How PM could end mythical SNP “One Party State”
Yesterday David Cameron gave a speech to the Scottish Conservative conference in which he suggested that Scotland was in danger of becoming a one party state. It doesn’t take too much thought to work out what is wrong with the use of that phrase. Scotland is not a state and there are several other parties who are free to participate in the election. The statement was clearly meant to appeal to the many Unionists who feel that their views are not represented in the Scottish Parliament at the moment. The SNP have been in power for nine years and are most likely about to win a further term with a majority. However, in the Scottish Parliament, where the system is designed to prevent a majority, that the SNP do so well is more a reflection on the paucity of the opposition than any inherent unfairness.
At Westminster you could argue things are different. You could say that Cameron’s exaggerated complaint does have a glimmer of truth about it. The SNP are much more overly represented at Westminster than the percentage of the UK vote they received deserved. That’s nowhere near a one party state but it does highlight that the UK is far from the most representative democracy. The problem for Cameron is that the exact same accusation could be levelled at the Conservatives who have a ruling majority but only received 24% of the registered vote.
Both the Conservatives and the SNP have benefited from an unfair system at Wesminster but they both have different policies for dealing with this problem. The SNP, who have no power to make UK laws have stated that they would reform the Westminster voting system to a proportional one. They in principle would vote to make a change that would actually mean that they would have 27 fewer seats based on the last election.
The Conservatives on the other hand, who actually hold the power to reform the system, have made no such move. In fact they have recently reformed the electoral system to favour themselves. They have changed the electoral boundaries to reduce the amount of MPs from 650 to 600. This was done to make all constituencies around the same size(based on registered voters in the constituency and not the population). This favours the Conservatives. It is estimated their current majority would have increased from 12 to 50 if the changes had been in place. The new Trade Union Bill would change how trade unions raise funding for political parties. This will make it much more difficult for Labour to compete with the Conservatives financially. Most importantly, the handling of the switch to individual electoral registration has meant millions have fallen off the electoral roll. These voters are most likely to be renters, students and from densely populated urban areas. They are most likely not to be Conservative voters.
So, while it is disingenuous to call Scotland or the UK a one party state. It is clear that there are some democratic deficits that we could address especially at the UK level. The SNP seem to be aware of and willing to do so. While the Conservatives seem to be moving us in the wrong direction. A politician who criticises a perceived democratic deficit should be willing to reform the system that causes it. Otherwise, they end up looking like a hypocrite.
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