Friday, 5 June 2020

From The Liberty Wall – Total Democracy – We Want Total Democracy!

SEVEN WEEKS AGO the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) -https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/ – declared that December 5th 2019 was Democracy Day!

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The date was chosen as it was only a week before the general election. The ERS were concerned that the main political parties were ‘worryingly silent’ about vitalissus relating to democracy or political reform. Indeed, the ERS noted that ‘This general election was called because the Westminster system had left the country in a deadlock. Yet too few are talking about how to fix it.’

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The ERS also declared that ‘This has to be the last election held under Westminster’s ‘unjust and undemocratic First Past the Post system’. But for that to happen, we need to make the biggest noise possible for reform.’

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Total Democracy– since day one – has shared the view of the ERS that there’s something thoughly undemocratic about the current voting system. And like the ERS we believe that ordinary people should reclaim politics.

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With the above in mind, our first campaign has been to popularise the idea of having aNone Of The Above (NOTA) option available in all elections. The main aim of NOTA is to allow voters to withhold their consent to be ‘represented’ by any of the candidates listed on their ballot paper.

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Witholding consent is completely different from either not voting at all or spoiling ones vote. To not vote is to ignore – and even potentially dishonour – the memory of those who fought to establish a modicum of democracy. Here we think of:

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The signing of the Magna Carta – the Great Charter of the Liberties of England –at Runnymede in 1215 (whichset down the principle that the King is also subject to the law of the Land.)

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We also look to the Glorious Revolution of 1689 which finally vanquished the doctrine of ‘the Divine Right of Kings’, as practised in France by the ‘Sun King’, Louis XIV. Louis was the absolute dictator of France and James II wanted to have the same dictatorial powers in England, Scotland and Ireland. In England, the principle had become well established that elected representatives of his subjects should check the King’s actions and that those representatives should be able to make laws. It was by no means truly democratic, but it was a significant step away from absolutism. It is not surprising that James encountered strong opposition, which led to his removal by William of Orange and his defeat at the Boyne.

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Another example would be the Chartists, an organisation thatexisted in Britain from 1838 to 1857. Probably best described as a working-class malesuffrage movement, they campaigned for democracy via mass petitions and meetings. They had six demands, the main one being a ‘vote for every man twenty-one years of age, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for a crime.’

We also look toEmmeline ‘Emily’ Pankhurst (1858 – 1928) who formed the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1903. The WSPU was an all-female political movement which launched a militant campaign for ‘Votes For Women’. This was eventually granted via the then Conservative goventment’s Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act of 1928.

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Those who throw their vote away should also bear in mind that many people lost their lives in the pursuit of democracy. Many of the above important and defining moments in our our history involved violence. (This is particularly so of state violence towards suffrgettes – it’s thought that Pankhurst died as a result of ill treatment she reveived whilst imprisoned.) However all were eventually successful in their ojectives to advance democracy. They all effectively said to establishment of the day: You’ve had our blood – now give us our rights!

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With the above in mind – and as we noted earlier – there is a need to recognise the importance of consent to be ruled by others. As the pro-democracy group None of the Above UK (NOTA UK) have noted:

Consent is central to the concept of democracy – if you cannot withhold it, consent is immaterial. Abstaining does not constitute withholding consent, it is simply not participating and can be dismissed as ‘voter apathy’ with no further analysis. Spoiling the ballot is not withholding consent either as all spoilt votes are lumped in with those spoilt in error, the corresponding figure is therefore meaningless as a measure of voter discontent. The only way to meaningfully and formally withhold consent is via a formal NOTA option on the ballot paper. As such, it is a democratic pre-requisite.’ (1)

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Total Democracy believes that NOTA UK have hit the nail on the head here. In addition, we feel that the First Past The Post – FPTP – system is probabably one of the worst voting sytems available. (In fact, it’s absolutely shameful that its used to elect any representatives, let alone for Westminster elections. We believe that it could be reasonably argued that FPTP is effectively an elected dictatorship – and that’s not even taking into account the corrosive influence of the Money Power!)

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The inclusion of a None Of The Above option on the ballot paper will be a very first small step in the right direction. But Total Democracy means just that – so in future articles we’ll also be looking at ways that we can make politics more representative of the people. Thus we’ll look at Proportional Representation, Referendums, Preferendums and Voter Recall. The current electoral system is a sham and is not fit for purpose. It needs to go. It needs to be made truly democratic.

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  1. https://nota-uk.org/2014/08/30/nota-uks-policy-proposal-to-be-debated-by-ers-at-their-agm/ • TOTAL DEMOCRACY was established in 2012. We describe ourselves as a body of like minded small parties, groups and Independents co-operating together to reclaim democracy for the nation. Check us out here: https://www.facebook.com/TotalDemocracyUK/

    • THE ELECTORAL REFORM SOCIETY campaignsfor democratic rights and a democracy fit for the 21st century. They work across the political divide with all the parties and civil society to put voters at the heart of British politics. Check them out here: https://www.facebook.com/electoralreformsociety/

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