Showing posts from March, 2015

Democracy in the UK #2: Who's afraid of the SNP?

Tony Crook was an MP for three years. He didn't do much in that time, and is mostly significant for what happened immediately after he was elected in 2010, during negotiations over who would form government in a hung parliament. Crook was a member of the Western Australian National Party - their only MP - and he became notable for insisting that, although he had been elected on an ideological platform basically the same as the Nationals in the rest of the country, as a West Australian National he wouldn't be joining the Nationals partyroom nor, necessarily, supporting the Liberal-National coalition to form a government.

Crook became pretty insignificant pretty quickly. But in the upcoming UK election, the odd spectacle of a previously unimportant regional difference driving a wedge between two ideologically very closely related parliamentary blocs is rearing its hard in a much bigger form: the Scottish National Party.

The SNP is perhaps slightly further left than the Labour Pa…

Everyone's wrong about the Intergenerational Report

Remember the 2010 Intergenerational Report? If you don’t, it’s not because you’re forgetful: a quick Google reveals that, apart from on the website of the Treasury itself, almost nothing was published about it at the time of its release. This year, it’s all over the news, and the reason is no mystery: Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott think that this report might be the start of a solution to the intense unpopularity of last year’s budget.
So, how big really are the differences between this year’s report and the last one? One of the biggest changes is in the presentation. Take the Forewords, written by the Treasurer of the day: Wayne Swan in 2010 noted that the report presents challenges which are “substantial, but … not beyond a nation like ours”, and briefly mentioned some of the government’s recent changes. Hockey, this year, repeatedly highlights the importance of reducing the debt burden, criticises the previous government, and praises the government’s economic plan for enabling Austra…

Democracy in the UK: #1 - How to vote / it's not easy being Green

For the next couple of months, in the runup to the general election here, I'm going to be writing a series of posts about politics in the United Kingdom, from the perspective of an outsider who's by now reasonably familiar with, but still slightly bemused by, the quirks of British democracy. Read them all here.

The place you have to start, coming from Australia, is the voting system. The lower house of the British Parliament - the House of Commons - is elected using first-past-the-post voting, rather than instant-runoff voting as used in the Australian House of Representatives. There are no preferences: you mark your first choice, and whichever candidate is the first choice of the most voters wins election. In 2011 there was a referendum on whether to switch from FPTP to an optional-preferential version of instant-runoff voting, here called the "Alternative Vote". FPTP was endorsed by 67% of people who voted.

To me, and I think to most people who've grown up in t…