I watched the UK election with interest. I even had the chance to vote in the local election for my ward in Hulme, but not the national election, which is a bit of a shame. For the last 7 or 8 years, I have been refraining from voting in the Greek elections*, because I do not live there anymore or pay taxes, and I do not consider it fair that I cast my vote one way or another on issues that will influence someone else’s life, but not my own. Clearly, the exact opposite is true when it comes to the UK elections. I do not believe that I should have a vote; it would be wrong if I had the right to vote in two different countries. But I do think that there should be a common system within the EU, through which citizens could decide to vote at the country where they live instead of their country of origin, like people can do in local elections if they move to a new region. That is the point of a United Europe, and with the technological means available today that should be more than achievable.
It is remarkable how the hung parliament is being made such a big deal. First of all, the term itself shows how strange the concept is in Britain; everywhere else in Europe people talk about a coalition government or a minority government. I absolutely understand the preoccupation; coalition governments are not the norm in Greece either and they are regarded with suspicion and doubt. But the fact is that it’s hardly an unusual phenomenon: the only other countries in Europe with strong majority governments are France, Malta and Greece. Not exactly a group to inspire confidence in strong majorities!
The other thing that I find interesting is the discussion about the electoral system. I always thought that the first-past-the-post system is unfair, and the more I find out about it, the more my belief is strengthened. A system in which one party needs 6% or 7% more than another party to get the same number of MPs is wrong. A system in which it is possible to end up with a government that received considerably smaller percentage of the vote than the opposition is wrong. The UK shouldn’t wait until this last -rather unlikely, but entirely possible- scenario happens before something is done to fix the electoral system.
Finally, I am constantly amazed by the fact that most people I know seem to despise the Torries! I guess this is because most of my acquaintances are in Academia, and the academic environment is not conducive to a conservative mindset. But the UK has a two-party system. If Labour is not in, then the Conservatives have to be in. And Labour had a long run since 1997. I am a strong believer in the necessity of change every so often. It is not good for Democracy if the same party rules for more than 2 or 3 terms. People get comfortable. People get sloppy. People get corrupted. You want the people who govern to stay on their toes. And if the idea of a Cameron administration is pure anathema to you and you feel desperation taking over your soul after today’s result, think of it this way: This is still the UK. Coalition governments cannot last long; it is not the British way! The Conservatives managed to turn a clear lead into a constitutional mess after only a few months of campaigning. Imagine what a few months of unpopular administration with all the financial measures the new government will have to take will do for their percentages!
In any case, one thing is certain. We live in interesting times.
*Very fitting anecdote: In 2000, during the Greek parliamentary elections, I was already living in London with my brother. We managed to get ourselves on an Olympic Airlines (the state-owned airplane company) flight back to Greece for free. We voted in the election and also took a short vacation from our studies. That is because the Greek parties (not only the government) arrange for tens of thousands of Greek citizens from all over the world to travel back to Greece to vote. This is the same Olympic Airlines that went bankrupt under mismanagement and was sold last year, and the same Greece with the huge national debt by the way.