Saturday, May 05, 2007

Moral logic and parliamentary arithmetic

The Scots have voted; now the manoeuvring for coalition partners begins.

Recap: the SNP leads with 47 seats, followed by Labour with 46, the Tories with 17, the Lib Dems with 13, the Greens with 2 and one other.

Alex Salmond argues that for a coalition to have “moral authority”, it would have to respect “the wishes of the electorate and the verdict of the people”. The principle he appears to be working from is: the larger the party’s representation, the more legitimate its place in government. Which sort of sounds reasonable.

(Unless, of course, he’s just saying such things to try to dissuade the Lib Dems from getting together with Labour again. But never mind that.)

This principle, however, logically has implications not just for who should be the senior coalition partner. There’s talk of either Labour or the SNP joining up with the Lib Dems and the Greens. But what moral authority do these minor parties have to form part of the government? The Tories, in third place, would surely have a better claim than either.

Indeed, on this logic the most morally legitimate coalition would be between the two largest parties: an SNP-Labour ‘dream ticket’. None of that unseemly mucking around with the minor parties – who are, by definition, the least popular.

No takers? Then you need a different moral logic.


Liam Murray said...

Not a different moral logic Tom, just the same logic to a different degree.

I'm not suggesting Salmond has sought this outcome but in theory if he asks McConnell (or whoever gets his job) and gets a 'no', asks the same of Gouldie (or whoever...) and gets 'no' then he's arrived at the Lib Dems and Greens by the same logic.

Perhaps Labour should call their bluff and make the offer (conditionally of course!)..?

Anonymous said...

¨Indeed, on this logic the most morally legitimate coalition would be between the two largest parties: an SNP-Labour ‘dream ticket’.¨

Indeed, on this logic the most legitimate coalition would be the two largest parties: an SNP-Labour dream ticket.

remove one word from your conclusion and you can see that such an alliance would be ´morally´ wrong. In this instance it would be wrong too.

Where does morallity come into this process? And who´s moral standards are you trying to impose?

Tom Freeman said...

Liam, I think such a pact would be briefly funny, if nothing else. But I reckon some of the politicians up there are still working with a two-party (Lab/SNP) majoritarian mindset, give or take: they reckon that either one or the other of them 'wins' the election, and then gets to govern with minor-party support.

But the proportional system (in effect) guaranteeing that no party is near a majority means, really, that any combination that can command a majority is fair game. (Certain pairings are no doubt unlikely and/or inadvisable.)

The moral standards I'm trying to impose (and yes, you're right to say 'impose' rather than 'critically analyse' - I have an 80,000-strong army ready to move on Edinburgh by dawn) are the ones implicit in Salmond's remarks. As I said.