While the NOTA UK electoral reform campaign inevitably regroups between elections, I highly recommend that all our supporters familiarise themselves with the work of pro-democracy think-tank Involve, in particular its recent publication “Room for a View: Democracy as a Deliberative System”.
Among many other salient points, one argument it puts forward is that there is much more to a healthy, functioning, true democracy than voting in a general election every five years and that focussing alone on electoral reform is therefore not enough. I have always held this view myself, with the caveat that all the while an electoral system, the ultimate say that the public has over who is in power, is largely sewn up and monopolised by an anti-democratic elite, reforming it remains as high a priority as anything else, as whatever else is going on outside of that framework, the ultimate power to legislate and enforce policy can only ever remain in the same self-interested hands, negating any positive progress being made elsewhere.
The report also suggests that the focus within the electoral reform movement is not necessarily always correct when this wider context is taken into account. It has long been my contention that campaigning for desirable but not necessarily essential changes to the voting system as a whole (such as PR), in the context of a system where those monopolising it are the only ones with the power to change anything, is the definition of futility. Especially when there is a much more logically sound approach available.
A formal, binding ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option on ballot papers, by contrast, would be achievable once it is properly and widely understood as the democratic pre-requisite that it is, as to argue against it is to argue against a central pillar of democracy itself, namely consent and the concurrent need to be able to withhold it (which in the context of elections must be formal as consenting by voting is formal). Whatever else is going on outside of the electoral system, until such time as the electoral reform movement as a whole wakes up to this reality and refocusses its efforts on the only achievable reform with real potential to enable further reform, no meaningful progress is likely to be made in this area.
In my view, the kind of progressive, deliberative democracy that Involve’s report outlines would have to incorporate a bona fide, binding NOTA option on ballot papers. With that in mind, I’ll be reaching out to Involve in the coming weeks to see where they stand on the specific issue of getting NOTA on ballot papers as part of a broader effort to fully democratise the UK political system.