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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One thought on “The ‘NOTA would help establishment parties’ fallacy

  1. Dik Cook February 22, 2017 at 23:07 Reply

    Well said, Jamie. How long before we see NOTA on the ballot papers, along with PR instead of this ludicrass system that favours career politicians.


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