Tag Archives: Politics

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

‘Vote Blanc’ vs NOTA

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At the 2017 French presidential election, a record number of people made use of the ‘vote blanc’ option, a way of rejecting all candidates put forward at the ballot box.


This rise occurred in conjunction with the lowest overall turnout in a French presidential election for nearly fifty years. Clearly, more people than ever felt that the candidates on offer represented a Hobson’s Choice that many could not bring themselves to make and chose either to stay at home, spoil the ballot paper or cast a blank vote.

From our point of view, while this is telling, it’s very important to realise that the ‘vote blanc’ option in France is very different from the formal and binding ‘None Of The Above’ (NOTA) option we are proposing should be added to ballot papers in the UK, and indeed all countries.

The crucial words are ‘formal’ and ‘binding’. Currently, blank votes in French elections are not counted as valid votes. They are counted, but not in a way that can ever affect the election result. For this reason, while they are seen as distinct from spoiled ballots (which can of course be counted as spoiled in error), they are no more useful as a measure of voter discontent in reality.

In order to be truly meaningful, any option that allows a voter to register their rejection of all that is on offer and withhold their consent at an election MUST be formal and binding, as the act of endorsing / consenting by voting is formal and binding. It MUST be counted as a valid vote and, if applicable, be able to void the result and trigger a second election if it ‘wins’.

At NOTA UK we are campaigning for just such a formal and binding NOTA option and nothing less. We have made representations to parliament and are actively lobbying the Green Party of England & Wales to promote their currently low key policy of getting RON (Re-Open Nominations) on ballot papers to centre stage in their manifesto for the upcoming UK general election. We have also suggested that they commit to using the more self-explanatory NOTA acronym and adopt our proposals for dealing with the logistics of a NOTA ‘win’.

Mechanisms like ‘Vote Blanc’ and an increase in people using them is a significant step in the right direction. But until such time as they can materially effect the election result, they remain examples of faux-NOTA or NOTA-lite, symbolic token gestures that do nothing to empower those disillusioned enough with the political system to want to formally reject all candidates and parties put forward at election time.

You can 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

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
08/05/17

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Open Letter to the Green Party re: GE 2017

Dear Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley,

I wrote to you last year, and then again in reply to your response, but have yet to receive a further response from you. In your first reply, Caroline stated:

“…the Green Party fully backs having a “re-open nominations” (RON) option on the ballot paper and I’d agree that a “none of the above” (NOTA) 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.”

I’m writing to you again now as it strikes me that with a snap general election coming up and talk of progressive alliances (that could, in theory, see the Green party forming part of a coalition government after June 8th) the time may well be now for you to do something proactive on the issue of NOTA / RON.

If you were to bring your NOTA / RON policy out of the shadows and in to the limelight, putting it at the heart of your election manifesto, this would, in my view, not only do wonders for our cause but also be a sure vote winner for your party among those who would dearly love to see a formal and binding NOTA option on ballot papers in the future.

I sincerely believe that to not do this at this time would be to miss a trick.

I also still feel strongly that the policy would carry more weight with the general public if you reworded it favouring the often used and self-explanatory NOTA acronym over the more jargonistic RON.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this and hopefully taking an important step forward with you towards real electoral reform in the UK at this upcoming election.

Your sincerely,
Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
29/04/17

NOTA CAMPAIGN: 2017 General Election Strategy

NB: This is a hastily arrived at assessment of the state of play. More detail to follow!


So, the largely meaningless binary ‘choice’ season has been brought forward with Theresa May’s announcement of a snap general election on June 8th 2017. As with any election, this will inevitably lead to increased interest in our campaign to get a formal and binding None of the Above (NOTA) option on UK ballot papers. It therefore presents an opportunity to further establish the urgent need for electoral reform as a mainstream talking point in the coming weeks.

So here’s my initial strategy thoughts from a NOTA point of view. Clearly, the chances of getting NOTA on ballot papers by June are zero and we will need to take the fight to the next government. As I see it, with the First Past The Post system being what it is, there are only really four possible outcomes at the upcoming election with some more likely than others:

1: A Tory government, either with a majority or as a minority government – LIKELY
2: A Labour government, either with a majority or as a minority government – LESS LIKELY
3: A coalition government with the Tories in the driving seat – POSSIBLE
4: A coalition government with Labour in the driving seat – POSSIBLE

Neither an outright Tory government or a Labour government are likely to be open to the idea of introducing NOTA any time soon. Currently, the only pro-NOTA party in a position to possibly end up in power in some small way after June 8th is the Green party, who have an official policy to get a form of NOTA (RON – Re-Open Nominations) on ballot papers. Clearly, the Green’s are not in a position to win the election outright and form a government.

So from our point of view, the best possible strategy, it seems to me, would be to support the so-called ‘progressive alliance’ with a view to getting a ‘rainbow coalition’ government with the Greens and others in a position to influence the Jeremy Corbyn led Labour party.

With that in mind, I propose that NOTA UK and its supporters spend the coming days and weeks:

a) lobbying the Green party to bring their pro-NOTA policy to the forefront of their manifesto, rather than hide it in the shadows as they have up to now, in order to show that they mean business when it comes to electoral reform and representing the currently silent majority

b) lobby the Labour party to commit to the progressive alliance being put forward and

c) lobby all other parties that could possibly wind up in a ‘rainbow coalition’ government to publicly declare where they stand on the issue of NOTA and electoral reform in general.

As stated, this is a swiftly arrived at strategy for the benefit of those asking what our plans are. Much more detail and rationale to follow! Feel free to share.


NOTA UK is a volunteer run organisation, if you’d like to donate to our campaign you can do so via the paypal button at the top right of this page. For an overview of our campaign and its aims check out our explainer videos.

You can also support the 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

Onwards & Upwards!

Jamie Stanley
Founder NOTA UK
20/04/2017

Meet Cambridge Analytica: the Big Data communications company responsible for Trump & Brexit

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In September 2016 at the Concordia Summit, a man called Alexander Nix (above) gave a ten minute presentation called “The Power of Big Data and Psychographics”.


It was essentially a demonstration of the extent to which his company Cambridge Analytica is now able to harness the power of ‘Big Data’ (the online and digital fingerprints we all leave behind) to influence global elections.

The company boasts “a revolutionary approach to audience targeting, data modelling and psychographic profiling”  that has made them “a leader in behavioural micro-targeting for election processes around the world”.

If you’re still reeling from #Brexit and #Trump and wondering how on earth we got here, you really need to watch the video of this talk:

In it, Nix explains how his company used this cutting edge combination of technology and psychological profiling to propel Republican nominee candidate Ted Cruz from total obscurity to being the main rival to Trump. At the end of the talk he reveals that, in light of Cruz pulling out, one of the two remaining contenders in the race for the Whitehouse is now using their technology.

That contender, it transpires, was Donald Trump.

It further transpires, according to an investigation by Das Magazine reporters Hannes Grassegger and Mikael Krogerus, that Cambridge Analytica’s services were also hired by Nigel Farage’s ‘Leave EU’ campaign.

Much more on the company, the origins of the technology and details of how it was deployed during the EU referendum and US presidential election can be found here.

The upshot is this: for a price – literally millions – this company can, and does, use the vast amount of online data that exists on us all, in conjunction with advanced psychological profiling methods and existing social media algorithms, to profile, target and then push the buttons of millions of people in order to get them to vote – or not vote – however their paymasters want them to.

And that’s exactly what they did. This is not a conspiracy theory. There’s really no mystery to it. This is what modern ‘democracy’ has become.

It appears that in both cases, Cambridge Analytica profiled and targetted people who are susceptible to propaganda and well presented political messages, then ruthlessly exploited them, resulting in a spike in engagement on polling day among their paymasters supporters and a drop off among supporters of their opponents. Many a Remain and Clinton supporter has since bemoaned the fact that they didn’t vote for the simple reason that they believed the result to be a foregone conclusion.

What this means, above all else, is that neither Brexit or Trump’s victory were results of an organic movement to ‘take back control’ from the establishment as they are routinely portrayed. They were largely bought about by cynical, calculating, undemocratic mass manipulation of the general public via targetted psychological online profiling.

In spite of the non-racist, honourable intentions of many of those who backed Brexit and Trump, there can be no doubt that these election results have empowered the far right, to the point of it being able to rebrand itself as ‘Alt-Right’ and swell its ranks.

So, in a very real sense, this company and these campaigns (in conjunction with the programming of much of the mainstream media over many years, of course) could be said to be largely responsible for not only the results of these two crucial elections but also the rise of the so called ‘Alt-Right’ and the ‘Fake News’ / ‘Post Truth’ hysteria that has ensued since those results were announced. Without this intervention, it is entirely conceivable that the extreme fascist views of the far right would still be firmly in the fringes. Instead, they are now very much in the mainstream, barely concealed in the rhetoric of its most prominent cheerleaders.

What a pity these tech geniuses never use their powers for good. Imagine if, rather than just selling themselves out to the highest bidder with no concern for morals or ethics, they were to put their efforts behind genuinely progressive, pro-democracy campaigns.

Like ours.

MAYBE THEY ALREADY ARE…

I greatly doubt it.

Seriously though, it’s bad enough that our electoral systems are fundamentally undemocratic and ensure that only representatives of the same political class can ever get in, and that the partisan, deeply biased and hugely powerful mainstream media actively seek to control the electorate and directly influence our elections.

Now, on top of all that, unless you are aware of the dangers and take steps to avoid them, the apparently free and open internet is now also fully at the mercy of powerful undemocratic forces seeking to steal our elections.

Needless to say, we’re up against it. And needless to say, the need for truly democratic reform of our electoral systems and systems of government has never been greater.

Legislatively, much more needs to be done, clearly, if for the right price an Orwellian communications company can be drafted in to ensure an election victory for whoever can afford them, regardless of any moral or ethical concerns. But a formal, binding None of the Above (NOTA) option on ballots remains the logical, systemic starting point for this process. Find out why here.

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 (as opposed to the token gesture, watered down versions in India and Nevada, for example), 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 NOTA 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, even if they aren’t, NOTA is 100% achievable.

Introducing 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 surely critical time.

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…

Jamie Stanley
NOTA UK
02/02/17

UPDATE: 14/02/17 – Cambridge Analytica’s Trump and Cruz campaigns were specifically bankrolled by  billionaire Trump backer Robert Mercer. It transpires that prominent Trump advisor Steve Bannon was, until recently, also on the board of the company. It is now reportedly being lined up to handle all of the Trump administration’s digital communications, meaning it will be working closely with many departments across government. A detailed and extremely worrying analysis of what all this means for the future can be found here.

UPDATE: 27/02/17 – When I originally posted and shared this blog, many people instantly dismissed it as a ‘conspiracy theory’. Understandable, perhaps, as you’d think something like this would be headline news. Well, it’s not quite there yet, but elements of the mainstream media are finally reporting it. This excellent investigative piece appeared in The Observer on 25/02/17, confirming the story and revealing even more details.

UPDATE: 16/07/18 – Needless to say, this article has now been fully corroborated by the high profile media revelations of recent months. We now know that both election results were arrived at fraudulently. Yet Trump and Brexit trundle on while the fascist alt-right continues to be the primary beneficiary. It’s almost as though that was always the objective… buckle up!

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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

 

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”
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“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″

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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#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