There was a lot of talk after the formalisation of the current coalition, and indeed before, of how this will be a test case for a PR coalition. This analysis is flawed on several basis. For one, to have consensus based politics, you must have some level of agreement to form a consensus with. This is why the LibDems and the Tories coalition is running into so many problems. They went in to this deal, with so much polarity. The defenses waged against the coalition is that it was of economic necessity, but then when considering the LibDems mantra before the election, this seems rather hypocritical.
So what about consensus based politics then? I mean, I know there may be some comments or replies or whatever, telling me how wrong I am and how the ConDem government is a test case for PR. But seriously? For one thing, PR would represent a more pluralistic outlook – it would cover more viewpoints – instead, the current governmental position looks little more than the Tory manifesto in practice.
Then this gets you thinking, well does consensus based politics actually work? Or is it a question of type. I mean, for me, consensus based politics does work. But then I am ready for the charge that as I am not in support of the current coalition that I am somehow against consensus based politics. I hope the above clarified why I think this is not a case example of consensus based politics. To have true consensus based politics we need a proper PR electoral system, anyway – and that has been shot down due to this time-wasting AV referendum.
The type of consensus based politics I would advocate is that shown by the Coalition of Resistance, for example. It is an example of a movement that is facilitating progressive policies and bringing members of all parties together to fight against the regressive nature of the current government’s economic policies. Then there is the World Social Forum, which facilitates the alternative globalisation movement against neo liberal capitalist global explanation. It sees feminist movements united and plurally involved to help further women’s emancipation, for example.
This is the type of consensus based politics that works. You can’t have a consensus based on polarised groupings. You can come to a compromise, but it is rather different to govern on the basis of favours and short straws in comparison to governing on a broad basis of support for polices and actions. The current government has a very slim and increasingly reduced baseline for its support – and the ideological divisions amongst the actual parties themselves are making it hard for a consensus to be formed.
The FT had an interesting article the other day about how Sweden’s politics is based on consensus, where trade unions and different parties etc are all brought together to formulate policies. I would like to imagine this working, but I really can’t see it working with right-wing parties and trade unions, for example. I mean, this is why the current government isn’t gelling that well. They are too polarised in terms of their ideological disposition. But to have a PR system, there would be less dominance of one party, most likely anyway, and more consensus based policy making as there would be a much more diverse range of parties.
I hope that makes some sense, and goes some way to attempting to understand what the current government means for consensus based politics. It is a useful debate to think of when we are thinking of future progressive movements and governments. For me, right-wing and left-wing ideologies can go together in some form, but for a basis of consensus, it wont work. Instead, progressive alliances need to be formed – and that might undermine the case in point for PR for some, but I think it enhances it.
PR will create a more diverse form of government with more parties and more viewpoints represented, there would not be the need for two-party dominance with the third and the odd independent and other party (such as the Greens) to form an alliance, instead, there would be a much more pluralistic and consensus based option available . That is why I disagree with the analysis that the current government ia par example of PR governance, and that those who oppose undermine the case for PR.