‘Nobody wants a hung parliament.  Politicians of different convictions would never come to a decision.  It would lead to paralysis.  It would destroy confidence in the economy just at the time we are recovering.’   At least this is what Labour and the Conservatives think.  Well, they would, wouldn’t they?  They’ve worked hard to establish clear water between themselves and they want a free hand to do things in their own way.  ‘Only a party with a single majority can create a leader to make big decisions that are necessary.’ 

But hang on a bit.  Are the parties so far apart?   The Prime Ministerial debate on Thursday night was more like the X Factor than a clear exposition of policy.  Yes, the Lib Dems would scrap Trident, the Conservatives are wary of Europe and would give people more say in how schools, hospitals and local government is run,  Labour claims to be the only party with the knowledge and experience to run the economy.  But when it comes it comes down to it, isn’t this just political posturing – the need to say something different?  Wouldn’t all these stances need debate and modulation to arrive at a  policy that is likely to work? 

There is actually more that joins the parties than separates them.  Difference are of more of style than content.  We can always point to any government that has been in charge as long as Labour has and accuse it of ruining the country.  Novelty always seems more attractive.  But will a different party lead to different government?   The economy, war in Afghanistan, schools, the health service;  it seems that there is little room to manoeuvre.  What is required is a steady concensus.  People are fed up with the constant back biting and bickering of party politics.  It would be good to see Vince Cable sitting down with Gordon Brown and coming to an economic strategy that we can all trust.     Exit from Afghanistan is surely something that we all want and is too important to be left to party politics. 

Most governments in Europe are coalitions.  Are they any the worse for that.  Look at Germany for example.   Britain insisted on proportional representation after the war to prevent a return to totalitarianism.  Germany has been a model of success and stability since that time.     

 The problem with government is the politics.  Domination by a single party does not make for the best decisions; only those that are expedient.  The same could be said of our first past the post system.  It may facilitate decision making, but at the expense of important perspectives.   A significant proportion of the electorate are green, yet they are unlikely to get a seat.   The Lib Dems may capture the popular vote, but they will not necessarily get many more seats than they already have.    

Single party governments are  always looking over their shoulders to their supporters; the Unions, big business and the wider British public.  After a lifetime in medicine,  I am convinced that the NHS fails the majority of ill people, but no party dares address that.   I think our lives are too regulated, but any attempt to unpick that is accompanied with cries of outrage leading to reinforcement of health and safety.  There is too much fear in politics.  While an established coalition might affront the democratic principles we are so proud of and lead to fears of totalitarianism and tyranny,  there are times when it seems the only way to deal with a crisis.

Crisis creates opportunity for change.  We had a coalition during the war.  Even characters are dissimilar as Churchill and Attlee found they could work together.  Beveridge could bring on the Welfare State.  Surely the economy is too big a crisis to be left under the control of a single dominant politician, who shows every sign of being susceptible to paranoia.   But will the public see that?   Has the economy really created the crisis of a European war or is it like global warming – we know it’s there, but they effects of not hit us yet?  

The choice is this election is not really one of policy.  It’s all about personality.  I thought all three leaders performed really well on Thursday.  As polls indicated, there was really little to choose between them.   The choice, it seems, is between the devil we know and the bright new kids on the block, who we don’t.   Governance should not be about  politics.  This is not the way to solve problems. I think it’s time for proper joined up government we can have confidence in.

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