Boris Johnson and the reign of the minority
“Victory,” “Earthquake”, “Overwhelming Victory” headlined major Canadian newspapers after the British elections of December 12, 2019. Boris Johnson won 44% of the votes. That is, 56% of Britons did not vote for the Conservatives.
If this election had been a referendum, Boris Johnson would have lost it.
If Boris Johnson won the elections, it is only because of the distortions that the good old first-past-the-post system induces in a British round, known as “winner take all!” “
Thus, Boris Johnson with only 44% of the votes was able to seize 56% of the seats. Which gives him a comfortable majority to carry out his Brexit project. But is this really what the 56% of Britons who did not vote for him wanted? There is the majority, the popular will. This is all the more true since Boris Johnson made Brexit the only issue in the elections.
The importance of reforming the voting system and proportional representation lies in the principle that a government that claims to be legitimate should enjoy the support of a majority of voters – at least 50% plus one! But true democracy does not stop there; it cannot be reduced to the application of the majority rule – which is essential, but not sufficient.
Power must be qualified, subject to checks and balances. However, democratic controls remain very weak in the British system – especially in the United Kingdom, which lacks a written constitution, which depends on customary practices that are not codified. These customary practices are likely to be swept away with the back of the hand by an authoritarian and unscrupulous leader.
Boris Johnson does not have a real majority. But there is nothing that prevents him from listening only to his own, from seeking no opposition, from seeking no compromise – neither in England, nor in Scotland or Ireland. What is likely to be “brilliant” in its false victory is that it could lead to the loss of Scotland and Northern Ireland – to the breakup of the United Kingdom!