Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Powerful Youth Vote Fallacy

Heydon Prowse, writing in The Guardian on 28th October 2014 (Russell Brand’s right about democracy – but wrong about how to change it), suggests that the way to take back politics and make our democracy work is to encourage first time voters and the youth vote in general to turn out in numbers.

The glaring problem with this logic, as with most mainstream political analysis at this time, is that it wilfully ignores the root problem.

The current system ensures two party hegemony, regardless of which groups turn out to vote in addition to the overwhelmingly Red or Blue over 65’s. Next May, the government will be Red or Blue no matter what. Even if in coalition with the Lib Dems and smaller parties due to a surge in UKIP, SNP and Green support, it will be the corporatist, establishment Labour or Conservative party calling all the shots. The current system guarantees it.

All that will happen if the youth turn out and vote in numbers next May is that an establishment government will be forced to a) pay lip service to the youth parties of choice for PR reasons only and b)  illicit support through lobbying and bribery from any coalition members that they can in order to do exactly what they were going to do anyway.

For this reason, just getting the youth vote out is categorically NOT going to address this root problem. The system itself needs to be reformed from the ground up.

But all the reforms currently being pushed for by established reformist groups like the Electoral Reform Society are desirable only and can therefore be ignored. They are essentially asking Turkey’s to vote for Christmas.

The only reform available to us that is an essential democratic pre-requisite, and so can not be dismissed once properly understood and is therefore achievable in the short to mid term, is inclusion of a bona fide None of the Above option on the ballot paper with formalised consequences for the result if it ‘wins’.

This should be the priority of everybody serious about democracy as it is an achievable game changer that could lead to further democratic reform. Without it, there is literally no reason whatsoever why the establishment would make any significant changes to the way things currently work. For them, the system works just fine. And the more people who endorse it in its current form at the ballot box, the longer it will endure, unchanged and unchallenged.

This is why NOTA is so important and why we do what we do.

Find out more and sign our petition here: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/inclusion-of-an-official-none-of-the-above-option-for-all-uk-elections-2

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NOTA UK meets Occupy

So here’s a brief run down of my visit to Occupy Democracy in Parliament Square on Saturday 25th October.

It took me a while to find it, I was expecting it to be on the main patch of grass but this had been fenced off and was surrounded by police officers. Taxpayer funded police officers guarding a piece of grass around the clock at the behest of a private security firm employed by the government to police it, also at taxpayers expense. Officers from a police force that is itself facing the threat of job losses, service cuts and privatisation as a result of the current administration’s policies – all there to prevent a pro-democracy, anti-austerity protest outside parliament growing in numbers and actually forcing the issue… interesting!

I found the camp on the far side confined to a small strip of grass next to the main square. There was a good number of people in attendance, many holding up banners facing the road. Talks were happening but with no amplification (it was confiscated), so it was hard to hear what was being said at first. Especially as every couple of minutes a honk of support from a passing vehicle would trigger a cheer from the banner wavers. Every ambulance and fire engine was guaranteed a honk, a fair few cab drivers, coach drivers and random cars joined in as well. And, of course, there were the occasional heckles and uncalled for abuse from the less supportive, all met with love and tolerance from the camp.

So I watched a couple of good talks and decided to chat to some people. I was almost immediately put off, as the first person I encountered was an old school Marxist calling for violent revolution and a ‘socialist dictatorship’ – apparently this is the ‘only way’ to bring about change… Happily, this guy was clearly in a minority of one so we agreed to disagree and parted ways. I didn’t see him again, I presume he eventually ducked out having repeatedly encountered the same message he received from me.

After that, things got much better. I met lots of good people, all very well informed and very optimistic that change is coming and that social progress and democratic reform is possible. I spoke to many people about NOTA and handed out many flyers. Most people were very supportive and understood straight away the need for it.

The only detractors were people who believed that withholding consent at elections is already possible (ballot spoiling, abstaining etc), I was able to explain the difference to most but not all. Including, unfortunately, one of the Occupy ‘generals’ (as they are probably unfairly sometimes referred to) but to be fair, he was clearly very tired and busy, not least of all from sharing on site baby minding duties with his other half… I later spoke to another ‘general’ who was much more receptive and keen to stay in touch, unequivocally agreeing with me that NOTA has to happen.

To cap it all off, I also got to speak to Michael Meacher MP who you’ll be pleased to learn 100% supports NOTA and our efforts to get it on the ballot paper. I have his email address and will be following up to see if he can help us out in any way in the coming months.

At one point, things were soured slightly by the arrival in the vicinity of stragglers from a nearby EDL march who had decided to come and try to start a fight with Occupy… presumably, they got bored with fighting each other. Happily, and rather ironically, the large police presence quickly leapt into action and bundled them away from the scene never to return. When I left to catch my train just after dark there were many more people in attendance than when I had arrived and also, ominously, many more police officers.

All in all, a most enjoyable and positive experience not just for me but also, I hope, for the NOTA cause. A special mention and thank you to member Mark Hinchliffe for helping me to get there. Onwards & Upwards!

2014-10-25 15.36.43  2014-10-25 18.39.062014-10-25 18.39.24

Why smaller parties cannot win and why NOTA could change that

People often comment that having a formal None of the Above (NOTA) option on the ballot paper ‘won’t work’ and that it is always worth voting for smaller parties in our current system. Unfortunately, both these beliefs are incorrect.

It is not a belief that smaller parties cannot win a UK general election outright, it is a mathematical certainty – when you take into account the First Past The Post voting system and the fact that the vast majority of voters across the country are older people who will vote traditionally for Labour or the Conservatives no matter what. That’s not an opinion, it is the stark reality.

A fairer voting system would of course level that playing field considerably – that’s why neither of the big two will ever agree to one on their watch.

But it will always be their watch, for the reasons stated – do you see the problem?

Only once the silent majority of non-voters in the UK are able to formally express themselves will we be able to undermine this paradigm and open the door to other parties.

The full version of NOTA ‘with teeth’ that we are campaigning for would have formalised consequences for the result written in to it. A NOTA option that does not have this is not NOTA at all, it is a token gesture that does not in any way provide the all important ability to withhold consent, something that is essential in any true democracy. As such, it would do nothing to re-engage disillusioned voters and might as well not be there at all.

If properly implemented, however, the next placed candidate would simply not be allowed to take office outright if they lost to NOTA. A NOTA win means the result is null and void and a new election must be run. That is democracy in action.

Our proposal to avoid endless re-runs, voter fatigue and political instability is that the next placed candidate, who will still have polled a significant number of votes if not the majority, will take office on a pro temp basis for six months to a year while the logistics of the re-run/by elections are put in place. This gives them an opportunity to prove themselves capable and their opponents a chance to regroup and figure out how to win NOTA voters over.

This latter point is precisely why their wouldn’t be pointless re-runs until the same people get in anyway – if the electorate has the power to reject all on offer, those vying for office will have NO CHOICE but to appeal to more voters (disillusioned NOTA voters included, rather than just
their core demographics) and mean it – or face permanent rejection at the ballot box.

In other words, the very existence of a bona fide NOTA option with formalised consequences would, in time, transform our electoral system for the better, leading to better parties / candidates / policies and less need to make use of NOTA in the first place. Further reform and changes to the voting system to level the playing field ought naturally to follow.

Furthermore, NOTA, unlike every other desirable reform you can name, is achievable in the short to mid term. Why? Because it is a democratic pre-requisite that cannot be argued against, once properly understood, without arguing against democracy itself. More on that can be found here: https://nota-uk.org/nota-video-series/

It’s a no brainer, really. Think outside the box people!