A Democracy Fix – “None of the above”

There appears to be general agreement across the UK that parliamentary democracy isn’t working properly. During my time as a voter, we’ve only had two parties with any chance of being elected. First they formed governments alternately at every election, spending most of their time reversing the previous parliament’s achievements. More recently we had such ineffective oppositions that governments have stayed in place until they were ejected on charges of croneyism and corruption. Despite the easy ride, they appeared to run out of ideas during their second term.

The proposal to move from the first-part-the-post voting system to a poor form of proportional representation was rejected by the electorate. Many said this was because they didn’t want a system that might lead to a coalition government. At the very next election we got a coalition government.

Politicians blame voter’s disinterest. Voters blame politicians who don’t represent what they think. Many feel strongly that they want ‘none of the above’ but the only way to signal that is to spoil their vote, which is indistinguishable from apathy. I have intelligent friends who argue that it doesn’t make sense to vote for the party you want – you should vote tactically, against the party you don’t want most. We have turned our democracy into a game, attempting to influence the outcome by betting on our prediction of the  behaviour of others, while they try to guess at ours. It is no wonder that election night looks like a bookie’s advertisement.

Worst of all, is that when a party is elected, they claim to have support for every one of the policies that was in their manifesto. There is no mechanism that a voter with a casual interest in politics can use to advertise lack of support for any policy or to put forward new ideas for consideration. Young people of voting age refuse to participate in such a corrupt system, so low voting numbers allow in extreme ideas.

  • The Right want to put a fence around our island and return to 1930.
  • The Left want to smash the systembut don’t offer any new ideas about what should replace it. @RustyRockets appears as a new messiah, leading the anarchists to an unknown destination.

Most voters don’t care because they can’t see any difference between the parties.
They believe politicians lie, misuse statistics and tell us what to think without telling us why. The media conspires to keep the general population politically ignorant.

For a while now, I’ve been looking for a solution. “If not me then who?”.
I think capitalism is a problem too but one thing at a time. Let’s shelve that for a while and concentrate on saving democracy.

Recently, I signed a single issue petition, organised by http://www.38Degrees,org.uk. It saved me bothering to write my own letter. Like most people, the time I am willing to give to participation in politics is strictly limited. I discovered I’d accidentally joined a Left-leaning campaign movement. I was mildly irritated by some of the assumptions made about what other campaigns I would be willing to support. I don’t self-identify as a political campaigner or activist, though I may be deluded.

Mostly, I am annoyed by the stupid and dishonest things I hear politicians say.
This morning, I had an idea:
Imagine if:

  • All political parties published their ideas together, perhaps grouped by ‘subject area’ for comparison, colour-coded by parties (Problem: it might be hard to do this fairly.)
    Parties could propose shared policies, if they wished. This would help the electorate to see where parties agreed and disagreed and who they wanted to trust with their vote.
  • In an election, you would vote for a party to make decisions for you, as now. This would choose the elected government.
  • Or, if you didn’t like your chosen party’s view in any policy areas, you could pick different parties for selected areas.
  • Or, you could vote differently down to individual policy level, if you wanted your opinion registered.
  • The anonymised results would be published.

In summary: An individual’s vote on any issue could be specified at individually policy level, or be handed over to a party, at either policy area level or at the top level.

  • In addition, any citizen could put forward new policies for consideration and vote support for ideas. It would then be up to each party to decide whether to support popular ideas or not.
    This is simply an extension of the petition idea that has been tried out by .gov.uk recently.

The advantages I see in this proposal are:

  • a simple, equivalent system for those who are happy with the current system
  • better communication of the similarities and differences between the parties
  • better feedback about which policies have democratic support
  • better evidence when policies do not have support
  • a new mechanism for disaffected voters to fine-tune what they want and don’t want, rather than claiming that no party supports them.
  • it is a small first step towards greater voter representatiion in democracy

I also propose addition of the long overdue  ‘None of the above’ option at election, policy area and individual policy level, to give a legitimate outlet for expressions of disgust at the ideas on offer.

Please give me feedback. I’d love to know how people feel about these ideas.

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