Outside the marginals

A commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010, 2015 & 2017 elections (and THAT referendum)

Archive for the category “Turnout”

Union Barons and Government by Consent

I have mixed feelings about our “Union Barons”:

The head of the Unite union has said he will not “respect” any law passed by a future Conservative government tightening the rules on strike ballots.
BBC News Website 20 March 2015 : Unite boss McCluskey warns over strike ballot changes

But then I have less mixed feelings about our Prime Minister’s more blatant agenda:

David Cameron has said strikes should not be lawful unless a minimum number of union members vote in a ballot.

Plans for a “turnout threshold” will be in the party’s election manifesto.

But Unite boss Len McCluskey said this would “oppress the people and remove their freedoms”. He added: “Can we respect it? It ain’t going to happen.”

There is a problem, but I do not agree with the Prime Minister’s prescription. I don’t like McCluskey’s response – but I can’t see an alternative. Read more…

The Potency of Protest Votes

I cannot say for certain, but there is definitely a protest vote at work here too. I can only advise voters to be careful that their protest does not have unforeseen consequences.
Julian’s musings 21 February 2015 Anyone but UKIP.

Sometimes if protest votes (previously for Lib Dems, Greens or BNP) are ignored, voters might choose to give their protest vote to someone who scares those “elite parties” that seem to have an effective monopoly on ineffective government. The prospect of “unforeseen consequences” (particularly in the eyes those “elite parties”) just makes the protest look more potent. Read more…

Mayoral Mandates vs Union Mandates

Speaking to the BBC, London Mayor Boris Johnson described the [Tube Strike] action as “pointless and unnecessary” and said his manifesto pledge about ticket office closures was from 2008 “before the iPhone was invented.”

He also reiterated his called for a ban on strike action affecting London transport, unless it was supported by more than 50% of union members eligible to be balloted.
BBC News Website 5 February 2014 Tube strike: London Underground action disrupting millions

So Boris claims a mandate and as a side swipe demands that Union strike votes should get 50% support of those eligible.

Hm Read more…

Tomorrow’s Party

The (UK) Electoral Reform society has launched a short public consultation on what tomorrow’s party should look like.

Will Brett Head of Media at the Electoral Reform Society discusses it on Democratic Audit. Read more…


The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee has woken up to the potential power of PCCs.

In her evidence to MPs Mrs Napier [former Chief Constable of Gwent Police] accused Mr Johnston [The PCC – a former police chief superintendent in Gwent] of “menacing and bullying” her out of her job.
In their report, published on Saturday, the MPs criticised the Gwent PCC for what they called “this disdainful attitude towards scrutiny by Parliament, as well as an indication of a clear over-sensitivity to criticism”.
They pointed out that Mr Johnston had been elected by less than eight per cent of voters in Gwent and “had managed to side-step the statutory arrangements for local scrutiny of his decision to sack the chief constable”.
The MPs said it was “further evidence, if any were needed, that the checks and balances on police and crime commissioners are too weak”.

BBC News Website 20 July 2013 Gwent Police commissioner ‘disdainful’, say MPs

I thought the idea of PCCs was to “make the police more-accountable”. Read more…

Registration and Democracy

Ban benefits for those not registered to vote, says MP

People who are not registered to vote should not expect to get state pensions and other benefits, says a Labour MP.

Siobhain McDonagh wants to bring in a bill that would make access to public services dependent on being on the electoral roll.

She said it would restore millions to the electoral register at a stroke and “ensure they engage” in democracy.
BBC News Website 17 July 2013

Being registered has nothing to do with “engaging in democracy”.  Most of us live outside the marginals and therefore our votes really don’t matter. Read more…

Commissioning Crime etc

The Electoral Commission has published a critical report into the arrangements for the PCC elections – majoring on the lack of information about candidates. (ref PCC: Electoral Commission criticises elections BBC News Website 19 March 2013)

But I suspect the real issue was outside the scope of their enquiry Read more…

Electoral Maths and Legitimacy

Time to push the numbers around:

Total seats in Parliament, 650
less non participating:      6 (5 Sinn Fein & the Speaker)
Participating Seats        644
Votes required for an effective majority = 644/2 : 322+1

Conservatives Seats announced 305 (BBC 306 figure includes Speaker)
plus expected to win in         1 Thirsk by-election
Subtotal                      306
plus Ulster Cons & Unionists    0 - that was a great idea!
plus DUP                        8 - here's to the pork barrel
Total poss. Conservative Camp 314 - 19 Short

Possible Opposition
Labour                        258
Liberal                        57
SDLP                            3
Alliance party of NI            1
Sub total                     319 (representing 52% of the vote)
                                  - 4 short of a majority
Scottish Nationalists 6
Plaid Cyrmu           3
Total Nationalist               9
Green                           1
Maximum Total non-Tory camp   329

(Check 329+314=643 – this compares to 644 effective votes: the difference is an Independent (anti-Tory link) Unionist who I have not allocated to either Camp)

So clearly:

  • Conservative 306, trumps Labour 258, but …
  • Labour/Liberal (and associates)  319, trumps Conservative 306, even
  • Labour/Liberal (and associates)  319, trumps Conservative + DUP 314

It comes down to how you measure legitimacy.

Does “winning” with 36% of the vote give you a “better legitimacy” than second and third place with a combined 52% of the vote?

Or does a coalition representing 52% of the popular vote have more legitimacy than any other combination?

How much weight to you give to someone who has come first?  If you argue that 36% in a predominantly three way fight is OK, is 27% legitimate in a predominantly four way fight, and 23% in a five way fight?  The Scottish Nationalist minority administration in Scotland (a predominantly four-way fight) had ~32% popular support.  Of course in Scotland the 68% non-nationalist element could (if they got their act together) vote out the Scottish Nationalist administration – because they have an approximately proportional voting system – so they hold power with the tacit consent of the representatives of the people.

36% of the popular vote giving you 47% of the seats just does not feel legitimate.  It could land us in the grease.

So how do you use a worthless vote?

My options (irrespective of what I thought of their manifestos or feel about their principles and values): Read more…

The “obligation to vote”

Listening to Broadcasting House just now an interviewer asked someone in Liverpool Riverside “Don’t you have an obligation to take part in the democratic process?” and received the reply “But it’s not democratic”.

I have been chewing over the issue of one’s obligation to vote – or indeed to register.  I don’t think I registered this year – I certainly did not feel the obligation to do so, yet I have received a polling card and, so far, one election address (through the post), so I guess that I am still on the register.

So will I vote – make use of “That great freedom fought for by previous reformers etc.”, or will I say “*** it”?  My vote has never made a difference; with the exception of one election I have always lived outside the marginals, and even when I was in theory in a marginal, the challenging party’s attitude was such that you knew they were going to drop back on their previous result (they did).

So what to do? Read more…

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