Tag Archives: Hope

Trump: Don’t despair, don’t get angry – get wise and organise!

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An estimated 55.6% of eligible voters voted in the 2016 US election that saw Donald Trump elected as the next US president. That is an abysmal turnout, but an entirely understandable one, given the state of the candidates and the level of debate in the run up.


It also transpires that Clinton, much like Gore in 2000, won the popular vote nationwide but, due to the First Past The Post (FPTP) voting system and the vagaries of the 100 year old electoral college system, lost out when it came to securing the all important 270 delegates.

Naturally, there is now much belated talk, again, of electoral reform and the ‘state of democracy’ and, inevitably, the focus has fallen on efforts to introduce a more proportional voting system. This is a red herring plan, in my view, that would involve tearing up a tried and tested system that directly benefits the two main parties of power and that can always be presented by them as ‘democratic enough’, even if plenty of people disagree.

But there is a much simpler, much more achievable and much more immediately transformative reform staring everybody in the face. One that actually already exists in some form in the US, setting out a clear precedent and an opportunity for expansion.

Does anybody truly believe that many of those who turned out and voted for Trump or Clinton, having opted for the perceived lesser of two evils, did not do so through gritted teeth? We’ll never know how many for sure, but I’m willing to bet that a great many of them would instead have made use of a formal & binding ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) option on the ballot paper / voting machine had one been available.

It also stands to reason then, that many more of the over 100 million who didn’t vote at all would surely have considered doing so if they’d had the opportunity to formally tell all candidates and parties where to go in a way that could’ve affected the result if enough people had chosen to do so.

One US state, Nevada, already has a form of NOTA, but unfortunately it is a non-binding kind of faux-NOTA that cannot in any way affect the result and is therefore of little interest to disillusioned voters, some of whom are campaigning for it to be made binding and extended across the rest of the US. This is an initiative that we must whole heartedly support.

In my view, there is absolutely no rational argument for keeping a formal, binding NOTA option off the ballot paper in a world where pseudo-fascist populism and yet more neoliberal Wall Street / City of London puppetry are the only available options (if you agree, please help us to help you by signing this petition on the 38 degrees website and sharing this post).

But we cannot make this argument and take it to the mainstream without serious numbers and serious support. I have, more than once, tried to impress upon various organisations such as 38 Degrees, Make Votes Matter, Unlock Democracy and the Electoral Reform Society the importance of our campaign and why NOTA should be the priority of all progressives and democratic reformists.

Surely this point has now been made beyond all doubt. Donald Trump is the next US President, after all. Have another go at trying to let that sink in for a minute.

NOTA, properly implemented, is a democratic pre-requisite, representing as it does the essential ability to be able to formally withhold consent and reject all that is on offer at an election, if deemed necessary, in a way that can affect the result if enough people do it. This mechanism, in its fully fledged form, is currently absent both in the US, the UK and indeed everywhere, when it should be central to any and all systems claiming to be truly democratic. When understood this way, you cannot argue against it and still be pro-democracy, meaning that all the while there is a need to present the various systems we have as paragons of democracy, NOTA is 100% achievable.

A form of NOTA is already UK Green Party policy. We now need to get this essential, transformative reform seriously recognised and firmly on the table across the board. In my view, as a matter of urgency.

With this in mind, I implore anyone reading this to familiarise yourself with the current state of play and recent articles on our website and start the all important conversations with your friends and families about how coming together and campaigning for NOTA presents a golden opportunity for us all to meaningfully push things forward at this critical time.

Again, you can support the campaign for formal, binding NOTA in the UK by following the links below and signing our petition:

Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
NOTA UK website

If you live in the US, you can support and help draw attention to the need for a formal, binding NOTA option on ballot papers here.

Onwards & Upwards.

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
09/11/16

 

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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

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

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:

Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
NOTA UK website

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
10/05/15

 

THE FIGHT FOR ACTUAL DEMOCRACY: Time To Step It Up

Every election to office should also be a straight Yes/No referendum on what’s on offer and/or the system itself.


Apparently, the UK is a true democracy. I beg to differ. Here’s some statistics for you:

The population of the UK is around 64.1 million.

Only 72% of the UK population are registered to vote (46.4 million).
Only 66.1% of those registered to vote actually voted in the 2015 UK general election (30.7 million).

That’s 47.9% of the total UK population. Using 2011 figures, somewhere between 18% and 20% of the UK population is under voting age. So we can safely say that somewhere between 32% and 34% of the voting age UK population didn’t register or didn’t vote.

Only 36.9% of the turnout voted Conservative (11.3 million).

That’s 17.6% of the entire UK population, 24.4% of the registered electorate, dropping to around 22% of the voting age population as a whole. So less than 25% of potential voters actually voted for the government that we are now stuck with for the next five years.

“Well, they should’ve voted shouldn’t they, if you don’t vote you can’t complain…” etc. etc.

Just think about that for a second.

Excluding those under voting age, somewhere between 32% and 34% of the population, between 20 and 22 million people, either didn’t register to vote or didn’t bother to vote. Do you really think that many people simply don’t care about something that very obviously affects their lives?!

Statistically speaking, it stands to reason that the majority of these people are not going to be well off. The majority are bound to be people living at the sharp end of UK society and directly suffering the consequences of government by and for millionaires and the corporate and financial sector.

If they thought voting for the lesser of several evils could make a difference to their lives, then they surely would, right? But they don’t. So, evidently, most of them must know – or believe, depending on your point of view – that no amount of voting in a failing, broken system of oligarchy masquerading as democracy is ever going to make any damn difference to their lives. So they have nothing to do with it, they withhold their consent and reject all the candidates and/or the system as a whole the only way they can – by non-participation.

But what if they could formally register that disdain, that withholding of consent, that rejection of all candidates and/or the whole system, in a way that could influence the election result if the majority were to do so.

There is no doubt in my mind that a great many of this significant but currently silent group absolutely would choose to do that if they could. This is why there is currently no formal ‘None Of The Above’ (NOTA) option on UK ballot papers, no formal mechanism to distinguish between apathy and conscious rejection. The powers that be know it would be a game changer.

And that is why we must step up the fight for NOTA as the logical starting point for widespread democratic reform.

In a true democracy, as well as being a way of choosing and legitimising a government, a general election should always also be a straight Yes/No referendum on whether that system is working and has the support of the majority.

NOTA would provide a way to ensure that our elections are just that. If you support a party or candidate or the system in general and vote, then you vote Yes. If you choose NOTA, you vote No. There would be a clear measure of how many want in and are happy with the process as it is and how many want out and demand change.

It’s not a democracy if you can’t do this. We know from the Scottish referendum that when a simple Yes/No question that people actually care about is posed, people get involved. Some 84.5% of the electorate in that case.

Put NOTA on UK ballot papers and give people the option of making any election a Yes/No referendum on the parties and candidates put forward, or the system as a whole, and it would only be matter of time before things changed for the better.

With actual NOTA ‘with teeth’ in place, actual democracy becomes possible. Without it, there’s no reason why it ever would or could.

And THAT is why we don’t have the option already. Time to step up the fight.

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

Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
NOTA UK website

Onwards & Upwards!

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
09/05/15