Broken Promises and the Westminster System

I can’t help but notice an occasional Labour refrain, “The Lib Dems are breaking their election promises” – admittedly, not quite as regularly as the Conservative refrain “The mess we were left with”.  Both should be dropped.

Our parliamentary system means that we elect representatives rather than governments, so “election promises” are curious things that should always be associated with a caveat “If we were to form a majority administration”.

Neither the Conservatives nor the Liberal Democrats won the election (enabling them to form a majority administration), so it is hardly surprising that neither have the necessary majorities to put their respective manifestos into effect.  What Labour need to remember is that they did not win the election either and consequently their manifesto promises are lying (broken) in shatters on the floor of the sports centres where the counts took place.

Coalitions are more likely if we were to move away from first past the post, so we have to take a more mature attitude to manifestos and to be willing to question candidates prior to election as to their attitudes and priorities.  We then have to be more tolerant of partial implementation of manifestos.  Hopefully any post-election coalition agreement is recognised (by a majority) as preferable to the manifesto of the main opposition party.  With PR, our representatives will be more representative, so a majority in the Commons is more likely to relect any majority in the country.  With first past the post it is more of a lottery.

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