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Monday, January 09, 2006


Johan Hari teeters on the ledge of deligitimation

In his efforts to smash George Galloway, Johan Hari has overbalanced and it is only a matter of time before he falls from the ledge of deligitimation. He writes; “he was rejected at the ballot box by 64 percent of the people who live here [Bethnal Green and Bow] in May – but nonetheless became our MP because of our ridiculous electoral system.” Fine. Would is be churlish to point out that Saint Oona was rejected by 66 percent of the people of Bethnal Green and Bow, despite sophisticatedly dishonest campaigning?*

Johan Hari puts himself on pretty shaky ground from which to defend the actions of the current government as being democratic, never mind the mandate of any particular MP. Even MPs with a majority in their constituencies are the beneficiaries of our ‘ridiculous electoral system’, as evidence by Labour campaign message; vote for us or you will get a Tory. This keeps left-wing voters within the Labour fold, despite differences on the Iraq War, on civil liberties, on the idolisation of the market and the adoration of capital. When even such left-wingers as Billy Bragg turn up to campaign for Oona King on a ‘keep the Tories out’ justification, the fact that Galloway, a representative of a party outside the two (three?) main parties won the seat at all tells the story of a tremendous political triumph. If he wants to delegitimate Galloway’s mandate, then, in doing so, he delegitimates all MPs and this current government. This is dangerous ground to tread, and the fact that Hari makes no comment on the territory that he has entered speaks volumes of his honesty. This charge is being levelled against Galloway because he is Galloway (or, more importantly, because he is anti-war); it is not a real indictment of the democratic legitimacy of all our elected representatives.

Incidentally, Hari’s column is absolute pap. Comparison with my own writing is not a valid rebuttal, as I am not being paid thousands to produce drivel. It pours forth freely.

*By the way trolls, not even Saint Oona runs with the claim that Galloway won by appealing to racism. And you certainly do not want to even put a tiptoe onto this ledge of deligitimation given that Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems all made opportunistic use of anti-immigrant sentiment.

[10,000 hits passed sometime this weekend]

it is not a real indictment of the democratic legitimacy of all our elected representatives.

Well, it is, and some of us don't mind making the charge explicitly. Just Hari doesn't follow it through to its logical conclusion because it doesn't suit him this time, which as you say is dishonest. It's also irrelevant: he has no idea, under electoral system X (that he likes, and is legitimate), whether Galloway would have been elected or not.
Sorry, I ought to have written, "Hari's article is not a real indictment of the democratic legitimacy all our elected representatives."

I am in favour of a transferrable vote system. That would keep the connection between constituency and representative and ensure that at least 50% of the voting electorate consents to that representation. This would prevent the ludicrous situation where a united, but minority right-wing party could beat a majority of left-wing votes cast for a variety of parties, and vice versa.
Hari was on The Last Word on More4 this night, and he was allowed to get away with his 64% voted against Galloway spiel. Actually, at one point, he said that it was 67%. No one pointed out that 66% voted aganist Oona King, or that this is a necessary result of a first-past-the-post system. As soon as there are more than two parties there will be a preponderance of minority wins, and when a strong third-party is introduced, more so.

David Starkey banged on about Muslims being 'ignorant peasants' and the charge of communalism was levelled against Galloway. Again, there was no one there to push Starkey and Hari off their ledge. Charges of communalism can be levelled against Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems. To fix this on Galloway, you not only have to provide evidence, but find a way to exonerate the major parties of the same charge. Or you can damn the lot, but this is too much for Hari and Starkey.

And I repeat; how does someone like Hari end up with a column, presumably highly-paid, in a national newspaper?
Only 19% of the population voted for Labour at the election. Therefore Hari should declare that 81% of the electorate voted against the government
My understanding (from the US) of the UK electoral system currently in place is that the candidate who gets the most votes wins, however many candidates run. Is this accurate?

That being so, a candidate in a three way race could win with 34% of the vote, if the other two got 33% each. (In such a case, one could say that 66% of the voters voted against the winner.) Labour, Liberal-Democrat, and Tory have been major parties for some time. Have such three way squeakers never occurred in elections in which they were the only participants?
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