The basic system in the United Kingdom is what’s known as ‘first past the post:’ essentially, whoever has a plurality of votes wins. Plurality wins are in fact somewhat typical results in parliamentary systems, given that parliamentary systems tend to spawn viable third and fourth parties like rotten meat was once believed to have spawned flies*; but it can be a problem when one side of the ideological spectrum is fragmented among several different parties, and the other is not. This is the situation in England right now, in fact; which is why the Liberal Democrats (who are the junior partners in a coalition government with the Conservatives**) were pushing an alternative voting scheme where you could indicate second and third choices, until somebody hit the 50%+1 vote mark.
As the PJ Tatler noted, the goal here for the British Left was to keep their fragmentation while eliminating the bad effects from it: presumably, the ability to reassign votes in divided elections would give Leftist candidates a better chance of actually winning seats. Alas, the vote went against the Liberal Democrats 2-1; partially because the Conservatives were naturally opposed to the notion… and partially because apparently the Labour party was not entirely in favor of it, either.
As you might have guessed, I prefer the restrictive straitjacket of a two-party system – which is a not-nice way of saying that I favor a simple, straightforward method of electing people. It’s been my experience that the vast majority of people who want to ‘reform’ our current federal, first-past-the-post, we-have-two-mainstream-alternatives-so-pick-one method of doing things are generally ideologues. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being an ideologue: I’m one myself. But if your ideology – or the ideology of your faction/party – isn’t succeeding in the marketplace of popular opinion, well, perhaps sometimes it’s not because the blind fools can’t recognize your genius.
We will now pause for people to assure us that in their case it’s all because of those who would hold them back; but they’ll show them! They’ll SHOW THEM ALL!!!!!
…Or something like that.
Moe Lane (crosspost)
*You may safely guess my opinion of third parties from my choice of metaphor.
**It made sense at the time.