The UK election result provides a real opportunity for major improvements in the way politics and voting is done in the UK.
At time of writing, with 4 seats out of 650 still to be declared, the Conservatives will clearly fall short of a majority, and without support from the Liberal Democrats, seem unlikely to able to form a coalition majority government.
While the Lib Dem result would be very disappointing for them given all the pre-election polls, their overall vote of 23% has gone up around 1% which is their highest ever, despite them dropping about 5 seats (although their forerunner SDP/Lib Alliance polled over 25% in 1983, but got far fewer seats).
– Lib Dems + Conservatives is a clear majority. This could and should only happen if there was clear electoral reform – not just the primitive First Past The Post voting system, but also the dreadful malapportionment, at least within England. There would also have to be some sort of understanding about economic/budget policy. I’d be surprised if the Conservatives repeated the hopeless mistake of the Tasmanian Liberals where they didn’t even try to find common ground with the Greens (and having just heard David Cameron speak, it seems that he isn’t doing so).
– Once you take out the 5 Sinn Fein & the Speaker who don’t vote, the Lib Dems & Labour + the single (Lib Dem aligned) Alliance Party from Northern Ireland and the single Green, the Scottish & Welsh Nationalists, that is likely to be sufficient (maybe with the 3 SDLP from Nth Ireland as a backup) to scrape together a majority, which could push through electoral reform (more likely to be Australian style lower house preferential voting, rather than proportional representation, given some of the geographical concentration that provides some of the minor parties with their opportunity to win seats). Electoral reform should also address the major malapportionment across electorates and the appropriateness of having unelected people in the House of Lords. However resistance from the Lords could drag out such reform for some time, and it is hard to know how well such a disparate collection could hold things together for that length of time – particularly given that the party discipline that applies in Australia is more rigid than in the UK.
– The impossible thing for any party to predict is what the electoral impact would be of shifting to an Australian style preferential voting system. The tactical voting that has developed over decades in response to the perversion of a First Past The Post system with 3 (or in some case 4) different parties as potential winners in some seats makes it very hard to know how people might vote if tactical voting was removed.
PS: I also can’t help but note how tragic it is that one of the birthplaces of parliamentary democracy has such an antiquated electoral system (although to be fair those of Canada and the USA are even worse). Those who have a habit of looking down their noses at the adequacy of elections in poorer countries with newer democracies should keep that in mind.