A vote for ‘None of the above’ is a vote for pusillanimity

January 14, 2010

My younger self would have found much to recommend about the proposals put forward for a public vote by Power 2010 following their ‘deliberative poll’; and indeed my marginally wiser current self still sees much to recommend in ideas like fixed-term parliaments. However, one of these options – currently, the second most popular one – has created a disagreement between now-me and past-me. A younger me found being able to vote for ‘None of the above’ a rather liberating idea; it allowed one to express one’s dissatisfaction with the political process in a very real and demonstrable way, without having to spoil one’s ballot. I felt the UK’s political system to be staid, incapable of change and to be clearly ineffective of bringing about the sort of Britain I wanted to see.

Now that I’m older and have actually worked in politics, I begin to see where my younger self was being self-involved to the point of stupidity – and, indeed, why having this option on the ballot paper would be naught but an exercise in passive-aggressive intellectual masturbation.

Past-me had no clear ideas about what change he wanted to see, beyond perhaps a greener and fairer economy. But those ideas themselves are unclear: how exactly do you achieve them? What sort of policy changes do you need to bring in to make the UK ‘greener and fairer’? Who wins? Who loses out? And, moreover, how does voting for ‘None of the above’ tell politicians that these are the changes I want to see?

Even BNP voters, despicable as they are, at least have a clear idea of what change they want. Say this proposal is brought in for the next election, and 25% of the voting electorate opt for ‘None of the above’. What does this achieve beyond giving rise to a repetition of the now-hackneyed promises of the political class to ‘reconnect with the electorate’? It certainly doesn’t tell politicians that, say, you have concerns about Europe (UKIP), you have concerns about civil liberties & effective representation (Lib Dems), or that you have concerns about the environment (Greens). It’s merely an angry undirected shout about a system you have no confidence in, but don’t care enough about to overturn. It’s a sop to an electorate whose lives are comfortable enough that they don’t have the impetus to fight for proper change.

I’d like to say to my younger self (I’m sure we’ve all had this conversation in our heads before) that if I really think our political system is incapable of change and that the country desperately needs radical solutions, then don’t tick a box labelled ‘None of the above’, go out and fucking revolt. If you really believe none of the parties represent you, then I expect to see barricades in the street. Anything else is cowardice.

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6 Responses to “A vote for ‘None of the above’ is a vote for pusillanimity”

  1. Edis said

    And rather for the same reasons a good survey with multiple choice boxes ( a Lickert scale) never has an odd number of available responses. If there is a mid-point neutral ‘neither like or dislike option’ people tend to plump for this… Designers of FOCUS surveys please note this ….

  2. Jock said

    It seems to me that what this says about you is that you have grown too comfortable about “the state” and actually truly believe that these sort of democratic nicities make any difference at all in the long run.

    To me, that’s the point at which you actually need that option – although it would help to have some real consequences to using it – perhaps if “None of the Above” ever came first under whatever voting system it could work like “Re-open Nominations”, or better still cause that constituency to secede from the union…:-)

  3. declineofthelogos said

    Oh no Jock, are you honestly saying there’s no chance of change under the present system? And yet you’re claiming that the system is capable of reform to the point where it would negate itself? I don’t understand.

  4. […] Bell at Decline of the Logos: from fence-sitting to barricading the […]

  5. Mark Wallace said

    I think a way of expressing dissatisfaction with the dominance of the current main parties (aided by the taxpayers’ money they use as an incumbency advantage), which will in itself help to reduce that dominance, is probably a more positive approach than “fucking revolt”…

  6. declineofthelogos said

    Ah, but how will it help to reduce that dominance? Such a mechanism is currently missing from the proposal. All it does is demonstrate to politicians that people in this particular constituency are vaguely dissatisfied with the state of the UK, but can’t identify why. What use is that? If they want to challenge the dominance of the main parties, vote for other ones.

    This proposal, as it stands, only constitutes a safety valve for dissatisfaction with the state of British politics. Inasmuch as it does that, it is a very British thing to put forward.

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