We Need To Talk About ‘Democracy’

In light of the 2015 general election result, the almost 75% of the population who didn’t vote for the new Conservative government appear to fall into two distinct camps. There are those so angered by the outcome that they are prepared to take to the streets and demand the right to somehow overrule or otherwise undermine the result. Then there are those who simply shrug their shoulders and say: ‘Well what can you do, that’s democracy for you!” But is it?

Regardless of which party you support, could those refusing to take the result lying down perhaps have a point? In a word: yes.

The central premise behind the political idea of democracy is that the consent of the governed must be sought and obtained by those who would govern before they can take office. If the majority consent, then they have achieved this. People consent by voting. Whether your choice wins or not is irrelevant. All the while a majority participate, those that govern can claim it is a democracy.

HOWEVER – there are two problems with this when it comes to UK parliamentary ‘democracy’.

Firstly, consent is only measurable if it is possible to withhold consent. Otherwise, whether you consent or not is immaterial. In the context of elections, consenting (voting) is formal so the withholding of consent must be formal also. This is currently impossible as abstaining and ballot spoiling are ambiguous, informal acts that in no way affect the result. Inclusion of a formal ‘None Of The Above’ (NOTA) option on ballot papers is the only way to formally withhold consent at an election. Without such a mechanism, an electoral system or system of government simply cannot be described as a true democracy.

Secondly, in the UK, no matter how many people consent by voting, a majority of seats can always be achieved one way or another. That would be true with a 30% turnout or a 90% turnout. If you do the maths and include all those not even registered to vote as well as those who were registered but didn’t vote, the number of people that participate in general elections usually only just scrapes past 50%. But it wouldn’t matter if it didn’t. Technically, it wouldn’t matter if the turnout fell below 50% of all registered voters either. Whoever had more than half the seats could still claim a mandate.

Clearly, that is not true democracy by any stretch of the imagination.

And that’s before we even get in to the totally undemocratic voting system, the undemocratic party whip system, the power of corporate lobbying and the undue influence over voters of the corporate media. To believe that such a system represents the ideal of true democracy is pure delusion.

We need to start talking about this. We need to start being honest about the total lack of any meaningful, truly representative democracy in the UK if we are ever to have a chance of installing one.

Due to it being absolutely essential in any true democracy, and given that ‘the powers that be’ must be seen to be pro-democracy at all times even if they aren’t in practice, NOTA is the achievable, logical starting point for meaningful democratic reform. All other reforms can be paid lip service to and roundly ignored. NOTA is different.

You can get involved by signing and sharing our petition here and by following/subscribing to us via these social media links:

NOTA UK website

Jamie Stanley



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6 thoughts on “We Need To Talk About ‘Democracy’

  1. Mark Catlin May 11, 2015 at 14:14 Reply

    Reblogged this on markcatlin3695's Blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rupert Dreyfus May 11, 2015 at 15:06 Reply

    What we call democracy is the exact reverse of a real democracy. This is Chomsky’s observation: right now politicians come up with their policies and then implement them – often against the will of the people; in a real democracy the people would conceivably take their policies to representatives with a process of recall so the policies reflect the will of the people.

    The problem we have is that so many people cling to party politics as being the only system worthy of the name democracy that anything else is anti-democratic. Take the recent protests in London: I saw a Daily Mail headline over the weekend claiming that the protesters were haters of freedom. So apparently the political system, which is essentially designed to protect the free markets regardless of anything, is definitely democracy and freedom although we know the Daily Mail wouldn’t recognise these concepts if they waggled their willy at them.

    The way forward, in my opinion, is to build something outside of party politics. The starting point is getting a huge online forum for everyone to start banding ideas around.


  3. bogbeagle May 12, 2015 at 12:42 Reply

    Democracy … just another word for socialism.


    • theapathymyth May 12, 2015 at 12:50 Reply

      Arguable. The word ‘socialism’, rightly or wrongly, is tainted for many people. The word democracy is in danger of being similarly tainted, but we mustn’t let it be. What people are told constitutes democracy in 2015 is in fact nothing of the kind. There’s nothing wrong with the ideal, we just don’t have it yet.


  4. […] Once again, the focus is all in the wrong place. None Of The Above remains an essential democratic pre-requisite, the achievable, game changing reform that the UK system of government urgently needs if it is to become a truly representative democracy. Those new to our campaign can read a detailed explanation of how and why this is the case here. […]


  5. […] It is essential to be able to do this in any true democracy. I have written at length about why NOTA is a democratic pre-requisite, how there is currently no similar formal mechanism in the UK and why NOTA is therefore achievable […]


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