Media discussion of the General Election is still couched firmly in two-party language – have the Tories or Labour ‘won’. This is very misleading in our new multi-party politics and we need to start thinking about using different language to talk about who has won and lost.
On the continent, where multi-party politics is the norm, discussion of who won and lost is more often framed in the language of ‘left’ and ‘right’, and then of which parties have gained or lost within each ‘camp’. These camps are lose categories, but useful for thinking about how popular opinion and the outturn in seats has gone.
If we apply this terminology to Britain then it is pretty clear that the ‘left’ will have won the General Election if the polls are broadly right. So who is ‘left’ and who ‘right’.
The ‘left’ would include Labour, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Greens, SDLP and Sinn Fein (even tho they don’t take their seats.
The ‘right’ would clearly include the Tories, UKIP, and DUP.
Let’s take the Lib gems at their word and say they sit bang in the middle.
Here is the Guardian’s current projection – most of the polls are not that different that it makes a difference to the point I am making here.
On these numbers it is crystal clear that the ‘left’ would have won the Election – 329 to 288 (Cons, UKIP and DUP). These numbers might shift a bit on the day, but overcoming a gap of over 40 MPs seems highly unlikely (35 if you exclude SF).
Now think about the discussion that somehow the Conservatives ‘have the right to govern’ if they are the largest party. What people pushing this line are really saying is that we should have a right of centre Government for a country that clearly voted a majority of left of centre MPs? Does that seriously make any sense, whatever the details of deals, coalitions or arrangements or not that emerge?
I’d be interested to know what others think – but if the polls are right we are going to have to rethink how we talk about winning and losing in British politics.