The UK election has gotten a lot of coverage here in the US, but the best news has largely been ignored by the corporate media in this country. (Guardian 5/7/10)
The Green leader, Caroline Lucas, promised today to be a radical and distinctive voice in parliament after overturning a hefty Labour majority in Brighton to become her party's first-ever MP.
Her stunning success, involving an 8.4% swing in the student and bohemian-heavy Brighton Pavilion constituency, marked the arrival of "a new political force in Westminister", Lucas said following a nail-biting eight-hour count that ended in ecstasy for her still disbelieving supporters.
However, the Greens' triumph was tempered by a slight drop in their share of the national poll, at about 1%, something the party put down to left-leaning voters switching to Labour or the Liberal Democrats to try to prevent a Tory government.
The last paragraph alludes to the undemocratic voting system that exists in Britain as well as here in the US. They call it "first past the post." It means that the candidate with the most votes in the district wins, even if that candidate is far from winning a majority. This means that parties can win a majority of seats in parliament or congress with a minority of the vote if there are more than two significant political parties. It also means that people whose views aren't represented by the main parties get partially or completely disenfranchised. For instance, Margaret Thatcher never came close to winning a majority vote in parliamentary elections.
Most European democracies (and most democracies in general) have at least some proportional representation. Proportional representation means that each party runs a slate and the voters vote for that slate, rather than running in various districts. Voter turnout tends to be much higher because there usually is a party to represent each voter, unlike the US where the Democrats and the Republicans only really represent wealthy, heterosexual, white, Christian males.
Some people like instant runoff voting, which gives the illusion of greater representation. However, with the way that peoples' second and third choices generally fall, using this system in district elections would just perpetuate the Democrats' and the Republicans' duopoly in power. I've seen instant runoff voting, in practice, on small scales in political clubs, and it does nothing to enfranchise people who are left out despite the theories behind it.
Having a Green in the British parliament will give a voice to progressive values and put pressure on the Labor and Liberal Democratic Parties to stop acting like Tory light. If only we had a Green or two in Congress here in the US.
Photo: Subterranean Tourist Board