Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

The Centre Cannot Hold

UK, British, politics, parties, centrist, left, right, partisan

The British may spell their words in funny ways, but their political problems do not seem all that foreign. Their left-of-center party has gone far left, Marxoid left; their right-of-center party has gone ultra-incompetent.

A healthy majority of Brits disapprove of both parties. So, no wonder many Brits are looking to create a new one.

A new centrist political party, no less.

Over at The Economist, the columnist writing under the name “Bagehot” (pronounced “badget”) predicts that this hope will be dashed, for at least three reasons:

First, Britain already has a centrist party, and it is not doing very well.

Second, there sure are a lot of contenders — 35 new parties have been formed just this year, including one called, with humble brag, “Sensible” — and all that competition fractionalizes the vote.

Third, the country sports the same system of vote counting and elections as America does, first-past-the-post, which “is hard on startups.”

That last point is worth thinking about. In multi-candidate races, the British-American electoral system declares as winners those who obtain a bare plurality of votes — thus ignoring the preferences of those who vote for minor party candidates. This means that those who “waste” their votes not only hurt the candidacies they like as second-best but also insulate the second-best parties from those voters’ influence. So the parties become narrow-minded and unhinged from an interested group of voters.

Bagehot thinks Britain’s centrists need to rethink, conjure up some new ideas. But what they need to do first is fix a system that prods political parties away from new ideas. 

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

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By: CS Admin


  1. Mike says:

    Approval voting could be a simple solution.  You vote for all the candidates you approve of and the one with the most votes wins.  You can vote for several promising minor parties and still support your usual major party.

    • Mario Guillont Jr. says:

      That’ the best idea I’ve heard ,yet, but leave it up to the Brits to “muck it up”. Aren’t these the same people that voted Mr. Winston Churchill out of office right after the war, after he had led them to victory over Nazi Germany. They came to their senses in 1952, but eventually had to leave office because of poor health.

    • Pat says:

      Just wondering how you would handle the person who runs on two or more lines?   What if a candidate runs as a Republican and a Conservative?   Or a Democrat and an Independent?   Do you get to vote for him (or her) twice?   Do you add all his lines together?   You can then expect the major parties to also run their candidates as libertarian, conservative, liberal, no-labels and independent.

      • Mike says:

        That’s a clever idea.  But even today, the party has to approve your candidacy if you want to run a a member of the party.  They use conventions and primaries to weed out frauds.  And there could easily be a law that only allowed you to run once per position.  I look forward to the day that we have to worry about such schemes…

      • Blake says:

        Pat, that’s an interesting question. Approval voting works on the concept that you vote for one candidate per ballot, so if a candidate is listed multiple times on the same ballot, your vote for that candidate would only count once. Instead of one person one vote, it’s one person one ballot.

        Does that answer your question? 

        • Pat says:

          Blake, not really.   Mike said you vote for all the candidates you approve of and the one with the most votes wins.  So how do you vote for one candidate per ballot and still vote for all the candidates you approve of?   That means either you are voting multiple times in the same election (stuffing the ballot box – which allows you to vote for the same candidate multiple times)  or you are selecting multiple candidates on the same ballot.    My question stands: are you voting for a candidate or a party?  If you’re voting for a candidate then what happens with the candidate who is nominated by more than one party? 

    • Blake says:

      Hi Mike,  I like how you explain approval voting but for me it’s even more powerful than what you suggest. Another way to look at it would be that you can support a single candidate and then get everyone else to also approve, show support, your candidate on their ballots. I call approval voting active voting. 

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