Me: "So what are you going to do today?"
Dad: "Stay here and watch the election coverage on the internet"
Yup, it's election time in the UK!
I'm not voting, because I don't think it's fair for people to influence the results if they don't have to live with the consequences1. For the record, if I had decided to vote, I would have picked the Liberal Democrats - their coalition with Labour did some good things in the Scottish parliament, and I think that would be my favoured outcome for this election. Although if there's a hung parliament and Labour end up in third place, as is being predicted, a Lib Dem - Conservative coalition might better reflect the way the country voted and therefore be a fairer outcome, if a less natural relationship.
Speaking of which, the chance that the Lib Dems might manage to push through some kind of electoral reform is one of my reasons for hoping they form part of the next government. The current first-past-the-post system is blatantly unfair; the Lib Dems in the UK (and the NDP in Canada) get far fewer seats than they should, given the share of the popular vote they attract. Given that the UK and Canadian systems are essentially identical, my wish is the same for both systems: a mixed constituency MP / proportional representation system like the Scottish one. In Scotland, everyone gets two votes - the first for a candidate in your constituency, and the second for a political party. A certain percentage of seats in the house are given to the candidates who win in each constituency with the first vote, and the rest are divided up among the parties according to what percentage of the second vote they won. This system let me vote for Donald Dewar, the Labour candidate in my constituency, who was a bloody good bloke and also guaranteed to win regardless of how I voted, but also for the Lib Dems, who, as I mentioned, used their PR share of the seats to form a governing coalition with Labour and get some of their pet issues (abolition of university tuition fees, universal free care for the elderly) into the books.
Anyway, I seem to have got sidetracked from the original purpose of this post, which was to lament that I miss the British election fever. It's just not the same in Canada; people don't talk about politics as much, and we're missing a certain British sense of silliness and fun. Every Brit I know in real life and on the internet is positively obsessed with this election, and I've had a fantastic time reading their posts, debating with them,and listening to the hilarious Vote Now Show podcasts from the BBC2. The last Canadian election campaign was deathly dull in comparison. My friends did talk about it, but not with the passion and obsession that you see in the UK. I think we actually discussed the US election more than the Canadian one. There were no election night parties with drinking games (featuring red, blue, and yellow drinks, obviously) based on the number of seats each party wins, and no-one stayed up all night to watch the results come in like everyone I know always does in the UK.
Part of the reason is that I'm in the West of Canada, where we're under-represented in parliament and where people are still voting when the results in the East are already known. Yeah, there's a complete ban on reporting those results until the Western polls close, but it doesn't exactly help to ease the existing sense that our voices don't matter and that people in other provinces have already chosen the government before we've even voted. I've watched election night CBC news shows where the outcome was announced within ten minutes of our polls closing, before a single BC vote had even been counted.
Electoral Quotient (Average population per MP):
Prince Edward Island: 33,824
New Brunswick: 72,950
Newfoundland and Labrador: 73,276
Nova Scotia: 82,546
British Columbia: 108,548
Combining this situation with a first-past-the-post system is a recipe for voter disengagement and dangerously low turnouts, especially in the West3. We should have a mixed constituency MP / proportional representation system. You know, like the Scottish one (see how I managed to link what I originally planned to write about back into what I waffled on about at the beginning? Blogging WIN!)
Can any of my Canadian readers from over-represented and/or Eastern time zone provinces please let me know if there's any more election fever there than there is in BC? I might have to come for a visit during the next election campaign...
Anyway, if you're in the UK, enjoy all the swingometer action tonight! Have some red, blue, and/or yellow drinks for me.
And, if you haven't voted yet, GET OUT AND VOTE! You have a right that's been given to only a tiny minority of the people who have ever lived, and which is still denied to far too many: please don't take it for granted.
1) Although I might vote next time just to make sure that I keep my rights in case I want to use them in the future - see Tideliar's recent post about trying to register as an overseas voter. I'd probably vote for the Green party though, or someone else who hasn't got a chance of winning.
2) I taught my parents how to play these podcasts from iTunes before I left this morning. They're both feeling homesick today.
3) Oh well, at least we've got the