Politics and the crisis of capitalism. Time for a positive NO vote?

Posted: December 5, 2010 in Current affairs

You know the scenario. You’ve just got up the day after the general election and the media number crunchers are out in force. Amid the blizzard of statistics on first and second preferences, transfers, swings, historic wins and losses, are the numbers on voter turn-out. The higher the turn-out, it seems, the more valid and decisive the electoral mandate. The lower the turn-out, the less validity. But when it comes to interpreting reasons for low turn-outs, the pundits are at a loss because the present electoral system for general elections in Britain is based solely on a positive Yes vote for a single candidate.

Of course, there will always be a hard-core of voters who just don’t care enough to vote. But I’m sure there is also quite a substantial constituency of voters who don’t turn out because they have no means of recording their alienation from the current political system, who lack the means to record a positive NO vote, not just to individual parties or candidates but also to policies. But imagine a system of voting where people can record a positive NO vote on the candidates and policies on offer and also give reasons why – it would just require a few more boxes on the ballot paper:

  • Candidate 1
  • Candidate 2
  • Candidate 3
  • Candidate 4
  • √I reject all the above the candidates
  • √They offer no viable solution to the current crisis
  • They do not represent my needs or views
  • They have not clearly explained their policies and positions


This is significant if we think about what happened in the last British general election. No single party achieved a majority mandate to govern. No party mentioned the word coalition. No single party promised the kind of savage cuts to the public sector we now face.  The people were asked to vote for a single candidate standing on a party or independent manifesto. And what did they get? A coalition of losers that is now mugging them with a neo-liberal programme for government for which there is no democratic mandate.

There are of course valid objections to such a system – principally that it is effectively a spoiled ballot in that the voter’s rejection is merely a plebiscite, an expression of views that will not be represented in the political arena, the whole point of elections in parliamentary democracy. Perhaps. But if the election number crunchers were able to point to, say, a 15% vote against all the above,  and a statistical break down of the reasons for it, it might give the political classes some pause for thought about the quality of representation and democracy currently on offer to the electorate.

Next year, there will be a  referendum in Britain on electoral reform. It will ask the people if they prefer to stick with the present, single candidate, first past the post system they’re used to or if they might like an alternative system based on some form of proportional representation. All very fine if the people vote for an alternative system but that still won’t transfer real power to the citizen. This is a lost opportunity but no surprise because the political classes are not going to construct a democratic voting system that transfers power from parliament to the people, where politicians serve the people and not the system.


  1. Wayne Smith says:

    “It will ask the people if they prefer to stick with the present, single candidate, first past the post system they’re used to or if they might like an alternative system based on some form of proportional representation.”

    No it won’t. The Alternative Vote on offer is in no way based on proportional representation.

    If it was, it would indeed “transfer real power to the citizen.” The point of proportional voting systems is to accurately translate the will of the people, as expressed by the ballots we cast, into political representation, to give every voter a vote that makes a difference, a vote that actually helps elects somebody, and to give voters the power to hold politicians and political parties accountable.

    As noted, those currently holding the power are not eager to give it away, and will not do so until they must because citizens demand it.

  2. Dr. Disco says:

    AA – I think I have said to you in the past that at the time of the last election, I really wanted to start a movement to get people not to vote at all. I thought “that’ll learn em”. but sadly, it would only have worked if I’d got, say, 10 million people not to vote. Also I was too chicken. While I thought that enough people not voting at all would show the government that we really don’t appreciate the system, whoever happens to run it at the time, I knew there’d be enourmous backlash. People think that because it is our democratic right to vote, we MUST vote for someone we really don’t want to run the country, on the basis that we hope they might fuck with us less than the others. People gasp with horror at the suggestion of not voting, particularly as ladies threw themselves under horses so that people like me could vote.

    But I still don’t think we should.

  3. Wayne Smith says:

    You don’t get it. They don’t want you to vote. That’s what all the negative advertising is about.

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