In The Week magazine: Voting rules and the US shutdown
The connection between electoral law and the failure of compromise is little-discussed - but crucial
BORING. Boring. Boring. That's what most people think about the rules of voting. Who wants to talk about them? But the big theme underlying many of the stories in The Week this week is just how much those rules change the way people act, think and speak.
Take the great Shut Down of America this week. This is almost entirely due, as we explain in our main story this week, to the fact that in the US, local politicians have the power to set constituency boundaries and as a result - particularly in the Republican south - have been able engineer permanent majorities for their party. It's that which has favoured more ideologically extreme candidates on the right wing of US politics and the rise of the Tea Party in Congress.
By contrast the crucial failure of the Tories' in January to redraw constituency boundaries in their favour - the boring old rules of voting, once again - has made it even more essential for them, unlike Republicans, to appeal to the centre ground, while warding off the threat from Ukip.
So whatever the ideological slant the pundits may have advised him to adopt at Conference last week (see our Controversy of the week) it's those old voting rules that oblige him to throw the odd piece of red meat to his right wing while as a far as possible retaining his moderate, “modernising” tone.
So they're not really boring after all. If you really want to change the world, first change the voting rules.