Tag Archives: Democracy

Response to our open letter to Caroline Lucas

So I finally received a reply to our open letter to Caroline Lucas of the Green Party of England and Wales. Here it is with my response:

“Dear Jamie,

Thank you for getting in touch and apologies for not replying sooner – I get a lot of correspondence and give priority to that from my constituents.

As you know, the Green Party fully backs having a “re-open nominations” option on the ballot paper and I’d agree that a “none of the above” option is in the same spirit. It’s not possible for us to campaign on everything and I don’t think we’ll be doing anything proactive on this in the immediate future, but I’ll let the campaigns coordinators know about the open letter and your calls.

In terms of changing policy, that’s done by members and the policy coordinators, copied in above, should be able to tell you whether there’s ever been any proposals along these lines.

Best wishes, Caroline”
—————————————————————————————–

“Dear Caroline,

Thank you for your reply.

A couple of things, firstly Re-Open Nominations and NOTA are more or less the same thing, my issue with the current Green Party policy is that to many RON will be seen as a needlessly technical and jargonistic term, the preserve of political parties, student unions and the like. Most voters, as you know, are not necessarily members of such groups and generally like things to be simplified as much as possible. RON would constantly need explaining, where as None of the Above is a recognised, self-explanatory phrase. For this reason, we feel strongly that the wording of the policy should be changed so that it is clear that the proposed reform is a formal, binding NOTA option, perhaps with RON in brackets, it could then go on to explain what is meant by RON for the avoidance of doubt.

Secondly, it is clear from your response that NOTA/RON, while recognised as necessary, is not a priority for the Green Party. I feel strongly that this is missing a trick. As outlined in the open letter, there are solid, irrefutable reasons why NOTA is the logical starting point for full democratisation of a plainly undemocratic electoral system such as the UK’s.

In a true democracy, it is essential to be able to formally withhold consent at an election, as voting is the formal giving of consent and consent is only measurable if it is possible to withhold it in an equally impactful way. NOTA is the only way to do this, as ballot spoiling / abstaining are informal acts that can in no way affect the result. NOTA would therefore be achievable, in the short to mid term, with enough widespread understanding of this fact and support for it among the general public, as it is not possible to argue against a democratic pre-requisite without arguing against the concept of democracy itself. As undemocratic as the Westminster elites are in practice, they can never be seen to be. Therefore, all it would take to get NOTA in place would be for some mainstream politicians and parties to come out in favour of it and join us in making the case for it in a high profile way. From that point, NOTA would become inevitable. There is also quite probably a legal case to be made for inclusion of NOTA (see here: https://nota-uk.org/…/guest-blog-is-nota-a-legal-requireme…/ )

The same cannot be said of PR, because as desirable a democratic improvement as it may be, it simply cannot ever be argued that PR is a democratic pre-requisite in a system where securing a mandate hinges on seat share, not vote share. In my view, it does not matter how many high profile parties and people are calling for PR, if the party in power benefits directly from FPTP, as is always the case because of the very nature of FPTP, why on earth would they do anything other than pay lip service to calls for a new voting system then ultimately ignore them?

They would not be able to do this if NOTA were the ’cause célèbre’, for the reasons stated. Once in place, a post-NOTA electoral system would be much easier to reform and improve with additional changes such as PR.

If full democratisation of the UK system is the aim, rather than just figuring out how to get one’s own party into power or the continued justification of one’s organisation and funding (ERS, for example), then campaigning for NOTA has to be the start point. Any mainstream political party with the courage and foresight to acknowledge this and get behind our campaign fully would be making history. Until that happens, the issue of electoral reform is likely to continue going round in circles as it has done for decades.

Again, I would be more than happy to consult with policy makers on this issue with a view to making NOTA a central plank of any future Green Party manifesto.

Yours sincerely,
Mr J Stanley
NOTA UK
26/09/2016″

The “NOTA = Tory government” Fallacy

One of the most prevailing myths that comes up time and again when talking to people who oppose inclusion of a formal ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option on ballot papers, is the idea that it would somehow ensure a victory for the Tories every time if implemented in the UK.


This argument is flawed on a number of levels.

Firstly, and most importantly, it fails to acknowledge what NOTA represents. NOTA is the ability to formally withhold consent and reject all that is on offer at an election. 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 many times before. (If you disagree with any of these premises I would politely suggest that you follow the hyperlinks, to begin with, and re-examine your understanding of consent in relation to voting and democracy!).

Once it has been accepted that NOTA is 100% essential in any true democracy, it becomes impossible to argue against it without arguing against true democracy itself, no matter what form your opposition to it takes. Essentially, if you are truly pro-democracy, then you have to also be pro-NOTA, if both concepts are properly understood, even if you perceive its presence on the ballot box as unhelpful in terms of what you want to see happen at an election. To oppose NOTA and claim to be pro-democracy is, quite clearly, a contradiction in terms.

The second problem with the ‘NOTA = Tory government’ argument is that it assumes that the biggest problem with our system of government and electoral system is the prospect of it delivering a Tory government in the first place. It isn’t.

The problem is neo-liberalism and the corporate oligarchy masquerading as democracy that it inevitably leads to. The differences between a future ‘Blairite’ New Labour government and a traditional Tory one would be negligible at best. If we’ve learned anything from Tony Blair’s experiment it should be that.

The prospect of Jeremy Corbyn going into a general election, having successfully transformed the Labour party into something anti-neo-liberalism and genuinely progressive, certainly makes things interesting. If this occurred, many of the millions of politically engaged but disillusioned people in the UK, who would otherwise abstain, spoil their ballots in disgust or formally vote NOTA if they could, would undoubtedly vote Labour and probably swing the election. I can understand then, from that point of view, the logic of not having anything on the ballot that could take votes away from Corbyn and prevent this happening, even if the absence of NOTA remains completely undemocratic.

But how likely is that scenario really? Assuming Corbyn hangs on to the leadership and leads Labour into a general election, what are the chances, honestly, of him genuinely having transformed the Labour party by then, and by extension, the way that a UK government goes about its business?

The status quo in the UK has prevailed for the longest time. It is much more likely that his power as Prime Minister, in a system that will still be set up primarily to facilitate a corporate oligarchy masquerading as a democracy, would be severely limited at best. The extent to which the enemies of all that Corbyn represents, even within his own party, have gone to undermine him and prevent Labour from evolving thus far speaks volumes. It is reasonable to assume that they intend to persevere and ramp up their opposition the closer he gets to becoming Prime Minister – and beyond.

In a true democracy, of course, this would not matter. Those enemies would not have any power in the first place, having been filtered out by a democratic process that allows for true manifestation of the will of the people administered by community minded, qualified representatives only.

But the UK system is categorically NOT a true democracy. It will remain a corporate oligarchy masquerading as one, regardless of who is seen to be in power in Westminster, all the while the electoral system and the system of government it underpins are specifically designed with that in mind.

Just as likely, if not more so, as Corbyn getting into power only to find himself shackled to an immovable, fundamentally corrupted system, is the prospect of him being ousted one way or another before then and replaced with a ‘business as usual’ neo-liberal candidate, alienating all those who would otherwise have been compelled to vote expecting real change. At which point, we will all be back to square one.

It is not good enough to simply play along with apparent developments and hope for the best.

In order to fully democratise the UK system of government, or any corrupt system of government, the general public first need to remove powerful, vested interests from politics altogether and ensure that their elected representatives, who have the power to make and repeal legislation, are truly qualified, community spirited people only.

Many would say this is an impossible task and that some kind of compromise is in order. But this flies in the face of systems thinking. If a system is failing to deliver its officially stated purpose – in this case, truly democratic governance (we all know that isn’t the aim, but that is how it is officially presented) – it must be made fit for purpose i.e. significantly reformed or replaced. Continuing to engage with the failing system as it is and expecting a different result is clearly madness.

The ‘go to’ reform that comes to mind at this point for most people in the UK is Proportional Representation (PR). I have spoken and written at length elsewhere about why I consider this to be a red herring. That is not to say that PR is not a desirable improvement or that the current First Past The Post (FPTP) system isn’t deeply flawed. It is simply a question of what is, and isn’t, achievable in the current corrupted paradigm.

Even with PR in place – unlikely to happen any time soon in my view – it would essentially be a compromise with an already totally corrupted system, rather than a way of getting to the root of the problem. The enemies of true democracy might be hampered by PR, but they certainly wouldn’t be defeated.

The question, then, is what does get to the root of the problem? The answer (as I’m sure you were expecting!) is NOTA.

Because NOTA, if implemented properly, would be a way of completely undermining the control that various agents of oligarchy, both inside and outside Westminster, currently have.

The very prospect of a party or candidate coming second to more people rejecting everything on offer would, in time, organically level the playing field, as no party will want to take that risk. It would be far too damaging and embarrassing, they would have no choice but to understand and engage with NOTA voters and put forward appropriate candidates with appropriate policies and, crucially, mean what they say or face blanket rejection next time around at the ballot box.

For this reason, providing the option to formally reject all that is on offer to millions of non-voters, not to mention the millions more who tend to vote begrudgingly for the lesser of several evils at elections (including many Tory voters), in a way that would affect the result if a majority did so (by triggering by-elections and/or a re-run general election if NOTA ever ‘won’) would be a truly transformative step – and that’s before anyone has even cast a vote. From there, all manner of further democratic reform would be that much more possible. Without it, it is difficult to see how or why anything will significantly change for the better.

Crucially, the reform of NOTA is achievable, as I alluded to earlier and have spoken about at length elsewhere. It remains, therefore, the logical starting point and leverage point for all reformists and progressives genuinely wanting to transform a corrupt system of corporate oligarchy into a true democracy.

CONCLUSION:

The problem is not the Tories, or the ‘Blairites’ or even the fact that our electoral system favours two main parties over all others. The problem is this:

It matters not who is in power in a system of oligarchy masquerading as democracy, that system will always be working against the interests of most people and in the interests of rich and powerful elites, while having the gall to present itself as a paragon of democracy.

It is this corrupted system that needs to change, if a truly democratic and sustainable system of governance is ever to be achieved. And if it can’t be changed, then it must be dismantled and replaced.

The question, then, is how? Logically speaking, the answer, to begin with, is NOTA.

Thanks for reading. Follow these links to find out more and get involved:

Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
NOTA UK website

Onwards & upwards!

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
07/09/16

An Open Letter to Caroline Lucas MP

Dear Caroline,

I am writing to you in my capacity as founder of the electoral reform campaign group NOTA UK, campaigning since 2010 for a formal ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option to be added to ballot papers for all future UK elections.

In my view, as much as Proportional Representation (PR) advocates are keen to downplay this, the recent defeat of your bill regarding scrapping First Past The Post (FPTP) in favour of PR shows that we are actually no closer to achieving this than we ever have been. Clearly, this is because it remains the case that the two pain parties will never give up their FPTP advantage as things stand.

In a system that is all about securing a majority of seats, as opposed to a majority of votes, PR is an ideal, not an essential democratic pre-requisite. NOTA, however, is 100% essential in any true democracy, representing as it does the all important ability to formally withhold consent and reject all that is on offer at an election in a formal, binding way.

As such, NOTA would be achievable with enough public understanding of this fact, and with enough people calling for it, because to argue against it is to argue against democracy itself, once both concepts are properly understood.

In my view, the EU referendum result, widely perceived as more of a general protest vote than a coherent rejection of the EU, clearly indicates that there is a demand for a NOTA option on ballot papers and that people would make use of one if they could. The very presence of such a thing would change everything. It wouldn’t even have to attract the most votes and ‘win’ (triggering by-elections) to be effective, although clearly provisions for this eventuality would have to be put in place. Parties would be terrified of coming second to a body of people formally rejecting all that is on offer because it could destroy them. They would therefore have to adapt their policies and candidates accordingly and stand by them fully to attract genuine support. In such a climate, further reforms like PR would be that much more achievable.

Currently PR is nothing but a red herring. The real cause should be getting NOTA on ballot papers before the next general election because it is an achievable game changer. In our view, the sooner PR advocates wake up to this and get on board with NOTA UK’s campaign the better.

As you know, the Green party recently adopted getting NOTA on ballot papers as party policy (although you call it Re-Open Nominations (RON) potentially confusing and muddying the issue – I would push for changing this to the more self-explanatory NOTA), but are not very vocal about it, focussing instead on unwinnable PR. In my humble opinion, this needs to change, urgently.

If the Green Party and all other PR advocates were to get fully behind our NOTA campaign and commit to educating the general public about the need for it, we could get NOTA in place in no time as a government concession to keep the peace. This, as you know, is how all giant leaps forward in politics are achieved, like votes for women and the creation of the welfare state. They were not benevolent gifts bestowed from on high, but necessary concessions to an increasingly aware and vocal public. So could it be with NOTA.

For this reason, I honestly believe that getting NOTA on ballot papers is the next logical step towards universal suffrage, followed closely by PR. But it has to be in that order, otherwise, to be blunt, we are all just pissing in the wind, for the reasons outlined above.

I would be more than happy to meet with you to discuss the matter further and/or act as a consultant to help formulate Green party policy with regard to NOTA. Much more information about our campaign can be found on our website: http://www.nota-uk.org

Feel free to contact me via any of the contact details below. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
23/07/16

Systems thinking, leverage points and the immovable logic of NOTA

oligarchybanner.jpgIf you can see the flaws in a broken or knowingly deceptive system, it makes literally no sense whatsoever to make use of that system as it is and expect the outcome to change.


All this can ever achieve is legitimisation of that system and assurance that the inevitable outcome it produces will persist unchallenged.

The only viable solution to that problem is to either replace the broken and/or deceptive system with one that actually does do what it is supposed to (or claims to) or fix whatever is preventing it from doing so.

In the case of most nation state’s current electoral systems, by far the most significant and obvious flaw is that they claim to be democratic but in reality can only ever deliver oligarchy masquerading as democracy. If you doubt this, you should probably read up on the 2014 study jointly conducted by Princeton and Northwestern universities that proved beyond doubt that the United States is officially an oligarchy.

Among those who acknowledge it, this problem can seem largely insurmountable. But if you approach it the right way, this is far from the case.

Within faux-democratic electoral systems such as that of the US and the UK, the most glaring and most addressable problem is the total absence of a mechanism that enables voters to formally withhold consent and reject all that is on offer in a way that can actually effect the result if enough people choose to do so.

It is essential to be able to do this in any true democracy because, at its core, true democracy is about people consenting to be represented in government by whoever they collectively choose to elect. But consent is only measurable if it is possible to withhold consent. The act of consenting and endorsing candidates / parties (by voting) is formal and binding, so the act of withholding consent and rejecting must be formal and binding also in order to be valid. Not voting or ballot spoiling / ‘writing in’ are meaningless, informal acts that in no way equate to this.

The only way to do this properly is with a formal, binding ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option on ballot papers.

Because it is essential to be able to do this in a democracy, all the while the game of the powerful is to present oligarchy as democracy, NOTA is an achievable reform – or rather would be, if enough people understood it and were calling for it as the democratic pre-requisite that it is. To argue against NOTA, in those circumstances, would be to argue against a central pillar of democracy itself, thus allowing the facade to crumble.

Therefore, it follows that with enough pressure, NOTA could become a government concession to keep the peace and avoid all out, overt tyranny (notoriously costly, in many ways, and nigh on impossible to sustain), as opposed to voluntary, covert tyranny (the self-sustaining goal and inevitable outcome of oligarchy masquerading as democracy).

Once in place, with the prospect of blanket, formal rejection hanging over every party and candidate, NOTA would have the power to trigger further organic reform of any  broken and/or deceptive electoral system it has infiltrated, towards one that is truly democratic.

But without this first step, nothing can ever change for the better in such systems as things stand.

From a systems thinking point of view, campaigning for and securing a formal, binding NOTA option on ballot papers in the first instance is literally the most logical and viable solution to the problem at hand. It is the most accessible leverage point at which meaningful intervention can occur. (More on systems thinking and leverage points here).

NOTA is not the be all and end all, but it remains the logical starting point for defeating oligarchy and kick-starting true democracy, once the true nature of that problem is fully understood. For this reason, it should be the priority of any and all progressives, reformers and true democrats at this time.

You can find out more and get involved with NOTA UK’s campaign here: nota-uk.org

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
27/04/16

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Response to George Monbiot’s piece: “Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems”

Today, The Guardian published an article from writer and activist George Monbiot seeking to demystify and critique neoliberalism, the prevailing economic doctrine of the last 50 years.


You can read it here. It’s a very good piece. My only small gripe is that it doesn’t fully explore one very important fact: that the system of government that ultimately prevails under neoliberalism will inevitably be oligarchy masquerading as democracy, and any electoral system underpinning such a system of government will inevitably become nothing more than a facilitator of oligarchy that actively prevents actual democracy occurring.

This is one of the most urgent problems we face as a species, not just in the UK and the US but around the world. Monbiot correctly states in his piece: “It’s not enough to oppose a broken system. A coherent alternative has to be proposed.” This is no more true than when applied to our broken electoral system and system of government (broken if one accepts that the goal of each is, and always should be, actual democracy).

And yet, last time I checked, George remains one of the ‘you must go out and vote‘ crowd at general election time, even though, as acknowledged in his piece, people who don’t engage at the ballot box “feel, often correctly, they have no voice or role to play in the political establishment”.

How could you not feel that way, when you understand that the system is set up so as to ensure that only one of two establishment parties can ever form a government or call the shots in coalition, and each will always be answerable to the oligarchs, regardless of how progressive and well intentioned the new man or woman at the helm may personally feel inclined to be?

The reality is that as well as having an alternative to a broken system for when it dies, you also have to be actively trying to either put that system out of its misery or fix what is broken about it so that it becomes fit for purpose. If you simply engage with that system as it is and expect it to reform itself, you’re going to be disappointed. Unfortunately, that is all that putting one’s faith in the likes of Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders when they snap in to focus amounts to as things stand.

Most proposed reforms of our electoral systems either do little to address this problem or are completely unachievable all the while the only parties calling the shots have nothing at all to gain from implementing them. Proportional Representation in the UK for example. PR is not seen as a democratic pre-requisite but as an arguable democratic improvement. As such, calls for it can always be paid lip service to then roundly ignored by those who have the power to make it happen but nothing to gain from doing so. Why on earth would they do anything else?

Until such time as it is possible to formally reject all that is on offer at the ballot box in a binding manner, thus finally giving a voice to the disaffected silent majority who currently either don’t vote at all or begrudgingly vote tactically for the lesser of several evils at elections, nothing is likely to change.

A formal, binding #NoneOfTheAbove option on ballot papers remains the logical, systemic starting point for democratising any corrupt system of government. Mainly, because it is achievable. It must be possible, in a supposedly democratic system built upon the idea of people consenting to be governed (by voting – a formal act), for people to withhold that consent formally if they so choose, and in a way that can affect the outcome if the majority do so. Ballot spoiling and abstaining are informal acts that in no way equate to this. #NOTA is the only thing that does. It can therefore be shown that NOTA is 100% essential in any system claiming to be truly democratic.

If enough people understood this and were calling for it, NOTA would eventually become an inevitable government concession to keep the peace, just as votes for women and all manner of democratic advancements have before it. Then, and only then, with the prospect of mass public rejection and the power that comes with that, will it be possible for progressive politicians and parties to truly put the general population and society as a whole first, ahead of their corporate puppet masters. And only then will it be possible to put forward any meaningful opposition or alternative to the cult of neoliberalism.

The bottom line is this: Corbyn/Sanders or no Corbyn/Sanders – NOTA remains the leverage point at which we will start to truly turn things around. I look forward to George and others one day finally concurring with me on this and joining the movement.

You can find out more and get involved here.

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
15/04/16

#ResignCameron – And Other ‘Rock & a Hard Place’ Scenarios

"Rock, Hard Place" Road Sign with dramatic clouds and sky.

Unfortunately, as entertaining as it all is, the only thing Cameron resigning over the Panama Papers ‘revelations’ will achieve is the ruination of his beloved legacy. A worthy karmic outcome, perhaps, but nothing more than a sacrificial scalp.


If we had a truly democratic system where an election could be called early if necessary (it can’t, the Tory imposed Fixed Term Parliament act prohibits this) and there were truly progressive parties unshackled from the utterly corrupt world of high finance that can actually win under First Past The Post (there aren’t, despite Corbyn’s apparent 21st century credentials Labour is still crawling with Blairite/Thatcherite Cameron clones while FPTP renders all other parties largely cosmetic), then the PM’s resignation would mean something.

As things stand, celebrating the knives out for Cameron, as satisfying as this is, is really just playing into the hands of those who would seek to oust him from within his own party and take over the reigns. Boris Johnson, IDS, Theresa May etc.

In other words, it’s a sh*t sandwich, as always. Our faux-democracy is incapable of offering up anything else.

Until we are able to get big money and vested interests out of politics altogether and create a system of actual democracy, any apparently seismic changes are bound to be temporary and cosmetic in reality.

Regular viewers will know where this is headed…

The first logical step in creating such a system is to give people the power to utterly reject FORMALLY (currently impossible) all that is on offer at the ballot box. An official, binding ‪#‎NoneOfTheAbove‬ (NOTA) option, in other words. It is a democratic pre-requisite to be able to do this.

Alongside grass roots activism and self-education about the way things really are and how they really could/should be, ‪#‎NOTA‬ ought to be a top priority for all progressives, as it remains the systemic leverage point by which we can begin to build a truly democratic and representative system of governance. An also useful (in my view) switch to Proportional Representation (PR), despite recent signs of an opposition alliance forming to achieve it, remains an unlikely first step all the while the big two have a vested interest in the continuation of FPTP. NOTA, by contrast, would be achievable now if enough people understood it to be the 100% essential democratic check and balance that it is and were calling for it as such.

Newcomers can find out more and get involved by checking out the rest of our website and by joining our facebook group. If you can afford it, please consider making a donation to our totally unfunded, non-partisan, volunteer run campaign via the paypal button at the top right of this page. Thank you.

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
08/04/16

A cross party alliance on Electoral Reform – minus NOTA?!

Much is being made in alternative and more progressive mainstream media of the cross party electoral reform alliance that appears to be forming. Clearly, this has implications for our None of the Above (NOTA) campaign. So, in the spirit of solidarity and open debate, here’s my thoughts on the matter.

I believe this alliance to be a long overdue step in the right direction. However, the focus of the alliance appears to be firmly on getting Proportional Representation in place by 2021 – after the next election.

As things stand, by 2020 the Conservatives will most likely have rigged the game even more in their favour via boundary changes and in doing so further cemented their position. As undemocratic and dishonest as this is, it is entirely possible to do this in our current system. As such, it is likely that the current government could remain in power, even in the face of widespread, nationwide opposition after the 2020 election.

The government of the day, even one with a weak majority, still always has a virtual monopoly on the power to pass legislation. Or not pass it, as the case may be. And in the case of PR, the fact remains that, as desirable as it may be, it can still always be argued by its opponents that it is a non-essential democratic ‘optional extra’ and that the current system is ‘democratic enough’, given that our parliamentary system hinges on seat share, not vote share, regardless of the voting system used.

All the while that is the case, I fail to see how PR is achievable. I keep reading that this cross party alliance will lead to PR, even if the government of the day is vehemently opposed to it. How so? I’m happy to be proved wrong on this. If there is a way, that the incumbent government would be powerless to stop, I’d very much like to know what it is.

Either way, a formal NOTA option remains achievable before 2020, with enough understanding and support for it, as it remains essential in any true democracy to be able to formally withhold consent, and is therefore impossible to argue against without arguing against democracy itself. For this reason, with or without PR, NOTA must be there. If, as I suspect, PR remains unachievable in reality, regardless of how much support there is for it (for the reasons stated above), then NOTA would remain the logical starting point.

With that in mind, it would make lots of sense in my view if this cross party alliance began looking into the need for NOTA and considered making it a stated goal alongside their long term plan for PR. I, and I’m sure others from NOTA UK, would be more than happy to advise and facilitate in this regard.

The Green Party of England & Wales is the only party currently who has acknowledged the need for NOTA and adopted an appropriate policy towards it. I believe this cross party alliance presents an opportunity for us to build on that progress and will be contacting members of the alliance in due course to see where they stand on the issue.

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
14/02/16

Getting NOTA on UK ballot papers now official Green Party policy!

So – it took a while but the Green Party of England and Wales have now finally got back to me with full clarification of where they stand on the issue of NOTA. Here is the email in full:

“Dear Jamie,

Thanks for your email, which has been passed on to me in my capacity as
GPEW Policy Development Co-ordinator.

I’m pleased to confirm that the relevant policy chapter, Public
Administration https://policy.greenparty.org.uk/pa.html
was amended at our most recent conference and that section of text now
reads:
————
None of the Above/Re-open Nominations (RON) option

PA310 All ballot papers should allow electors to Re-Open Nominations
(RON) if they are not satisfied with voting for any of the nominated
candidates. Ballots lacking this option provide no valid way to register
non-consent in an election. If the RON option meets the threshold under
the rules of the election then nominations should be reopened and a
second election should take place for the position/s within a period of
two months. This process will continue until a winner is announced, with
the previous incumbent continuing in their role until a threshold is
met.
————

I appreciate the offer to work with us on improving this policy
position (and I do recognise that ‘RON’ and ‘NOTA’ are not the same
thing, as is implied by the current heading), but the reality is that
under our current policy process any member has the right to bring a
policy motion to conference, as long as three other members are prepared
to give it their support and it is posted on the pre-agenda forum of the
members’ website by the stated deadline. No consultation outwith the
party is currently required.

I’m sure you will agree with me that this really isn’t a satisfactory
situation as there are many campaigning organisations that have a lot to
offer us as we seek to improve our policies, and I hope that you’ll be
heartened to hear that Policy Committee are working on a new policy
process which has far more emphasis on truly effective consultation.
This has to go to spring 2016 conference for approval – if it is adopted
we will then be in a position to up our game quite considerably in terms
of making it much more worthwhile for proposers of motions to engage in
genuinely meaningful consultation.

So, the fact that you did not hear back from Natalie or Caroline is a
reflection of the fact that they were both inundated with communications
from members of the public in the run-up to the election – and also
perhaps that they have no more power to change our policy than any other
individual member. Neither of them were involved in the Democratic
Reform motion which came to the Autumn 2015 conference.

If you are willing to be put in touch with the Democratic Reform Policy
Working Group I’d be happy to effect an introduction, and this would
then lead into work to improve our position on RON and NOTA along the
lines you suggest.

I look forward to your further thoughts.

Kind regards,
Sam Riches
GPEW Policy Development Co-ordinator”

——————————————————–

This is great news for our campaign as it means that a comparatively small, but nonetheless influential, mainstream party has:

a) recognised the need to be able to formally withhold consent at an election

b) adopted a baseline policy addressing this need and

c) stated that they are keen to work with NOTA UK to develop the policy going forward.

When the time is right we now intend to make the case for honing the policy so that it focuses specifically on getting a formal ‘None of the Above’ option on ballot papers and nothing else.

We feel that in any system, a clear, self-explanatory and unambiguous NOTA option is essential. It would function as RON in practice if ever evoked, but would not need to be explained to people not used to election terminology as RON would. For this reason, we feel NOTA is by far the better option when it comes to national elections as we believe that most people won’t want to have to think about the mechanism and logistics of rejecting all that is on offer. They just want to be able to reject, formally and unambiguously, and to know that it counts for something. In that regard, NOTA trumps RON every time.

In light of the Green Party’s endorsement of NOTA, we will of course be contacting all the other mainstream parties again in due course to try to clarify where they stand on this democracy defining issue.

Stay tuned. Onwards!

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
24/11/15

“Room for a View: Democracy as a Deliberative System” by Simon Burall of pro-democracy think tank Involve

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.

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
10/11/15

Corbyn mania – what does it mean for the NOTA campaign?

Put simply, it means that people need to get real and stay focused on the actual problem that we face.


Because even if Jeremy Corbyn becomes leader of the Labour party, somehow manages to survive the inevitable Blairite and corporate media backlash and in doing so is able to move the Labour party away from its Tory-lite, neoliberal agenda into the middle ground, or even the so-called ‘left wing’, it won’t make the slightest bit of difference to how the UK, and indeed the world at large, is currently being run.

The newly elected corporatist UK government will still be in power until the next election in 2020. And you can bet your life that by then, they and their sponsors will have found a way to further monopolise the electoral process and ensure that anyone with a vaguely progressive, socially responsible and not fervently establishment and corporatist agenda has no chance of getting into power. Either that, or Corbyn will have been ousted by the next establishment plant, or otherwise co-opted, rendering the election the usual Hobson’s choice and two horse race in reality.

Even with the best intentions – and I don’t doubt Corbyn’s integrity – the Labour leadership contest is, in my view, just a massive distraction from the very real problem that we face: that we are now ruled – not governed, ruled – by a completely unaccountable, corporately sponsored elite that there is no meaningful way of opposing within the narrow limitations of our faux-democracy.

Until it is possible to actively, formally reject all that is on offer at an election in a way that would trigger massive reform across the entire political landscape if enough people were to do so, nothing is going to change. Only this mechanism, in conjunction with continued and expanding grass roots activism, could ever deliver a much needed evolution into actual bona fide democracy before it’s too late.

So, my message to NOTA supporters is this: by all means get involved with the Corbyn bandwagon in the hope that a small victory for alternative viewpoints might slightly broaden the horizons of the political landscape in the UK. It may well do. But please don’t fool yourselves into believing that putting all our eggs in that one basket will lead to the meaningful systemic change that needs to occur.

The problem of our sham democracy will remain, as things stand, no matter what occurs within the mainstream parties. And campaigning for a formal, binding  ‘None Of The Above’ option on ballot papers remains the pivotal, systemic logical starting point for making the UK electoral system fit for purpose.

Anything else is just wishful thinking.

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
13/08/15