Monday, May 27, 2024
HomeDemocracy in DecayDemocracy in Decay: Say No to the lot of them

Democracy in Decay: Say No to the lot of them


NO DOUBT many TCW readers have, like myself, found themselves in strong agreement with the recent article by Paul Weston about the tiresome, dangerous and unpopular policies of our modern politicians. Here is another way of looking at the problem.

Our pundits, mass media and leading politicians are constantly preaching the Western mantra that free democracies are the essentially virtuous system for choosing governments (and leaders) compared with the evident horrors of autocracies, dictators or communists. Indeed our friends in the USwith their allies have thought it necessary to wage almost constant wars with the objective of promoting this form of governance in dozens of countries throughout the world (the ‘one remove’ war against Russia in Ukraine being the latest iteration).

There is clearly a certain amount of doublethink going on here. If we simply look at voting figures and opinion poll results for elections in the UK we can see immediately that our system is producing leaders and governments which have minimal popular support. The recent London mayoral elections have already provoked media comment because the incumbent Khan received only 44 per cent of the votes cast within a minority voter turnout of just 40 per cent. Simple arithmetic reveals the shocking truth that more than 80 per cent of Londoners either did not want him as Mayor or did not care who got the job. This is typical of results throughout our so-called democratic processes. Here are the percentages of possible votes given to the winning parties in some recent UK elections.

2024 London Mayor – 17.5 per cent of possible votes
2021 London Mayor – 16.8 per cent of possible votes
2024 North East Mayor – 12 per cent of possible votes
2019 SNP Majority – 31 per cent of possible votes
2019 Conservative gov – 29 per cent of possible votes
2019 Welsh Labour – 27 per cent of possible votes

UK voter turnout in general elections peaked at over 80 per cent in the 1950s, but dropped to 67 per cent in 2019. Voter turnout in the last EU elections was 37 per cent and in local government elections 36 per cent.

Current popularity ratings for our leading politicians are deeply negative: Sunak minus 50 per cent, Starmer minus 18 per cent, Sadiq Khan minus 32 per cent.

These figures do not show a positive result in favour of our wonderful democratic process. In every case, our leaders are not supported by the great majority of our population. Clearly our system does not produce ‘leaders’ with any kind of popular democratic mandate. This is very unhealthy, especially when these leaders commit the country to war, or as near as: for example Lord Cameron giving Ukraine carte blanche to blast Russians with UK weapons and commitments of long-term annual billions of pounds of ‘support’. A government which does not have the support of the majority of the country should not have unfettered discretion to wage war. (The Government may declare war and deploy armed forces to conflicts abroad without the backing or consent of Parliament.)

Whatever the other shortcomings of popular democracy (short-term policies pursued by egotistical and narcissistic leaders) we still find what I would call a very serious ‘democratic deficit’ which has made a mockery of our model of democracy. TCW‘s ‘Democracy in Decay’ column has started debate on ways to fix this, not least more direct democracy. My suggestion is that we start by just saying NO.

It is wholly unsatisfactory to have to vote simply for the least worst candidate in the almost certain expectation that voting will make very little difference to anything. It is even more unsatisfactory that those of us who care about the state of the nation and its key policy directions have no way of saying ‘we don’t want any of you lot in power’. The current rules laid down by the Electoral Commission make it impossible to vote for None of the Above (NOTA). We have no way in the current voting system of letting the establishment know we don’t like what they are up to, apart from low turnouts which they ignore. Our voting system is giving us profoundly unpopular leaders elected by a small minority of the population while the rest of us fume in frustrated impotence.

A quick look at the Wikipedia entry for NOTA shows that some significant democracies (Canada, France, India and more) do allow voters to choose this option, though it has yet to pose a threat to established political parties. Can we get a debate started on building such a positive platform a non-political party, a ‘Just Say No’ party, that meets all the Electoral Commission requirements, to get JSN candidates on multiple constituency lists? The Rhino parties which have appeared in Canada are my inspiration. This is not joke: Parti Rhinoceros is a Canadian federal political party which originally existed from 1963 to 1993 but was refounded in Montreal on May 21, 2006, and registered with Elections Canada on August 23, 2007. It stood candidates in Canada’s last elections.

This is one interesting way to use the system to change the system. The demand for more direct democracy would be integral.

It is one way to face up to the clear and obvious failure of our present system to produce leadership/governments with any kind of real public support. It is the first step we could take to navigate the various hurdles created by the rules of our Electoral Commission which at the moment prevent from us saying ‘None of the Above’ on our ballot paper.     

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William Sutherland
William Sutherland
William Sutherland is a retired civil servant and management consultant. He is co-author of The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency, and runs self-sufficiency courses in Northumberland.

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