A little while ago I posited the argument that not voting is a proxy vote for the winner. Now I’m going to suggest that it’s worth voting even in a safe seat where you’re voting against the incumbent.
In Lichfield I’ve voted for Rob Pass, the Green Party candidate. He won’t get anywhere close to winning. He might not even retain his deposit. But voting Green is my way of telling MPs my views. When they see what sounds like will be a big uplift in the green vote it’ll send a message about the kind of politics and policies I and fellow Green voters want.
No, it won’t change a lot but if UKIP has taught us anything it’s that the big parties will respond to a threat to their power. I also believe that lots of people who are thinking of voting Green won’t do if they feel their vote won’t count. That’s a self fulfilling prophecy. Those of us who do help increase the Green vote will show others they won’t be alone next time.
Just voting once every five years is going to do fuck all though. We should vote but also follow up that action with more action to try and get the politics and society we desire. As Andy Bennetts said, organise.
That’s why I’m starting #365daysofpolitics. Every day, starting today, I’m going to so something political (or with a political purpose) to help push towards the kind of society and democracy that I want to see.
I’m going to blog every day what I do. Feel free to join me. Let’s organise and be the change we want to see in the world.
After using the excellent Vote Match website, I reviewed my answers and the comparisons to the policies of the various political parties and decided that I agreed with it’s assessment that I should vote for the Green Party.
There are a few things I do disagree with the Greens on, such as their stance on Nuclear power and GM crops which I believe are anti-scientific. Mostly though, I’m more closely matched with them than any other party, and I think that makes sense. If I could vote Pirate, I would.
Please use Vote Match to decide who to vote for.
Not bothering to vote?
I’ve flip-flopped on whether to vote or not, but one thing the rise of UKIP in polls has shown me is that not voting is tantamount to voting by proxy.
What do I mean by that?
If there are 100,000 eligible voters (of which you are one) and only 40,000 vote, that effectively makes each of those 40,000 votes worth 2.5 votes. You are giving your voting power to someone else.
So if anyone votes for a party you despise, or just don’t like enough to vote for, not voting will be gifting the weight of your vote to those parties anyway. Your inaction will help those parties you don’t like to get into power.
Don’t like ANY of the parties or candidates? Then spoil your ballot paper and deny everyone else the power to use your vote against you!
Re: The case for lowering the voting age is less persuasive now than at any point in the last 50 years
While I don’t fundamentally disagree with the points made (some are very valid), this argument misses a key point.
At 16, often for the first time, young people are making big decisions that will have a profound effect on their long term future. As with any decision making of importance external factors will need to be considered and a big one is the current political landscape.
The missing point is the future. In order to make decisions about their future, young people need to have awareness of the political landscape affecting them. They will begin to form opinions based on the political decisions that they can see and feel affecting them and their choices.
It is at sixteen that young people will often begin to engage in politics because they see it’s direct impact on their futures. It is at this point, when politics begins to affect them individually that they should have their say on what the effect is.
Those “Who Should I Vote For?” sites are, I think, a great idea. Many of them fail though. They;
- often miss out huge policy areas (e.g. Europe)
- often just copy/paste from manifestos making it easy to see which party is which
- over simplify questions or provide limited answer choices that don’t always match views
- become out of date and are slow to be updated
I’d like to propose we (anyone with the inclination to help me) build a framework for creating such tests that we can use again and again. I have an idea how we can do it.
It needs to be;
- Open source and collaborative (obviously!)
- Easy for anyone (i.e. non-developers) to contribute to improving the policy questions
Here’s what I propose;
1. Agree/disagree questions
In order to determine the political leanings of the user without revealing actual policies we should use questions to which the answer has to be one of five choices;
- Strongly Agree
- Strongly Disagree
Each political party will then be attached to one of those five answers. For example, consider the proposition “The UK should leave the EU” to which the matching would probably be;
- Strongly Agree – UKIP
- Agree – Conservatives
- Disagree – Labour
- Strongly Disagree – Liberal Democrats
For each matching answer, a “point” will be given to that party, and at the end of the survey those points will be used to generate percentage “matches” to each party. E.g. if the user was Nick Clegg you’d hope he achieved a 100% match to the Liberal Democrats, and lesser percentage matches to some other parties too.
2. Markdown for question and answer generation
So that anyone can help to contribute, the questions and the matching of parties to answers should use Markdown. The application would then parse the markdown to generate the actual questions and calculate the points based on the answers given.
This is an example of how that Markdown might look.
It’s not great for parsing, but should be straightforward for contributing too. I’m very open to ideas on a better format, in any case.
So, what do you think? Is it a good idea? Is it workable? Will you help me build it?
Re: UK may have no say on EU top job, frontrunner warns
European Commission President hopeful Jean-Claude Juncker suggests British people aren’t getting a vote on who becomes President but ignores one fundamental problem: the British people never get a vote and neither do the rest of Europe’s citizens. Ridiculously, this is the first time that the Commission President has been installed by elected members (MEPs). Former Presidents have all been selected by state leaders, a woefully undemocratic process.
But the new system isn’t very democratic either. Parties with MEPs form “super-parties” in the European Parliament and it’s the controlling “super-party” that gets to decide who is the Commission President. In this instance, that’s the European People’s Party
With 274 MEPs out of 766 in the European Parliament belonging to the EPP, it’s quite obvious that the decision on the EC President lies with a group of MEPs who have been voted into their roles by a tiny proportion of the electorate.
Here’s the maths (approximate, based on data from Wikipedia);
- Electorate: 500 million
- Turnout: 43.24%
- Number of people who voted: 216.2 million
- Percentage of vote won by EPP: 36%
- Number of votes for EPP: 77.832 million
- Percentage of electorate who voted for EPP: 15.57%
So, less than a fifth of the electorate voted for the EPP who get to make one of the most important decisions about the governance of the entire European Union. This is clearly not a very democratic system and so Juncker’s claim is baseless. The EPP hold too much power without sufficient mandate from the electorate. If Juncker wants the people to have their voice heard, he should concentrate on making the Commission Presidency a more democratic appointment, perhaps even directly elected by the people themselves.
Good on Estonia for leading on this, and let’s hope others follow suit soon too. This is certainly one reason why the principal of ID cards isn’t a bad idea.
Read Estonia publishes its e-voting source code on GitHub
A while ago I signed a petition on the Prime Ministers website asking for the government to introduce legislation that would empower ordinary citizens to call a referendum on important matters. According to the petition details a system, called Citizens’ Initiatives, exists in Switzerland, New Zealand, Hungary and 24 states in America.
The petition asks that a referendum be called on an issue when a petition is signed by 2.5% of the population. For national issues this would be the entire UK population, with 2.5% being around one million, and for regional issues about 3-4,000.
The governments response posted today states that powers already exist for local councils to hold referendums and have access to the full electoral register in order to do so. On the issue of national referendums, the response states that The Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act 2000 allows government to call national referendums but “does not however set out any criteria for using referendums.”
The government is obviously guilty in this instance of not listening to the public. The petition clearly asks for “legislation allowing citizens to trigger referendums” not allowing government to trigger referendums. It’s about real democracy – giving the public the power to show they are unhappy and make sure something is done. All that the public can do at the moment is shout and even that has been limited by legislation like the Serious Orgnaised Crime and Police Act 2005.
Not only is it disturbing that the power to trigger referendums lies solely with government but that it is a government led by an unelected Prime Minister. I know many would say that we elect parties, not the prime minister, but how can we accept that we have no say in who leads our country especially when the new prime minister has already started undoing the work of his predecessor.
If you’re interested in this issue I suggest a trip to the site for the Campaign for Direct Democracy.