Monthly Archives: February 2015

The ‘NOTA would help establishment parties’ fallacy

During my recent interview for RT’s Going Underground, host Afshin Rattansi asked a question along the lines of: ‘But wouldn’t NOTA just take votes away from smaller parties and help establishment parties?’

This is a common concern that is often cited by critics of NOTA, but one that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny in my view. There wasn’t quite enough time for me to expand upon my answer at the time so I thought I’d post a short blog on the subject.

Firstly, NOTA has the potential to take votes away from all parties, not just the smaller ones. Currently, there are plenty of people who grudgingly or tactically vote Conservative, Liberal Democrat or Labour as they see them as the lesser of several evils. There are also people who vote UKIP or Green more as a protest against the main parties rather than out of genuine support. All of these voters could find a bona fide, binding NOTA option ‘with teeth’ more appropriate. All of these parties do of course enjoy genuine support also. One could argue that, in the current climate, fledgling smaller parties enjoy more genuine support than the increasingly discredited bigger ones. So I see no reason to believe that smaller parties would suffer more than bigger ones if NOTA were in place.

Secondly, when people talk about ‘letting establishment parties in’, I have to wonder what electoral system they are talking about. The bigger parties ALWAYS get in. The UK’s voting system absolutely ensures that. The plain fact of the matter is that no amount of green surge or support for UKIP is going to alter the fact that the next government will be Conservative or Labour in practice, even if they are in coalition with smaller parties, rendered essentially cosmetic by corporate lobbying and the party / government whip systems. So even if NOTA were to favour the big two, which there is no reason to believe it would, how would that be any different to what we have now?

The bottom line is that NOTA has the potential to inflict damage on ALL parties equally and as such would act as a leveller, forcing them all to lift their game, appeal to more voters and actually mean what they say.

This is all theoretical of course, as real NOTA ‘with teeth’ has never been tried. But an absence of real world data should never be an impediment to progress. If it were, none of the great leaps forward for humanity would  ever have got off the ground. As I always say to doubters, let’s get NOTA on the ballot paper and see what happens. What have we got to lose?

Jamie Stanley

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An open letter to Emma Rome, formerly of NOTA UK

My former NOTA UK partner in crime Emma Rome recently published a blog post which, although of no real significance to our ongoing campaign, certainly warrants a response from me “in my own way” for reasons that will hopefully become clear:

“Dear Emma,

I note that you chose not to mention in your blog how, when challenged to justify your publicly declared,  inexplicable and seemingly wilfully inaccurate reading of my ‘Unity & Focus’ blog post, you threatened to, and I quote, ‘assassinate our campaign’ in an online NOTA debate the following week.

You then claimed that this impulsive, pm’d missive was ‘a satirical joke’, but it was clearly nothing of the kind. It was a momentary lapse of control that laid bare a side to you that I was shocked to discover existed, one that clearly is not compatible with a pro-democracy reform campaign like NOTA UK’s. Having already left voluntarily, there was no need for me to ask you to leave and very obviously no chance of me allowing you back in, despite you asking me repeatedly.

I also note your attempts to imply that I have in some way acted improperly. The proposal for dealing with a NOTA ‘win’ on our website is one that you, I and others agreed on after much discussion of your original idea. It is not mine and mine alone as you claim. It is, and always has been, open to debate and modification as the campaign develops and as our legitimacy grows.

Last week I appeared on a live RT UK news bulletin talking about NOTA and was asked back six days later to record a full interview for one of their flagship shows Going Underground, due to be broadcast next week. This was aided somewhat by the fact that in the same week, thanks to our lobbying, the select committee looking into ‘voter engagement’ explicitly stated in its report that due to public demand and the potential positive impact of having it, the next government should hold a public consultation on NOTA’s inclusion on the ballot paper.

Clearly, this signifies that our campaign is working and that we are at a crucial moment. The last thing the campaign needs right now is people jockeying for position and causing problems within the established front of the wider NOTA movement. So in a way, I’m grateful that you did what you did when you did, rather than further down the line at a potentially more damaging time.

I wish you no ill Emma. But your attempts to take the moral high ground on this issue serve only to underline why it is no longer possible for you and I to work together.

Thank you for your help over the last couple of years. Good luck in all your future endeavours, your clear political ambitions included.

Yours sincerely,
Jamie Stanley

NOTA campaign gets massive boost from parliamentary select committee!

On 05/02/15, the parliamentary Political & Constitutional Reform Committee (PCRC) published its report into ‘voter engagement’ in which it recommends a whole slew of genuinely quite radical (by UK standards!) electoral reforms to be implemented during the next parliament. The full report can be downloaded here.

Here’s what they had to say about NOTA, as a result of NOTA UK’s lobbying and public engagement with the committee:

“Having the option to vote for “none of the above” on the ballot paper is the proposal which has had the largest support among those who have given their views to the surveys we have drawn upon. This change would enable people to participate at elections even if they did not wish to vote for any of the candidates presented. If large numbers of people did choose to cast their vote in this way it would serve as a wakeup call for candidates and parties that they needed to do more to gain the support of the electorate. We recommend that the Government consult on including, on ballot papers for national elections, an option for voters who wish to participate but not vote for any of the candidates presented, and report to the House on this proposal by May 2016.”

This really is a huge leap forward for us. Although the committee has stopped short of including NOTA as one of its recommended immediate reforms, it has explicitly stated that it believes that the demand for NOTA and the potential positive effects on voter engagement of having it means that the next government must hold a public consultation on the issue.

Although this is slightly less than we could have hoped for, it is still a huge achievement when you consider that a year ago the mere mention of NOTA in the corridors of power was likely to be met with derision and a cold shoulder.

The PCRC survey mentioned above, in which we were able to get them to publish a question about inclusion of NOTA as a reform in and of itself regardless of whether voting is made compulsory or not, is very telling. This question got the second most responses (15,840), beaten only by the question about compulsory voting (16,095).

A whopping 71.8% of respondents to our question voted ‘yes’ to NOTA.

I think it’s fair to say we have now successfully put NOTA on the map, a key aim of this campaign from the beginning five years ago. There’s a long way to go of course. But no-one can say we aren’t getting the arguments heard and moving in the right direction.

A massive thank you to everyone who took part in the consultation and to all our facebook, twitter, youtube and website followers for your continued support in our efforts to make UK democracy fit for purpose.

Onwards & Upwards!
Jamie Stanley

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Democracy Audit: Why NOTA is the Ground Zero of Electoral Reform

On the 8th January 2015, NOTA UK member Rohin Vadera had an article published on the website Democracy Audit making the case for NOTA.

Two weeks later, Richard Berry, Research Associate for the Democracy Audit website and the London School of Economics Public Policy Group, responded with an article rebutting NOTA and citing three other reforms he deemed more important.

Here NOTA UK founder Jamie Stanley responds to Berry’s article:

“Why NOTA is the Ground Zero of Electoral Reform”