Posted By: May 06, 2015

Brian Feeney.Irish News ( Belfast). Wednesday, May 6, 2015

FOR the past week to 10 days the airwaves and newsprint have been full of English politicians denying they will enter coalition with this party or that party.

The Lib-Dems will not enter a coalition that contains Ukip. Ed Miliband will not have a coalition with anybody. David Cameron will not enter government if he doesn’t get to have a referendum on the EU. Of course what this all means is that in fact they are all setting terms for entering coalition of some kind.

It used to be like this in the Republic. For Fianna Fáil going into a coalition was a mortal sin. Single party government was a ‘core value’ for Fianna Fáil until 1989.

The fact is for 30 years there have been only coalitions in the Republic. In that respect it mirrors virtually every other European state and it’s important that it should because the idea that two parties represent all shades of opinion in any state is absurd.

What we’re likely to see as a result of tomorrow’s election is a radical change in the UK’s political structure which has been on the cards for some time.

First, the Conservative party hasn’t won a general election since 1992 and they’re not likely to do it tomorrow either. They may be the largest party by virtue of their natural majority in England but they can’t win an overall majority because the rest of the UK votes against them.

With the collapse of Labour in Scotland and Wales divided four ways, it looks as if neither Labour nor Conservative parties will ever again be able to command the old-fashioned ‘elected dictatorship’ Lord Hailsham described in his Dimbleby lecture in 1976. The Labour party is finished in Scotland and will go the same way in Wales.

There is one inescapable conclusion as a result of these changes. The British electoral system has to change. In its present form it’s daft.

In 2010 the Labour Party got 8.6 million votes which gave them 258 seats. The Lib-Dems got 6.8 million votes which gave them 57 seats.

Only in those constituencies where a party came first did a person’s vote count. Then again Yorkshire and the Humber region has a bigger population than Scotland yet it looks likely Scotland will be decisive in controlling the British parliament. It’s neither sensible nor fair.

The obvious answer is a proportional representation system. Until now it wasn’t attractive to either Conservatives or Labour because the first-past-the-post system suited them. Only now when it has stopped working for them will they start to look at PR but first they have to become reconciled to the reality of the new politics in Britain which means neither of them will ever run a single party government again. It’s the same here. After the British gave the unionists the largest area of Ireland where they could manage a majority electorally they became obsessed with just that, a simple majority: count the Prods. They’re still at it in their current electoral pact.

In five years the system will stop working for them. Elections are operating on the boundaries established after the 2001 census because the Conservatives and LibDems couldn’t agree on new ones. It will be different in the 2020 election which will be based on boundaries devised after the 2011 census.

New boundaries mean three constituencies in Belfast and no unionist MP in Belfast. As unionist numbers decline across the north, more and more unionists will find their vote doesn’t count.

Either they won’t be able to elect a unionist MP or will have to vote tactically to keep out a Sinn Féin MP.

It won’t be long until the merits of PR and multi-candidate constituencies for Westminster appeal to unionists because as the north turns green and Scotland votes to leave the UK unionists are going to feel rather lonely as the only people in these islands who see virtue in the United Kingdom as a means of protecting their interests.

What will clinch it for unionists as for Labour and the Conservatives will be the fact that the fracturing UK’s government is controlled by a Celtic fringe of Scots, Welsh and northern Irish nationalists.