DEMOCRACY IS IMPOSSIBLE

I started NOTA UK ten years ago because it was clear to me then that a system that offers up two indistinguishable political parties of establishment power, and nothing else, is plainly undemocratic and not fit for purpose in a world of clearly ineffective and failing systems of governance – failures that have real world, often devastating implications for many millions of people.

A lot has happened in UK and world politics since then. Plenty of reasons for true democrats to be hopeful and despairing in equal measure.

But I think it’s fair to say that now, fully immersed in the shit show that is 2020, we have officially come full circle.

This is not democracy. It’s perception management. It’s propaganda dressed up as discourse. It’s the drip feed normalisation of lying, cheating and bullying as a way of life. It’s the elevation of the values and agendas of a small minority of hugely privileged and powerful people over and above the day to day needs of millions of ordinary citizens, all living at the sharp end of the massively unstable and unsustainable world that these people have created.

Enough is enough. A serious and prolonged fight back is long overdue.

At the VERY LEAST we need to be able to reject all that this plainly rigged and utterly corrupted system has to offer at the ballot box in a formal and binding way. That’s what ‘None of the Above’ represents (read all about why this simple reform is so important here).

But more than that. We need to take on and dismantle any and all anti-democratic forces that hold humanity back wherever they exist.

Democracy is impossible all the while our elected representatives can twist, distort and outright lie with impunity. It should literally be impossible to do that in any truly democratic system.

Democracy is impossible all the while bought and owned media can twist, distort and outright lie with impunity. It should literally be impossible to do that in any truly democratic system.

Democracy is impossible all the while powerful vested interests can control elected representatives and manipulate people’s perception of reality to the point where they believe in pure fiction and are willing to vote against their own interests year in, year out. It should literally be impossible to do that in any truly democratic system.

So – as much as I continue to believe in the democratising power of a formal and binding NOTA option on ballot papers as the start point for reforming any and all electoral systems, I hereby propose to expand this campaign to encompass all that is plainly wrong with the sorry state of affairs that passes for democracy in the UK and the wider world.

KEY ISSUES:

REFORM OF PARLIAMENTARY STANDARDS – provable outright deception by elected representatives should be 100% illegal and punishable in the harshest terms.

MEDIA REFORM – provable outright deception by supposedly independent media entities should be 100% illegal and punishable in the harshest terms.

LOBBYING REFORM – attempting to exert influence on government policy for purely selfish gain should be 100% illegal and punishable in the harshest terms.

Seriously, this is basic stuff. Why do we put up with it? Why do any of us go along with the pantomime lie of periodic elections between awful and ever so slightly less awful establishment puppets/muppets?

IT’S RIDICULOUS.

Get involved. You can find out more and support our campaign for formal, binding NOTA in the UK by following the links below and signing our petition:

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NOTA UK website

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
30/10/20


The Futility of Ballot Spoiling

Whenever elections are looming, well meaning supporters of the struggle for actual democracy will often declare their intention to spoil their ballots in protest at a perceived lack of choice or the electoral system in general. There are even campaigns designed to encourage all disenfranchised voters to do so.

In this blog, I’m going to set out why, contrary to many people’s beliefs, the act of ballot spoiling could never deliver any kind of meaningful progress or change and why campaigning for a formal and binding ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option on ballot papers should be the priority of all true democrats and reformists.

MYTH #1: Ballot spoiling is a form of NOTA.

A common misconception about ballot spoiling is that because spoilt ballots all have to be accounted for, it is in essence a form of NOTA. This is false.

In order to be effective, a rejection of all candidates must be formal and binding. In order for that to be the case, the act must be acknowledged as a rejection in the first place.

But in the UK and most other countries, no matter what people write on their ballot papers in protest, they are NEVER counted as protest votes or rejections and are ALWAYS lumped in with those spoilt in error.

MYTH #2: If we all did it, things would change.

Another misconception about ballot spoiling is that if enough people did this, it would have to be taken seriously and recognised as a widespread rejection leading to democratic reform. This is also false, due to the way in which spoilt ballots are counted.

There are four ways in which a spoilt ballot can be formally labelled:

  • absence of official mark [polling station stamp]
  • voting for more than one candidate
  • writing or mark by which the voter could be identified
  • unmarked or void for uncertainty

What this means, is that there is no such thing as a protest vote or rejection of all candidates as far as the counts and Electoral Commission are concerned. No matter what you do, your spoilt ballot will always be classified in one of these four ways.

In other words, your attempted formal rejection will always be lumped in with ballots spoilt in error, no matter what you do. No distinction is made.

Now, of course, if 50% of the electorate were to spoil their ballots in protest, the notion that they were all spoilt in error would become ridiculous. But even then, with no formal distinction being made, with no way of officially separating deliberate rejections from ballots spoilt in error, there’d be no legal basis from which to act or push for change. It could therefore easily be propagandised against as a one off campaign of targetted election wrecking, an attempt to undermine democracy in action.

MYTH #3: If we all make our intention clear (by writing in ‘NONE’ or None of the Above’), things would change.

Finally, there is a misconception that if we all spoil our ballots in ‘the right way’ and make it crystal clear what we are trying to do, the counts won’t be able to dismiss them as ‘void for uncertainty’ and will have to record them as deliberate rejections. This is an idea promoted by the well meaning ‘Vote or Vote None’ campaign.

The reason this is false is that as far as the counts and Electoral Commission are concerned, the only intention that could possibly exist in relation to a ballot paper is the intention to endorse one or other candidate. The intention to reject all candidates doesn’t exist for them. For this reason, the official advice for those counting ballots is to label any attempt to register a formal rejection as ‘voter intention unclear’ and put them in the ‘unmarked or void for uncertainty’ category.

For this reason, in order for the aims of the ‘Vote or Vote None’ campaign to be realised, they would first have to lobby the Electoral Commission for the inclusion of a fifth category of spoilt ballot: rejection / protest vote.

But if you were going to do that, why not campaign for inclusion of a formal and binding NOTA option on ballot papers in the first place? Because even if such a distinction between ballots spoilt in error and those spoilt in protest existed, you’d still be asking people to spell out their intentions while also relying on count staff to correctly label each rejection. A formal and binding NOTA option would do all of this instantaneously.

In conclusion, by all means spoil your ballot if it makes you feel better. But please understand that it is, and always will be, a symbolic empty gesture only. Ticking a formal and binding NOTA option on a ballot paper is the ONLY way to effectively withhold consent and reject all that is on offer at an election. The right to be able to do this is a central pillar of democracy itself, currently denied to all citizens of the UK and many millions of people around the world.

Read our white paper to find out why this one achievable, seemingly small systemic change could usher in an era of real democracy that maximises the common good. Sign our petition, share our posts, spread the word. Onwards.

NOTA UK online:
https://www.notauk.org
https://www.facebook.com/groups/notauk
https://twitter.com/NOTAcampaign

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
04/05/2021



Democracy is… possible?

For approximately the last million years (it seems like it), I’ve been banging on to anyone who will listen about how actual bonafide democracy requires three things:

1: Formal & binding NOTA on ballot papers

2: A proportional voting system

3: Lying in public office & in the media to be illegal and punishable in the harshest terms.


The absence of these three pillars make democracy completely impossible. For this reason, the idea that the UK is one is laughable. One need only look at the litany of corruption engulfing the current administration and the apparent inability of any of us, or any official body, to do anything about it to understand this.

I therefore wholeheartedly welcome the current push to introduce rules to make it harder for politicians to lie with total impunity and commend the efforts of tireless campaigner Peter Stefanovic to help bring this about.

Sadly, however, I suspect that nothing will come of it and that whatever changes occur will be cosmetic only and easily circumvented. While calls for PR will no doubt continue to be kicked down the road endlessly by the only two horses that are really ever in the race as things stand.

NOTA remains the logical starting point for full democratisation of failing faux-democracies like the UK because:

1: It cannot be argued against without arguing against the concept democracy itself, once properly understood (it would therefore be achievable with enough widespread understanding of this fact) and

2: It’s very existence on ballot papers would make further real and lasting reform that much more possible – without it it’s hard to see how or why that would ever happen.


All power to everyone working towards the goal of full democratisation of the UK and wider world at this time. If only you could all see what a pivotal systemic leverage point NOTA represents and fully get behind our campaign… then, and only then, might we actually stand a chance of turning this undemocratic and increasingly fascistic global paradigm shift around.

Here’s hoping.

Read our white paper here to find out why we believe NOTA should be the priority of all democratic reformists.

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
29/04/2021


NOTA UK: Ten Years On

Firstly, thank you to everyone who has supported our campaign for real democracy over the years. If you’d like to make a donation you can do so here: https://www.paypal.me/notauk
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Ten years ago, I set up a Facebook page called ‘The None of the Above Movement’ to try to find out how many people shared my view that democracy in the UK is a sham – a Hobson’s Choice between two parties of the establishment with no way to register any kind of meaningful protest against that system at the ballot box.

Within days it had over 6000 followers – most of whom were culled in a Facebook update a couple of years later, forcing us to start again with a new group.

Since then, I have worked with various people to hone our vision of the one thing, above all else, that many of us feel our electoral system needs in order to be fit for purpose: a formal and binding bonafide ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option ‘with teeth’.

We’ve lobbied parliament, managing to get a select committee to include NOTA as a reform in and of itself in it’s 2015 recommendation to government for a public consultation (the committee was promptly scrapped after that year’s general election). I’ve appeared on various media platforms to try to raise awareness of our campaign and the need for NOTA. We’ve created a video series outlining the case for it. We’ve seen the Green Party of England & Wales develop a manifesto policy to include NOTA on UK ballot papers. All of this has culminated in our extensive and definitive NOTA UK white paper, published last year.

Brexit and the rise of Jeremy Corbyn – both seeming to represent genuine resistance to the status quo to different people – have made it very difficult over the last three or four years to cut through with our message.

As I write this – in lockdown due to Covid-19, witnessing the Labour and Conservative parties once again tearing themselves apart over their allegiances, their PR people and supine media spinning and propagandising everything as usual while people die in their tens of thousands, knowing that the undemocratic system I felt the need to rail against in 2010 remains exactly the same, if not worse – it is clear to me that now, more than ever, we need to come together and start banging the drum for real and lasting democratic reform once again.

NOTA is just one, albeit it crucial, part of that process. Recent years have revealed to me beyond doubt that, quite aside from NOTA’s absence, democracy is completely impossible when outright lying, amplified by totally unaccountable media and virtually untraceable dark ads online, is legal. The genie that Cambridge Analytica let out of the bottle is clearly never going to go back in, while a two horse race voting system in a multi-party landscape remains, in my opinion, a nonsense (although I remain critical of the Make Votes Matter campaign and their reliance on Proportional Representation to solve all of these problems).

I’ve written at length before about why I consider a formal and binding NOTA option on ballot papers to be the logical start point for full democratisation of any system of government (read our white paper for the low-down on that).

To summarise, properly understood, NOTA is an essential game changer that cannot be argued against without arguing against democracy itself. It’s achievable because it’s a democratic pre-requisite. If enough people understood that and were calling for it, it should only be a matter of time before its continued absence became politically untenable.

Once in place, NOTA wouldn’t have to ‘win’ any constituencies to be effective but if it did, it should trigger by-elections wherever that happened. But even if NOTA came second or third, any party that polled worse than NOTA would have serious questions to answer. The knock on effect of this would be that all parties would have to take stock, listen to what NOTA voters are saying and adjust their policies accordingly. Leading to a political landscape in which further democratic reform and the maximisation of the common good ought to become inevitable.

NOTA has never been about ‘not voting’ or encouraging people to try to ‘wreck’ the system. Once NOTA is in place, we wouldn’t then set about trying to persuade people to use it. If you believe a party deserves your vote, you should vote for them. But millions of people don’t and they are currently completely unrepresented. NOTA would give them a voice for the first time in history.

On the ten year anniversary of me embarking on this journey, I am committed more than ever to taking this campaign forward. But I need your help. We have no funding, no friends in high places. If you’d like to support this campaign, please consider making a one off or regular donation here to help fund the following:
  • PR costs (publicist, media co-ordination)
  • Campaign materials (social media ads, video content, leaflets)
  • Website maintenance/upgrade (domain costs, admin)
  • Time spent lobbying MP’s (emailing, phoning, meeting in person)
  • Travel costs (to meetings with interested parties, potential media appearances etc.)

Additionally, if anyone with experience of co-ordinating large scale campaigns shares our vision and wants to get involved, please don’t hesitate to contact me at stan(at)nota-uk.org

We’ve come a long way. But there is much work to do. Join us.

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
01/05/20

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You can find out more and support our campaign for formal, binding NOTA in the UK by following the links below and signing our petition:

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NOTA UK website

NOTA UK White Paper Updated

In response to feedback, we have today republished our definitive ‘None of the Above’ white paper with a new summary clarifying exactly how a formal and binding NOTA option would work in practice and why we believe it to be such a game changer. View and download it here.

Support the campaign for REAL democracy!

NOTA UK is a volunteer run non-profit electoral reform campaign that gets to the heart of what is and isn’t democracy.

In 2019 – surely an election year? – we would dearly love to up the ante by:

1: Challenging all major UK political parties to respond to our recent definitive white paper and set out their position on inclusion of NOTA in ballot papers.

2: Obtaining definitive legal advice on the question of whether the ability to withhold consent and reject all candidates at elections in a formal and binding manner is a human right and therefore also a democratic pre-requisite.

3: Placing NOTA adverts in major publications and relevant websites in the run up to any upcoming elections.

4: Upgrading our website.

5: Applying for proper funding.

All these things cost time and/or money. If you support our efforts, please consider making a one off or regular donation via paypal.

Click here or hit the paypal button at the top right of the site to donate.

Thanks in advance. Onwards!

Make Voters Matter – a critique of the campaign for PR

Alongside our white paper, we also publish today a critique of the Make Votes Matter campaign for Proportional Representation.

You can read and download it in .pdf format below (other formats are available on request):

Make Voters Matter – with NOTA

Feel free to share!

You can find out more and support our campaign for formal, binding NOTA in the UK by following the links below and signing our petition:

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NOTA UK website

Onwards!

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
07/01/19

NOTA UK publishes definitive ‘None of the Above’ White Paper

Today, we at NOTA UK publish our definitive white paper on the urgent need for a formal and binding ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option on all ballots for elections in all countries claiming to be a democracy.

It is our most comprehensive document to date, one that answers all common questions, counters all common rebuttals and lays out the reasoning behind our assertion that NOTA is the achievable logical starting point for reforming our broken electoral systems, installing real democracy and maximising the common good over time.

You can read and download it in .pdf format below (other formats are available on request):

You can find out more and support our campaign for formal, binding NOTA in the UK by following the links below and signing our petition:

Facebook
Twitter
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NOTA UK website

Onwards!

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
07/01/19

And so it begins…

notauk_logo5 for fb

It’s been a long time coming but it might just be that week. With Brexit up in the air and the government in disarray, Theresa May is to face a vote of no confidence and likely leadership challenge. Opposition parties are now poised to demand a general election and/or second EU referendum.

Stay tuned to our website, Facebook and Twitter. None Of The Above news coming soon…

You can find out more and support our campaign for formal, binding NOTA in the UK by following the links below and signing our petition:

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NOTA UK website

NOTA UK on The Wright Stuff 18/05/17

On 18th May 2017, NOTA UK founder Jamie Stanley appeared on popular Channel 5 show The Wright Stuff in a segment about media bias during election campaigns and took the opportunity to emphasise the need for a formal and binding ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option on ballot papers. Panellist Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the green party, confirmed that they have a policy to get just such a form of NOTA on ballot papers (RON – Re-Open Nominations). Big thanks to him, the Greens and Matthew Wright for your ongoing support. Onwards!

You can find out more and support our campaign for formal, binding NOTA in the UK by following the links below and signing our petition:

Facebook
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NOTA UK website

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
23/05/17