Monthly Archives: December 2014

An open letter to Michael Meacher, MP

Dear Michael,

I emailed a few weeks back but have not heard from you. I am the founder of NOTA UK (est. 2010), an organisation campaigning for an official None of the Above (NOTA) option to be added to UK ballot papers for all future elections. We met briefly at the first Occupy Democracy camp in parliament square a couple of months ago. You told me that you fully support our campaign and would help us in any way you could.

With that in mind, you may or may not be aware that the parliamentary Political and Constitutional Reform Committee’s public consultation on ‘voter engagement’ is currently under way and ends on 9th January 2015. NOTA UK submitted a written evidence submission to the committee in March of this year making the solid arguments for NOTA. It was accepted into the public record and can be viewed here: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/WrittenEvidence.svc/EvidenceHtml/7985

As a result, the proposals the committee is now inviting the public to comment on includes the possible inclusion of NOTA on ballot papers in 2015. This was initially only in the context of possibly introducing compulsory voting also. We felt this was a cop out and lobbied hard for NOTA to be considered as a reform in and of itself. As a result, the committee have now also invited the public to take part in a survey that includes the direct question: “Should “None of the Above” be an option on the ballot paper?” The survey can be taken here: http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/voter-reform

This is the first time to our knowledge that NOTA has been taken this seriously at this level and feel sure this is largely due to our representations, as well as growing public understanding and support for a way to meaningfully withhold consent at elections.

In light of this, I was wondering if you might possibly be willing to make a representation to the committee in favour of NOTA’s inclusion as an electoral reform in and of itself, regardless of whether voting is made compulsory or not. We are of course encouraging all of our supporters to do this as well. Here is a link to our suggested text for them to include: https://nota-uk.org/2014/11/14/template-text-for-formally-registering-your-support-for-nota/

We also have a four part educational video series in production that we hope will go a long way to getting the key NOTA points across, the first two of which can be found here: https://nota-uk.org/nota-video-series/

One final point I have to make, in the interests of clarity, is that NOTA UK is not to be confused with various NOTA inspired splinter groups that have sprung up in recent times. They are all well meaning but ultimately problematic to us as they appear to believe, and have on occasion been actively telling people, that they can get NOTA on the ballot paper simply by standing candidates on a NOTA platform. We feel strongly that this does our campaign no favours at all as it is a clear contradiction in terms. I understand one of these groups has since been de-registered and had their party name banned so as to not mislead voters.

I mention this as these unofficial offshoots appear to have no qualms about presenting themselves as our official NOTA campaign, despite having no plan or proposals to speak of besides standing candidates on a supposedly NOTA platform. Consequently, we are often confused with them, particularly by media types looking to make contact, who more often than not lose interest once they come up against the inherent contradictions of their approach. For this reason, any way in which you could help us to amplify NOTA UK’s voice and make the distinction between us, the official, thought through campaign for actual NOTA and the various well intentioned parties muddying the waters, could go a long way to helping us achieve our shared aim.

I have always believed that with enough support from both inside and outside the house we could eventually make NOTA a reality. So any help and support you could offer our campaign would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your time, feel free to ask me any questions or share any thoughts you may have on this important issue. I hope to hear from you soon.

Yours sincerely,
Jamie Stanley
c/o NOTA UK

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TOP NOTA FAQ: What happens if NOTA ‘wins’?

This post will hopefully clarify an issue that has come to the fore recently in light of a recent upsurge of interest in our campaign.

By far the most common question asked when people engage with us is: “But what would happen if NOTA ‘wins’?”

Well firstly, that depends on how NOTA is implemented. In India, for example, there is what we like to call NOTA-lite, or faux-NOTA. In this scenario, NOTA is merely a symbolic protest option with no formalised consequences for the result if it ‘wins’. In other words, even if NOTA were to poll the most votes, nothing would happen. The next placed candidate would take office anyway.

It is difficult to see the point of this. Without ‘teeth’, there is surely no more incentive for disillusioned voters to formally withhold their consent this way than if there were no NOTA option at all. This, in our  view, accounts for why the NOTA option in India recently only polled 1.1% of the nationwide vote.

To be an effective check and balance in the system, there must be formalised consequences in the event of a NOTA win. Specifically, a re-run election (nationally, if applicable) or by-elections wherever NOTA has polled the most votes.

This is the NOTA ‘with teeth’ that we at NOTA UK are campaigning for. If implemented this way, we feel sure millions of people who currently feel unrepresented at the ballot box would be re-engaged. This in itself ought to be enough to trigger an organic cleaning up of politics, as would-be MP’s and political parties would be forced to try to win over these newly engaged potential voters and not just their core demographics.

The next logical question then is: “But won’t the re-run/by-elections be a logistical nightmare?”

This is a legitimate question. At NOTA UK, we have come up with a proposal that we feel covers all bases and is the fairest and most workable solution.

Our proposal is that to avoid political instability and voter fatigue, rather than have an immediate re-run general election (if NOTA ‘won’ nationally) and/or immediate by-elections in constituencies where NOTA has ‘won’, the second placed party / candidates should be allowed to take office temporarily for six to twelve months while the logistics of the re-run/by-elections are put in place.

Some people have expressed scepticism as this proposal so I think it’s important to explain the rationale behind it.

There are two issues that the prospect of re-run/by-elections raise: voter fatigue and political instability.

Some have suggested that instant re-runs/by-elections would be better. We feel that voter fatigue would be a real problem in that scenario. It’s hard enough to get people out to vote once every couple of years as it is, asking people to do so twice in quick succession is probably a bridge too far. The likely consequence would be a much lower turnout for the re-run/by-elections, skewing the result significantly, possibly even allowing in a party or candidate who polled terribly first time round. For this reason, we feel it makes lots of sense to have a delay.

Then there is the issue of political instability. Most voters would agree that it is not right to have an empty parliament or empty seats with no-one representing their interests while the logistics of the next round of voting are put in place. So it makes sense for there to be a caretaker government or MP’s holding the fort, so to speak.

Some have suggested that if NOTA has ‘won’ the election, the caretakers should be non-political and independent administrators, say civil servants, rather than rejected politicians from rejected political  parties. It’s a nice idea, but it raises serious questions: In all honesty, who is truly independent and non-political? And will voters accept people being in power, even temporarily, who no-one even voted for in the first place?

For this reason, we feel it makes much more sense to allow whoever has polled the most votes after NOTA to take office but strictly on a temporary, caretaker basis, for no more than 12 months, while the second round of voting is organised.

This will obviously not please everybody. But we feel it is the best compromise available once all considerations are taken into account. The caretaker, who would still have polled well, would have an opportunity to prove themselves worthy ahead of the second round of voting while their opponents would have a chance to regroup.

The important thing to remember is that all concerned would then surely be minded to address NOTA voters concerns and try to win them over in the meantime, or face further rejection at the ballot box.

This is democracy in action.

The knock on effect of this ought to be that more people not only become more engaged, but actually feel they have something worth voting for in the first place. The beauty of NOTA is that it is a check and balance whose very presence could eventually cause it to be used less and less.

I hope this answers some questions. Feel free to ask more in the comments, I or someone else will try to answer them as best we can.

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
11/12/14

Open Letter to Mark Flanagan (Notavote / The NOTA Party / The Above & Beyond Party)

Like Dr. Who and Sam Beckett, the group formerly known as Notavote and The NOTA Party has apparently once again morphed into a seemingly different entity. There is now an ‘Above & Beyond Party’ that intends to pick up where they left off after being barred from standing by the Electoral Commission. Below is my open letter to Mark Flanagan, the apparent head honcho. Feel free to share.

***UPDATE*** Apparently, Above & Beyond is in fact Mark Flanagan’s separate, further offshot from Notavote / The NOTA Party… which makes it even worse! Original letter edited slightly to make more sense in light of this.


Dear Mark,

Since its inception in 2012, Adrian Langan’s Notavote / The NOTA Party (now aided and abetted by your offshoot Above & Beyond Party) has consistently sought to cancel out and replace NOTA UK as the primary group campaigning for a formal None of the Above option on UK ballot papers for all future elections.

This is in spite of NOTA UK pre-dating their efforts by two whole years and in spite of the significant progress we have made towards getting NOTA in place for real since our inception in 2010.

Notavote / NOTA party members inadvertent (or concerted, depending on your view point) efforts to undermine the credibility of NOTA in the past have included:

– claiming that their party’s presence on the ballot paper constituted a bonafide NOTA option when it clearly didn’t,

– lying about their origins and claiming to have been set up in 2007 in order to get the jump on us,

– allowing known far right agitators to infiltrate their facebook group at an admin level,

– bullying and ejecting their own members if they spoke up for NOTA UK,

– and, of course, publicly attacking my own personal credibility at various times along the way.

They were recently prevented from standing candidates on a supposedly NOTA platform next May by the Electoral Commission on the grounds that the party name could have confused voters into thinking it is already possible to vote for None of the Above when it isn’t. This deception is in fact exactly what members of the group, a group that you yourself were at the time a part of, had attempted to do.

Your group’s reaction to this news was to encourage your supporters to believe that the banning was the result of a conspiracy to prevent NOTA appearing on the ballot paper. (NOTA UK’s response to this can be seen here: https://nota-uk.org/2014/11/08/nota-banned-as-party-name-by-electoral-commission/ )

I later appealed via our NOTA UK blog for you to finally put this perceived split to bed by publicly endorsing our campaign and acknowledging that your efforts must now be, and always should have been, in support of our campaign rather than in competition to it (see here: https://nota-uk.org/2014/11/28/appeal-to-reason-and-logic-re-the-nota-party/ )

There was no response.

Instead, you have now taken it upon yourself to re-brand the idea as The Above & Beyond Party, identical to its predecessor in all but name, and restated your intention to stand single issue NOTA candidates next May, now complete with a set of proposals to deal with a NOTA ‘win’, once in place, that run directly contrary to NOTA UK proposals that have been formally presented to a parliamentary select committee and accepted into the public record.

So – with all this in mind, please answer the following questions:

1: There is a parliamentary select committee survey and public consultation running until January 9th 2015 that invites members of the public to put forward their views on a set of proposed electoral reforms, including (thanks to NOTA UK’s lobbying) inclusion of an official None of the Above option on the ballot paper. (Survey: http://tinyurl.com/octv8r3 Consultation: http://tinyurl.com/oxboqy4 )

Why have you not mentioned this in your campaign material or made any effort to alert your supporters to this crucial, landmark change of attitude in the corridors of power towards NOTA?

2: Your proposal as to what would happen in the event of a NOTA ‘win’, aside from being completely unworkable, flies in the face of the solid proposal to deal with such a scenario that we have been promoting for years now and that the afore mentioned committee has accepted into the public record. (See here: http://tinyurl.com/mcqywys )

Are you purposely trying to undermine and cancel out the good work and massive progress towards NOTA for real that NOTA UK have achieved in the last four years? And if so, why? In whose interests are you acting, if not all who want to see NOTA on the ballot paper?

These are legitimate questions Mark. Because nothing that you or Adrian are doing is in any way aiding the cause that we supposedly share. By constantly presenting yourself as THE None of the Above movement, complete with strategies and proposals that fly directly in the face of our formally established ones, all you are doing is making all those campaigning for NOTA look like they don’t know what they are doing.

But we do know what we are doing.

The real question is: what exactly are you playing at?

I eagerly await your response.

Yours sincerely,
Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
10/12/14

Parliamentary Committee recognises NOTA as a possible reform (and wants YOUR views on it!)

Ok people, this is HUGE. You may recall that the parliamentary Political & Constitutional Reform Committee looking into voter engagement recently published a set of proposed changes to the electoral system which included ‘None of the above’ – but only in the context of possibly introducing compulsory voting.

Today, they are launching a survey to gauge the public’s views of their proposals. Thanks to our lobbying, it includes this question:

“6. Should “None of the above” be an option on the ballot paper?”

This is significant, to say the least, as it is the first time, to my knowledge, that NOTA has ever been seriously discussed and put forward by a parliamentary committee as a possible reform in and of itself.

Here’s the Committee’s press release.

And here is the survey.

You know what to do!

Let’s seize this opportunity with both hands and make the call for real NOTA ‘with teeth’ absolutely overwhelming.

If you need further inspiration, here’s my additional comment on question 6:

“Should “None of the above” be an option on the ballot paper?

Absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt. But it must be implemented properly i.e.: with formalised consequences for the result if the majority choose it. This kind of NOTA ‘with teeth’ is the only way to formally withhold consent at an election, something you must be able to do in a true democracy, consent being central to the concept of democracy itself. Having this option would level the playing field considerably and put more power in the hands of voters, almost certainly leading to further desirable democratic reform further down the line. Although it remains a travesty that this has not happened before, given how important NOTA is, I welcome the fact that this is FINALLY being discussed seriously. Well done everybody!”

ONWARDS & UPWARDS!

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
03/12/14