Episode 19: First Past the Post?
The Tory papers are hitting the delegitimisation thing pretty hard today. The front pages are:
Nightmare on Downing Street (Telegraph)
Miliband trying to con his way into No. 10, says PM (Times)
For sanity’s sake don’t let a class war zealot and the SNP destroy our economy – and our very nation (Daily Mail)
Post-election shambles looms as legitimacy crisis worsens (Independent, which may have surprised its readers by telling them to vote Tory)
And then for light relief, the two papers owned by Richard Desmond:
Why You Must Vote for Ukip (Daily Express)
Brits live sex show on Magaluf booze cruise (Daily Star)
The delegitimisation story is going to be an interesting test of how much power the newspapers still have. They have much less than they used to in most areas of our national life, and the same is probably true here. On the other hand, according to the surprisingly entertaining and interesting focus group reports of Lord Ashcroft, most voters don’t know it’s constitutionally kosher for the party coming second to form the government:
Most did not realise such an outcome was even possible, and many – including many who planned to vote Labour – were indignant at the idea: ‘They would have cheated their way in’; ‘It would be underhand. Not what the public wanted, not what the public said’; ‘It’s dealmongering, moving away from democracy’; ‘If that happened, at the next election, I’d think, what’s the point of voting?’ Not everyone was exercised about it – but so many felt so strongly that it suggested such a government would have a job persuading the public of its political legitimacy, however constitutionally permissible it might be.
If this focus group is representative, that’s a potentially big problem for Labour, in the event of the outcome that the polls are currently predicting: a Tory plurality of votes and seats, and a Labour government. One of Ashcroft’s interviewees had a compelling suggestion: ‘What happens if no one can form a coalition? Does it go to penalties?’