.

This hasn’t come from nowhere. Back in October, the Times was openly speculating on the Tories appointing dozens of peers if they won the election before, presumably, such talk got stamped on by Andy Coulson and his close links with News International. But it is clear from the last few weeks that the Tories secret plan goes much, much further than even this.

But believe it or not, it actually gets worse. The biggest problem with the Tories’ war against hung parliaments is that with each election the chances of one forming increases as the country embraces multi-party politics. In 1951, 96.6% of voters supported one of the two main parties. In 2005, that figure was as low as 67.6%. The thing about FPTP is that if the vote share is evenly spread amongst 3 or 4 parties it ceases to return mostly single party majorities and starts becoming scarily random. Fundamentally, we remain stuck in hung parliament territory.

The Tories will be looking at Canada at the moment, which has had three hung parliaments in six years, and realising that even if that doesn’t happen here in 2010, we are heading in that direction. To prevent this, Cameron cannot rely on argument alone, he will have to change the system itself.

That means adopting a similar system to the ones they operate in those great bastions of economic and political stability Greece and Italy whereby the party which wins the largest share of the vote is given a bonus number of seats to ensure that it almost always wins an outright majority. Those bonus MPs would have no constituency and would be only answerable to the party itself. This is what is known as “strong government”.

Think this is fantasy? The Tory rhetoric over the past couple of weeks makes it clear that they will do everything in their power to prevent hung parliaments and having to share power with anyone. Therefore it is inevitable that they will have to adopt both these measures. While I am sure they will claim they have “no plans” to do either of these things, that is what they said about raising VAT.

Fundamentally, can you believe a word any of them say? We need to prevent all this by denying them a victory on Thursday. The polls this Sunday are quite consistent: while Lib Dem support is wavering slightly, we are still in a position to win the biggest share of the vote if the young people who have flocked to us over the last few days turn out rather than staying at home. They aren’t switching to either Labour or the Tories. So let’s get out there and enthuse them.


  1. Surprised you don’t mention Cameron’s proposal to reduce the number of MPs by 10%. He’s selling it as a cost-cutting measure, but to me it looks more like a deliberate attempt to further entrench Labour/Tory dominance.

  2. I think it is important to re-read this article, which makes some interesting points, now that the country has cast their votes. I have a few points to raise.

    Firstly, I am scared, and I am not the only one, of the percentage of voters who voted for the BNP across the country. In the system proposed by the Lib Dems, there is a strong likelihood that parties with such strong views, often campaigning on, predominantly, single-issues, will gain seats; this is, to me, a scary prospect – but perhaps parliament should represent these views if so many people hold them across the country?

    Secondly, perhaps as a result of the current system (as some voters wished to ensure that the Tories did not win a seat), the Liberal democrats lost seats and only gained 1 percent of the vote. (There is an interesting suggestion that, actually, the Lib Dems only gained votes due to Labour voters switching to the Lib Dems in Lib/Con marginals.)

    Thirdly, a change to the voting system with the STV is a fundamental change to politics and needs to be carefully considered by all parties. It seems to encourage smaller parties, as mentioned, and I believe, looking at the European examples, that this would result in larger parties, especially the Tories, breaking up with the divergent views of its MPs coming out (e.g. on issues such as Europe). Would the larger parties of the Tories and Labour split: would there be ‘Scottish Labour’; ‘Britain First. No To Europe Conservatives’; etc.!?

  3. I am sure Cameron wouldn’t nominate anyone on a whim. I’m sure he would consult someone trustworthy: his wife!

  4. Sad to see that PR is a deal breaker. All that says is Lib Dems for Lib Dems. That they would get into bed with the party that led us into an illegal war with countless loss of civilian lives, a party that would remove our civil liberties with an unwanted and expensive ID cards says more about what they are than their manifesto ever could. I voted for them. Now I know exactly what I voted for. Political and media whores, who will spin this untenable situation for as long as they can get air time out of it.

    PR should never be a deal breaker when there are so many greater issues to worry about. I expected them to stand alone and shun a coalition. How wrong could I have been. So far they have shown that when it comes to the really big issues, they don’t actually care as long as they get a whiff of power.

    Whichever way they jump, it doesn’t matter. They’ll disappear and those 54 MPs will only decrease in number.

  5. So “one thing that the Tories have made perfectly clear in this election is that they are fundamentally opposed to having to share power with anyone”.

    Got that one wrong, didn’t you?

  6. Well, no actually. The Tories DID make it perfectly clear that they were fundamentally opposed to having to share power with anyone. That’s why I – like lots of other people – was gobsmacked when it turned out that they were indeed willing to negotiate in a constructive manner.

    None of that is to suggest that if the Tories HAD won a majority, things would not have been very different indeed.

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