Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Britain is going very well in the polls and in three-way leaders’ debates. His party is currently the third political force in UK politics.
David Cameron, leader of the Conservatives is hoping to end the long reign of the British Labor Party under former Prime Minister Tony Blair and latterly the hapless Gordon Brown.
Gordon Brown’s Labor Party is relegated into third place in all the polls but it smugly believes that the Liberal-Democrats will allow them to govern in minority. Nick Clegg’s Liberal-Democrats have increased their popular support to be neck-and-neck with the Conservatives. Mr Brown is relying on its strong concentrations of Labor constituencies to retain sufficient seats in the House of Commons to command a chance to form a minority government with the aid of the Liberal-Democrats.
Unlike Tasmania’s Hare-Clark proportional representation system, the British first past 50% of votes-plus-1 electoral system means that although Mr Clegg may have over a third of the popular vote in Britain, they will obtain far less than that proportion of the seats in the Commons. That’s their system.
There are some stiking similarities and points of difference between Tasmania’s recent election outcome and the likely result of the up-coming British election. Both elections are three-way contests in Westminster-style democracies. The emergence of a third political force has emerged out of disillusionment with the two mainstream political parties epitomised by stale politics, self-serving parliamentarians, a lack of ethical conduct and a series of political scandals.
Mr Clegg and Tasmanian Greens leader, Mr McKim have more in common than their first name. Both are conviction politicians and leaders of relatively new political parties. Both want to be part of government and realise they can be king-makers in a minority government.
After David Cameron went public stating that a vote for any party other than the Conservatives would be a vote for a re-elected Gordon Brown-Labor government, Nick Clegg went on the front foot immediately. He courageously told Britains that if Labor was relegated into third place in the popular vote – as the poll continue to predict – his party would not be awarding government to Gordon Brown by default. BOOM BOOM!!
Gordon Brown had taken it for granted that even in a minority Parliament, Labor would get back in AGAIN on the back of Liberal-Democrat support. Apparently not!
See the contrast?
It’s still a few weeks out to the election – dirty tricks from Labor could still happen to try and kill off the Liberal-Democrats vote – but Mr Clegg certainly senses that the British electorate is in no mood to see Labor re-installed for another 4 years!
Unlike Nick McKim, Nick Clegg has declared his hand before the election and stated that in a minority Parliament he will not be supporting the incumbent.
Both are modelled on British-adversarial parliaments, yet one is a very large democracy of over 65 million people and the other, a diminutive one of half a million. Political tactics is an art as much as a science; sensing the popular mood, anticipating the reaction of your political opponents and predicting the turn of events makes politics the hubristic power game that can turn good, altruistic individuals into bullies and psychopaths.
The Tasmanian Greens and the Liberal-Democrats in Britain are both third-force, new-age parties. I watch with interest their tactics of their leaders and how successful they are in gaining influence in minority governments.