Sunday, 11 April 2010

Vote "None of the Above"

There is something very wrong with our politics. I think we all know that, at heart, but the actual evidence is frightening. Look at this graph:

Now, someone has been naughty and given the graph a false zero on the y-scale in order to make it look worse, but even taking that into account it is still pretty serious. Roughly 15% of the population have joined those who never voted, to bring the total to about 40%.

There are many around who moan that it is not worth voting because "they're all the same, aren't they". I have never taken that view - from my perspective the Conservatives are acceptable whereas Labour are (frankly) appalling. That, to me, is a significant difference.

However, when I listen carefully and critically to Dave, I can see their point, to an extent. There is a remarkable consensus around the social democratic outlook. For example, the Conservatives don't want to sack truckloads of civil servants. Indeed, they have only a limited agenda for cuts. The only difference of principle is - it seems - at the margins and on issues such as the actual level of competence of the two parties.

And that, I think, would in some minds justify not voting. If you think, as some may well, that all politicians are venal and incompetent, there is indeed no difference and no point in choosing between them*.

So I admit being tempted by a policy of compulsory voting, provided that the ballot paper includes a "None of the Above" option. However, a different option springs to mind. The total of non-voters, according to the above graph, is about 40%. All the parties know that if they hit 40% support at the election, they have won. A party that held whatever view it is that this 40% hold could have an instant majority.

The question is, what is that view (and is it one that is compatible with a modern democracy). I rather suspect that it is this one. A view that politics is not the be-all and end-all of life; a minimalist approach to politics. A view that politicians are there to set the basic structures to allow us to live our lives, but should then shut up, get out of the limelight, and stop spending our money. Parliament has been around since 1265; you think that in nearly 750 years they could have sorted out a decent set of laws for the country. There really shouldn't be much left still to do, should there?

This is, of course, the sentiment behind my recent Twitter rant. We need to have a Government for the people, not the politicians - one that will get on with the job that we give it at the General Election, not one that will engage instead in a rolling 5 year campaign to persuade us of what beautiful, intelligent and capable people they really are (especially when they include John Prescott and Ed Balls among their ranks) whilst the country crumbles. A Government that will stop trying to get into the headlines every waking minute, and instead try quietly to run the country.

I'm really tempted to set up that party**. We even have the name for it - The "None of The Above" Party.

*Yes, yes, the Lib Dems, radical new third force in British politics, whatever.....
**especially if the Conservatives don't win on the 6th


  1. I've been trying for the last 3 years to encourage the young people who work for me, most of who will be voting for the first time on May 6th, to engage in the process of voting. My take is that if they don't want to vote for any of the parties they should still vote but spoil their paper.

    I believe that getting people to engage with the process is a positive step towards changing the way politics works in this country. If we had a situation where more people actively spoiled their papers rather than voting for the winning party .. .. .. would they take notice? I think they might.

  2. I'm not sure they would, to be honest.

    Increasingly, I think they no longer pay any attention to the public, no matter what we do...

  3. I have a theory about the steep plunge in voting numbers since 1992 - I believe it has a direct corollation with the upsurge in the use of electronic communication tools by political parties. First pagers, then mobile phone texting,on to Blackberries and others - it would be interesting to know the date of the first use of the term 'On message'with regard to MPs.

    If my theory is correct, the voting public have become increasingly disengaged as they see MPs being directed from centre, rather than acting according to their own, and their constituents, wishes and convictions.

  4. Was Ed Balls actually looking at John Prescott when that picture was taken?

  5. Putting it another way, are we not amazed that so many do vote after 13 years of Labour given education, immigration, inability to lift a finger?

  6. Appreciate the link, Mr Patently.

    You have pointed quite a few in my direction. I will try to reciprocate.