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!


2 thoughts on “Why smaller parties cannot win and why NOTA could change that

  1. Brian Finn October 10, 2014 at 13:10 Reply

    Change the system. PR is not much better than FPTP. You have at least one party in UK promoting Participatory Democracy which takes the ‘party’ out of Party politics and adheres more directly to the will of the people who have to endure the excesses of your current system. This is how the people of New Orleans decided how best to use the money after the failure of their levy system flooded huge areas of the city. It does work.


    • theapathymyth October 10, 2014 at 13:54 Reply

      Hi Brian. There are many alternatives to the current party system. Which party are you thinking of out of interest, the Green party? Whichever it is, unless they are Labour or Conservative they stand zero chance of getting into power or being able to meaningfully influence government policy as things stand. That’s the problem we face. Nothing will change until we have a mechanism in place that undermines the status quo and opens things up to other parties / candidates / ideas. NOTA is just such a mechanism and the only one we stand a realistic chance of ever getting in place, logically speaking.


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