Tag Archives: Politics

#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


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

An Open Letter to Russell Brand & Brian May

Dear Russell and Brian,

In the run up to this year’s UK general election, I have been closely following your respective approaches to getting people to engage with the pressing problems of our times.

On the surface of it, you both appear to be wanting the same thing: a fairer, more humane, compassionate and environmentally sustainable society with communities and ordinary people calling the shots as opposed to career politicians and corporate lackeys.

Russell, your message is much more nuanced than the simplified ‘don’t vote’ version of it regularly cited by the mainstream media. What you are basically saying is we need to disengage from the established political system as it is not fit for purpose and instead become politically active at the grass roots level.

Conversely, your message Brian is essentially get involved with the political system as it is by voting for decent candidates and policies in the hope that that will lead to the kind of changes you want to see.

As understandable and commendable as both these approaches are, the truth is that on their own neither of them can work in the long term.

I absolutely agree with you Russell that people need to look outside of the established political system and manage their own communities at a grass roots level. But that established political system will trundle on regardless, awarding thoroughly undeserving, corporately sponsored people disproportionate amounts of real power to ruin the lives of everybody else. So in conjunction with the grass roots engagement you espouse, we urgently need to radically reform the established political system into something that runs parallel to it and compliments those efforts – otherwise attempting to achieve real progress becomes a long, drawn out, stress and disease inducing battle with authority and bureaucracy. The New Era Estate campaign that you championed was inspiring and a perfect example of how and why people can win through when they organise and unite against injustice and corruption. But people shouldn’t have to go through all that just to get what is right. Not everybody has the gumption and fight in them that those people on that estate had. And for those that do, the stress levels involved with taking on the system undoubtedly take their toll in the long run. We need to create a society where it is not possible in the first place for people’s lives to be so utterly disregarded and ruined by a minority in pursuit of short term financial gain.

I also absolutely agree with you Brian that people should be able to influence decision making at a macro, societal level by engaging with the systems already in place. But, unfortunately, the established political system is absolutely a closed shop designed to ensure that no meaningful change of the guard can ever take place. I have written at length elsewhere about why this is the case. In a nutshell, no matter how many people vote and no matter who they vote for, the voting system in the UK guarantees that only one of two establishment parties can ever call the shots in government, even in the age of hung parliaments and coalitions. So Russell is 100% correct to say that engagement with that system in its current form is futile.

As stated, the problem is that this system trundles on regardless. Technically, even if considerably less than 50% of the population were to not vote at a general election, a government would still be able to claim a mandate as our system is not about vote share but seats: they will always be able to achieve a majority of seats in parliament and claim that that is sufficient mandate to govern. Yes, there would be an outcry and much hand wringing and calls for reform in that scenario. But technically there’d be nothing anyone could do about it. No amount of endorsing such a system by voting is going to change that paradigm. But, similarly, no amount of grass roots activism is going to prevent people of the political class from wielding disproportionate amounts of power over everybody else.

The solution to this problem, clearly, is to radically evolve the very systems by which governments are formed in the first place, in conjunction with grass roots activism, so that communities and ordinary people are truly represented at all levels of societal decision making. The million dollar question then is: “How on earth do we do that?”

There is a reason why I have devoted so much of my life over the past five years to campaigning for inclusion of an official None of the Above (NOTA) option on ballot papers – with formalised consequences for the result if the majority choose it – ahead of all other possible reforms and worthy causes. When you truly understand how the current electoral system works, it becomes clear that no meaningful reform of the kind that the Electoral Reform Society campaigns for (PR, right to recall, elected House of Lords etc.) can ever be achieved in the current paradigm. Because the only people that have the power to enact those changes have everything to lose and nothing to gain from doing so and there is currently no way of officially challenging their authority and forcing the issue.

By contrast, inclusion of NOTA on ballot papers is 100% achievable in the current paradigm as it can be clearly shown to be a democratic pre-requisite, impossible to argue against without arguing against democracy itself, once properly understood. This is because consent, central to the concept of democracy, is only truly measurable if it is possible to withhold consent. In the context of elections, consenting (voting) is a formal act. Therefore the withholding of consent must be formal also. Neither abstaining or ballot spoiling constitute the formal withholding of consent as both acts can be construed otherwise and neither affects the result in any way. The only way to formally withhold consent at an election is via a formal NOTA option on the ballot paper.

The powers that be can never be seen to be anti-democratic, even if they secretly are in practice. It stands to reason then, that with enough understanding among the general public of NOTA being 100% essential in any system claiming to be a democracy, it would become an inevitable government concession. This is essentially how votes for women and and the NHS were won. They weren’t benevolent gifts from on high, they were concessions to appease an increasingly politically aware populous. So could it be with NOTA.

Clearly, the fact that no reform other than NOTA is achievable at this time is not necessarily reason enough to champion it. But an understanding of how a post-NOTA inclusion political landscape would look is.

Introducing the possibility for the electorate to reject all candidates and parties on offer at an election would have a huge impact on the system as a whole. No party is going to want to be embarrassingly beaten at the polls by NOTA voters are they. So it follows that this potential would force them to put forward more ‘decent’ policies and candidates that would appeal to many more voters, potential NOTA voters included. So already, an organic levelling off and cleaning up of the political landscape will have occurred. The current two party oligarchy, while still favoured by the First Past The Post system, would for the first time be under threat as those parties will be just as vulnerable as any other to being visibly rejected by more people than not at the polls. In this new paradigm, the potential for further democratic reform would be greatly increased.

This is why NOTA is the ground zero of electoral reform upon which further democratic progress could be built. If we accept that the system cannot be ignored and must change, and if we accept that no other meaningful electoral reform is possible at this time, then we must also accept that campaigning for inclusion of NOTA, alongside grass roots activism, is the logical starting point for taking the power back.

To recap:

Russell, you are right to call for disengagement from the current political system and encourage grass roots, community engagement. But we need to reform that system as well, otherwise we will always be on the back foot, stronger in numbers but out-gunned where it matters. There is a way to do this. It’s called NOTA.

Brian, you are right to want to see increased engagement with the current political system making a real difference. But the sad truth is that it can’t, currently. They have it sewn up. Engagement with the current system is simply to endorse it and ensure its continuation. We need to change the game before we play it. There is a way to do this. It’s called NOTA.

Thanks to NOTA UK’s lobbying, the parliamentary Political & Constitutional Reform Committee (PCRC) felt compelled to explicitly recommend in its final report, published in February, that the next government consult before May 2016 specifically on the issue of inclusion of a formal NOTA option on UK ballot papers for all future national elections. So we have an unprecedented window of opportunity to push for real and lasting democratic reform. This is a huge development. With that in mind, I have written an open letter to all party leaders asking them to state for the record where they stand on this issue. As yet, none have responded.

The three of us, you with your respective audiences and me with a clear, logically sound path to real electoral reform and a growing movement of people getting behind it, could genuinely make history. But all the while we are pulling in different directions, I’m afraid it will be business as usual for those holding the reigns of power for the foreseeable future.

Feel free to contact me via email ( stan(at)nota-uk.org ), I’d be more than happy to discuss these issues with you.

Yours sincerely,
Jamie Stanley

GAME ON: A response to Andrew Marr

The first shot in our long anticipated battle to define NOTA in the mainstream media has been fired by none other than the BBC’s Andrew Marr writing in the New Statesmen.

And so it begins. A calculated misrepresentation of what a true ‘None of the Above’ option would be, the deliberate association of it with ‘apathy’, ‘instability’ & ‘chaos’ – when in reality, NOTA has nothing to do with any of those things.

The bottom line is this: NOTA is a democratic pre-requisite. It is the ability to withhold consent at an election, consent being central to the concept of democracy but only measurable if it is possible to withhold it. NOTA is therefore an essential check and balance in any true democracy. To argue against it is to argue against democracy itself, once the concepts of democracy and consent are properly understood. For this reason, given that our leaders must always be seen to be pro-democracy (whether they really are or not), NOTA is achievable in the short to mid term – unlike most other touted reforms that are desirable but not central to the concept of democracy and so can be paid lip service to and ignored.

In the context of elections, the withholding of consent must be formal because voting (giving consent) is formal. Neither abstaining or ballot spoiling amount to formally withholding consent, as both can be construed as apathetic or anarchic wrecking options and neither affect the result in any way. An official NOTA option on the ballot paper, with formal consequences for the result if the majority choose it, is the only way to withhold consent formally at an election in a registered, meaningful way.

From there, the next question is: what would happen if NOTA ‘wins’? If implemented properly (unlike faux-NOTA in India and elsewhere), a NOTA ‘win’ must invalidate the result and trigger a new election. Most likely this would occur at constituency level, triggering by-elections. There is already a mechanism in place to deal with an MP dying, whereby a by-election has to be held within three months. Dealing with a NOTA ‘win’ might be as simple as evoking such a mechanism with the incumbent holding the fort in the meantime. In the event that NOTA came out on top nationally, there is no reason why the same principle could not apply.

At NOTA UK, we also have a proposal to avoid voter fatigue that involves lengthening the time period to between six months and a year with the second placed candidate taking office in the meantime purely on a caretaker basis. This would give the caretaker, who will still have polled well, an opportunity to prove themselves worthy of the job and it would also gives all other parties a chance to regroup and look at what went wrong. This proposal is just one possible solution to deal with the logistics of NOTA and is open to debate and adaptation. The important thing is that NOTA must be there, no matter what. It is democracy in action.

The purpose of NOTA is that it is not a wrecking option or something designed to cause instability. Nor does it in any way symbolise apathy. It is a way for the vast, currently voiceless army of politically aware but utterly disenfranchised voters to finally be heard. It is an essential check and balance that could trigger an organic cleaning up of politics as parties realise that they now have to appeal to many more voters, potential NOTA voters included (rather than just their core demographics) and actually mean it – or face permanent rejection at the ballot box. The upshot of this ought to be less and less people making use of the option over time as the parties adapt to the new landscape, giving people a reason to vote for them in the first place. Further democratic reform would also be that much more possible in a system with the principle of NOTA at its core.

The days of making do and voting for the ‘lesser of several evils’, that Andrew Marr is trying to suggest is as good as democracy gets in his article, are over. People have had enough. If true democracy is what the people want then that is what they shall have. The first step on that journey is to get an official NOTA option ‘with teeth’ on the ballot paper for all future UK elections.

Find out how you can support the cause and help us bring that about at www.notauk.org

Jamie Stanley

‘Election Hacking’: What the Electoral Commission has to say

Followers of NOTA UK’s progress over the last couple of years will know that in the wider NOTA movement the issue is often raised of how best to draw attention to our shared goal of getting a formal None of the Above option on UK ballot papers, as well as the need for NOTA in any true democracy and the level of demand for it. With that in mind, I recently contacted the Electoral Commission to clear up a few questions and hopefully settle a few arguments.

There are a number of strategies that have either been proposed or are being actively pursued by groups and individuals apparently in the name of the NOTA cause. These include:

  • taking ballot papers home en masse
  • abstaining en masse
  • ballot spoiling en masse
  • standing candidates on a single issue NOTA platform

(DISCLAIMER:  While NOTA UK welcomes any action that could draw attention to our cause in a positive way and possibly further it, and while we would not seek to tell anyone else what to do, it does not, as an organisation, actively promote or endorse any of these strategies – for reasons that will hopefully become clear!)

The quotes below are all from an email conversation between myself and George Marshall, Communications and Public Information Officer at The Electoral Commission.


To get the ball rolling, I initially asked George whether taking ballot papers home was legal and if so what would happen if someone tried to do this. Here is his reply:

If a voter is issued with a ballot paper, there is a process set out in the election rules that should be followed. That is, the poll clerk issues the paper, hands it to the voter, the voter marks their paper, the poll clerk observes the voter putting the paper into the ballot box.

If the Presiding Officer (PO) is aware that a voter is leaving the station without putting the paper in the ballot box, the PO would be obliged to ask the voter to put the paper in the ballot box.

If the voter refuses and leaves, then the PO should mark the ballot paper account accordingly. This ensures that at verification there is an audit trail which can explain why there is not the same number of papers in the box as were issued […]

The phrase mark the ballot paper account accordingly’ just means that the Presiding Officer would note on the ballot paper account that a ballot paper had been removed by a voter from the polling station and not placed in the ballot box. The Presiding Officer would adjust the figures on the ballot paper account to show this so that at the count there would be an accurate tally of the number of ballot papers in the ballot box with the number stated on the ballot paper account.”

I then asked what would happen in the event that more people in a constituency took their ballot paper home than actually voted and whether this would have any effect on the result or not, informing him that my understanding is that it would not. His reply:

You are correct – this would not have any effect on the result.

In summary then, it is perfectly legal to attend the polling station with your polling card, collect your ballot paper and take it away instead of voting. This would be counted as a removed ballot, separate and distinct from all spoiled ballots, people who simply didn’t attend the polling station and people not registered to vote. As such, this strategy could arguably be seen as a solid way of manufacturing a way of unambiguously recording voter discontent.

However, regardless of how many people were to do this, it categorically cannot effect the election result in any way. As such, it would in no way simulate or act as a substitute for actual NOTA ‘with teeth’ (i.e.: formalised consequences for the result if it were to ‘win’).


The difference between either of these approaches and actual NOTA ‘with teeth’ is well documented on this site. In a nutshell, abstaining can be dismissed as voter apathy with no further analysis, while ballots spoiled in protest are lumped in with those spoiled in error for counting purposes, rendering the resulting figure meaningless as a measure of voter discontent. As such, neither of these approaches in any way simulates or acts as a substitute for actual NOTA ‘with teeth’. Some people believe, however, that if this were done in numbers it would in some way affect the result.

With that in mind, I asked George if my understanding that a majority of registered electors choosing to either not vote at all or spoil their ballot papers would have no effect on the result was correct. His reply:

“That is correct – this would not affect the result and the candidate with the most votes would still win.”

In summary then, not only does abstaining or spoiling the ballot paper in no way meaningfully register voter discontent, it absolutely cannot affect the result in any way, even if done in large numbers.


This is also covered extensively elsewhere on this site. Suffice to say that forming a party or standing as an independent on any single issue, regardless of what it is, clearly only constitutes the addition of another ‘one of the above’ to the ballot paper and not a functioning NOTA option, as has been claimed by some. Proponents of adopting this strategy in the name of NOTA tend to fall into two camps:

1: Those who recognise it is as a symbolic gesture only and acknowledge that if elected any candidate standing on a NOTA platform ought really to step down immediately, thus simulating NOTA ‘with teeth’ and triggering a by-election.

2: Those who believe that if elected they would be able to push for NOTA from within Westminster whilst either remaining silent on all other issues or expanding beyond the single issue of NOTA into other political realms.

The problem of the latter approach is self-evident. Any campaign to get NOTA on the ballot box must, by definition, be politically neutral if it is to be taken seriously at all. Political parties with the prospect of being elected invariably attract people with agendas above and beyond the self-limiting remit of any campaign for a bona fide NOTA option.

The former approach, while making more sense, we have always seen as extremely risky and something that should only be considered as a last resort i.e: if we were still struggling to be heard in the run up to the election. If not enough people backed such an approach, the result would be a perceived lack of support for NOTA, potentially taking the campaign backwards. Indeed, this is true of all the ‘election hacking’ strategies outlined above – without the right level of support, each of them has the potential to backfire and undermine the NOTA campaign significantly.


As a result of NOTA UK’s lobbying and the general public getting involved in the fight, the parliamentary select committee for Political & Constitutional Reform (PCRC) were compelled to explicitly state in their recent report on increasing voter engagement that the next government should consult before May 2016 solely on the issue of NOTA’s possible inclusion on ballot papers.

This means that the hitherto seemingly impossible task of getting the urgent need and demand for NOTA on the UK government and wider public’s radar has now been achieved. As a result, we are now in the unprecedented position of being able to add our voice to the mainstream debate in the coming weeks and months. We also have a clear window of opportunity to embed the solid arguments for NOTA firmly in the public consciousness and put pressure on the next government to adhere to the PCRC’s recommendation – without having to resort to gimmicks or risky strategies such as those outlined above.

For this reason, there is no need for NOTA UK to endorse or get behind any of the above approaches as we are already very much on track to making NOTA a reality.

That said, supporters of the NOTA cause are of course free to do as they see fit on election day. If you feel that any of these approaches represents a way of expressing your disdain for the current political landscape and your support for NOTA, then you must do what makes sense to you. All we would ask is that any organised groups or campaigns make clear that they are separate and distinct from NOTA UK and that they endeavour to reinforce, rather than detract from, the solid arguments for NOTA that we are making and will continue to make.

That being the case, and all being well, there is absolutely no reason why future generations will not one day be found scratching their heads in amazement at the very idea of ‘None of the Above’ NOT being on the ballot paper.

Onwards & Upwards!

Jamie Stanley

NOTA campaign gets massive boost from parliamentary select committee!

On 05/02/15, the parliamentary Political & Constitutional Reform Committee (PCRC) published its report into ‘voter engagement’ in which it recommends a whole slew of genuinely quite radical (by UK standards!) electoral reforms to be implemented during the next parliament. The full report can be downloaded here.

Here’s what they had to say about NOTA, as a result of NOTA UK’s lobbying and public engagement with the committee:

“Having the option to vote for “none of the above” on the ballot paper is the proposal which has had the largest support among those who have given their views to the surveys we have drawn upon. This change would enable people to participate at elections even if they did not wish to vote for any of the candidates presented. If large numbers of people did choose to cast their vote in this way it would serve as a wakeup call for candidates and parties that they needed to do more to gain the support of the electorate. We recommend that the Government consult on including, on ballot papers for national elections, an option for voters who wish to participate but not vote for any of the candidates presented, and report to the House on this proposal by May 2016.”

This really is a huge leap forward for us. Although the committee has stopped short of including NOTA as one of its recommended immediate reforms, it has explicitly stated that it believes that the demand for NOTA and the potential positive effects on voter engagement of having it means that the next government must hold a public consultation on the issue.

Although this is slightly less than we could have hoped for, it is still a huge achievement when you consider that a year ago the mere mention of NOTA in the corridors of power was likely to be met with derision and a cold shoulder.

The PCRC survey mentioned above, in which we were able to get them to publish a question about inclusion of NOTA as a reform in and of itself regardless of whether voting is made compulsory or not, is very telling. This question got the second most responses (15,840), beaten only by the question about compulsory voting (16,095).

A whopping 71.8% of respondents to our question voted ‘yes’ to NOTA.

I think it’s fair to say we have now successfully put NOTA on the map, a key aim of this campaign from the beginning five years ago. There’s a long way to go of course. But no-one can say we aren’t getting the arguments heard and moving in the right direction.

A massive thank you to everyone who took part in the consultation and to all our facebook, twitter, youtube and website followers for your continued support in our efforts to make UK democracy fit for purpose.

Onwards & Upwards!
Jamie Stanley

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Democracy Audit: Why NOTA is the Ground Zero of Electoral Reform

On the 8th January 2015, NOTA UK member Rohin Vadera had an article published on the website Democracy Audit making the case for NOTA.

Two weeks later, Richard Berry, Research Associate for the Democracy Audit website and the London School of Economics Public Policy Group, responded with an article rebutting NOTA and citing three other reforms he deemed more important.

Here NOTA UK founder Jamie Stanley responds to Berry’s article:

“Why NOTA is the Ground Zero of Electoral Reform”

Response to Government Position on NOTA

Eileen Vagg at the Cabinet Office recently responded to our request for her to elaborate on the government’s position on NOTA. Here is my reply which contains all the points she raised in order, nothing omitted:

Dear Eileen,

Thank you for your correspondence. Allow me to go through it point by point.

1: “The Government considers that, when participating in a ballot, the position should be that the elector makes a positive choice of a representative rather than a negative one. It does not agree, therefore, that the introduction of a provision such as the one you suggest would be a positive step.”

This is not an argument, it is a logical fallacy. Specifically it is a ‘circular argument’. Essentially this: “The government believes electors should make a positive choice, therefore it doesn’t believe NOTA is a positive step.” Aside from containing a baseless, unspoken assumption that NOTA is negative, this offers zero reasoning for your repeated claim that engaging in the positive abstention of voting NOTA is a negative act. If you offer no logical reasoning to back up such a claim, it simply cannot ever stand up to scrutiny. The fact that you would attempt to dismiss such an important issue using such a clumsy logical fallacy suggests to me that perhaps you actually do realise that our assertions about NOTA representing the ability to withhold consent, which is itself central to the concept of democracy, are correct and that it therefore would be an inherently positive, democratising step to include it on the ballot paper – but that you would rather not have to deal with such a massive, game changing issue so close to an election.

2: “The Government believes it should be for candidates and the political parties to actively engage the electorate so they can make a positive choice of representation.”

So do we. Why do you think having NOTA would prevent this? On the contrary, if the electorate had the option to reject all candidates and parties on offer, then clearly there would be even more incentive for them to try to engage the electorate. One more positive reason why we should have NOTA.

3: “Neither the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) nor the United Nations’ ‘Universal Declaration on Human Rights’ (UDHR) requires states to adopt a particular electoral system.”

We never said it did. What we said is that these internationally recognised documents basically state that in a true democracy, elections must allow for the consent of the electorate to be sought and won before a government can be formed. As stated previously, consent is immaterial if it is not possible to withhold consent. Abstaining is not the same as formally withholding consent, it is simply not participating and can be dismissed as voter apathy with no further analysis. Spoiling the ballot is not the same either as all spoilt ballots are lumped in with those spoilt in error. Any spoilt vote count is therefore meaningless and does not provide an accurate measure of voter discontent. The only way to formally withhold consent at an election is by having an official NOTA option on the ballot paper with formalised consequences for the result if the majority choose it. In other words, without NOTA, the truly representative democracy that both the ICCPR and the UDHR call for is not possible. Ergo, these documents could be shown to indicate that NOTA is, arguably, a legal requirement in any truly representative democracy.

3: “The secrecy of the ballot allows the free expression of the elector.”

Indeed, but this is not irrelevant. The issue is not one of secrecy, it is one of consent and the ability to meaningfully withhold it, currently denied us.

4: “Your suggestion that an election is re-run where more than 50% of electors choose a NOTA option would lead to difficulties, not least of which is a lack of representation for constituents.”

What difficulties? The only difficulty it would lead to is that it would make it much harder for the current political elite to dominate the UK political system ad infinitum. For the already completely unrepresented majority in the UK, that is not a difficulty, it is progress. The one difficulty you have cited already exists, clearly. If anything, having NOTA would ultimately lead to better representation of constituents due to the knock on effect of having it (alluded to in point 2 above).

5: “The suggestion that there could be a temporary representation followed by a further election would not be straightforward and would raise a number of issues.”

But presumably issues not significant enough to actually warrant listing them. The only issue I see it raising is that it would level the playing field and cause the current political elite to have less dominance, a good thing for true democracy. Without a proposal to deal with the logistics, a NOTA win would indeed ‘not be straightforward’. That is precisely why we have put forward just such a proposal to make it as straight forward as possible. I note that you have not acknowledged this proposal at all in your response.

6: “The Government has no plans to bring forward legislation to introduce such an option on the ballot paper, but will keep under review the ways in which the democratic process may be enhanced.”

Well, we’ve just outlined a way in which the democratic process in the UK may be significantly enhanced and you have rejected it totally on entirely spurious grounds. So presumably, ‘reviewing’ is as far as the government is prepared to go on this issue. Also known as ‘paying lip service’.

Thank you anyway for your reply. We at least now know the extent of your commitment to improving our democracy. We will continue to make the solid, indisputable case for NOTA out in the real world with a view to eventually making it an election issue that can no longer be dismissed and swept under the carpet as you have tried to do with your response.

Yours sincerely,
Jamie Stanley

Feel free to send further POLITE responses to Eileen Vagg at elections@cabinet-office.gsi.gov.uk

NOTA Straw Poll

NB: This poll is purposely minimal. If you have selected ‘No’ or ‘Possibly’, feel free to tell us why in the comment thread so that we can analyse and discuss reasoning.

NOTA with teeth vs. faux NOTA

A common argument made against having a NOTA option on the ballot paper is the ‘but NOTA doesn’t achieve anything’ argument.

I never understood the logic of that, so tended to dismiss such criticisms as baseless, founded on unexamined assumptions and therefore not worthy of comment.

Upon investigation, however, I discovered that there is a perfectly logical and valid reason why people believe this: their perception of NOTA is based on how they believe it has been implemented elsewhere and the impact it has had.

A perfectly rational way to assess an electoral reform’s effectiveness, you might think – until you realise that, in all cases, the form of NOTA in question bares no resemblance to the bonafide NOTA option with teeth that we are campaigning for.

This excellent article lists 12 countries where a form of NOTA exists, the most recent addition being India:


In all cases, NOTA is a token gesture with no ramifications whatsoever. If NOTA wins in any of these countries, literally nothing happens. The second placed live candidate takes office anyway.

What use is that? If there are no consequences when the majority reject all that is on offer, why bother making use of the option in the first place? Having such a token NOTA option does nothing for voter turnout as it offers no more incentive to the disenfranchised to vote than if it were not there at all. It therefore doesn’t even offer an effective way of measuring voter discontent – the bare minimum!

True NOTA, clearly, must have ramifications for the election result if it wins, otherwise it is meaningless. Our proposal is for just such a thing and is covered in detail here: https://nota-uk.org/2013/11/16/nota-for-real-logistics-ramifications/

So – the next time someone trots out the ‘NOTA won’t achieve anything argument’, politely remind them that true NOTA has never been tried anywhere and point them our way.