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Peter Lilley warns that regular hung parliaments will lead to voter disenchantment

Starting yesterday's debate on the Queen's Speech, Peter Lilley gave a timely warning about the dangers of hung parliaments and of political leaders who pay too much attention to the metropolitan elites.

Hung parliaments give politicians the opportunity to wriggle out of manifesto commitments: "Coalition requires compromise. Neither party can achieve all that it promised in its manifesto and many of us are receiving letters from constituents upset that measures they voted for are not included in the coalition programme. There is a simple reason for that. The Conservative party did not win enough votes or seats to deliver all our manifesto pledges. The solution is not to blame coalition but to win more support next time. Meanwhile I believe the Gracious Speech represents not the lowest common denominator but the highest common factor between our two parties. Nevertheless, the dismay that many people feel about not getting what they thought they were voting for is a salutary warning about the dangers of coalitions. Should they become the norm rather than the exception, they could give parties an easy excuse for abandoning manifesto pledges and a temptation to make pledges they had little intention of keeping. Nothing could do more to undermine the accountability of parties to the electorate. I support this coalition because a hung Parliament makes it necessary, but I would not support changes to our voting system that would make hung Parliaments the norm, so although I will loyally vote to hold a referendum on changing the voting system, I will campaign vigorously against the alternative vote."

Political leaders need to listen more carefully to the voices beyond the metropolitan elite: "I particularly welcome the inclusion in the Gracious Speech of plans to introduce an annual limit on immigration. That was the issue raised most frequently on the doorstep. Concern about immigration itself was coupled with a dangerous feeling of resentment towards the political class who had overridden public opposition while silencing debate. As Gillian Duffy discovered, anyone who raises the issue is liable to be dismissed as a bigot. Why is it that when Prime Ministers leave their microphones on they reveal that they think anyone who raises contentious issues such as immigration or Europe is either a bigot or a bastard? The lesson my right hon. Friend should learn is not that he should take care to turn his microphone off, but that he should keep his receiver switch on to hear people's legitimate concerns, however unfashionable their views may be among the metropolitan intelligentsia."

Read Peter Lilley's full speech.

Tim Montgomerie


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