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Ant Smith
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Questioning Democracy

Sunday 3rd July 2016 6:54pm

St Stevenson's Tower with union jack.

1. Could someone please explain to me why it's democratic to remove the vote from prisoners?

especially considering:

  • 50% of prisoners are serving a sentence of 6 months or less, yet are bound by a national democratic result that has a term of around 5 years

  • prison populations are skewed wrt political leanings

  • imprisonment is often, in itself, a political act

  • The European court of human rights ruled that removing the vote from prisoners infringes their human rights.

Please don't get all right wing on me and start talking about the 'morals' of allowing rapists and murderers to vote. This is a question about the principles of democracy, not your political ravings...

Small silver figurine of St George slaying a dragon.

2:Could someone please explain to me why it's democratic that the average age when first allowed to vote is over 20?

In 1969 we decided the age of majority wrt to voting would be 18 (you can get sent to prison from age 10, or to war from age 16).

In 2010 we decided governments would have a 5 year fixed tenure.

With some guess work applied to the Office of National Statistics data I think about 4% of the population are 16-17 years old; let's assume evenly spread.

Next year half of them (2%) will be 18 years old. The parliament will run another 4 years before they get to exercise the right we said they had back in '69.

In effect, the average age at which they allow us to vote in a general election is not 18, but rather, over 20 years old.

And why's it reasonable to withhold the vote from 16 year olds anyway?

If we reduced the minimum age to vote from 18 to 15 years 6 months then the average age we're actually allowed to vote in a general election will be 18. Sure some 15 year olds will be voting - but you're a pretty sad and patronising bastard to try and say that's a wrongful thing.

union jack with text People Will Disappoint You.

3: Could someone please explain to me why it's democratic that our system assumes the electorate represents the none-electorate?

By allowing the electorate, not the whole population, to form a government the tacit assumption is that any valid opinions within the none-electorate would not amount to enough to have made a difference to the 'majority' that has been claimed.

If the electoral majority is large this will be true. But we don't often get landslides.

Let's say, for the moment, that youths do not have valid opinions when it comes to exercising democracy so that it's reasonable to withhold the vote from 10 year olds (who can be sent to prison by the government they can't influence). Let's also say it's reasonable to withhold the vote from 15 and a half year olds (who can't vote in a general election for up to another 5 years, but could be fighting in a war in 6 months time). That accounts for 13% of the population that must be bound by the views of the electorate (which is 72% of the population).

The remainder of the none-electorate (15% of the population) is made up from:

  • those lazy apathetic bastards that can't be arsed to join in and so have no right to complain about the government

  • those who are too stupid to manage to register

  • 'Lunatics that aren't currently lucid' and serving lords

  • those who don't trust the state's motives or competency with holding your personal data

  • those who have no address. Dealing with your priorities when homeless really can leave you with no time or energy to register, which suddenly isn't just a matter of filling in a form

Whether or not you think these people have valid views, it should be clear that assuming your opinions represent theirs is not a very safe conclusion.

If you don't give a damn about the opinions of any of these people AND you believe that people 20 or under (on average during a parliamentary term) don't have valid opinions, then an electoral majority of 50% is reasonable.

But it seems to me that some people who turn 18 during a parliamentary term should be represented.

Political prisoners (e.g. for not paying poll tax) should be represented.

Those in fear, or those in slavery should be represented.

Those on the streets just trying to stay alive, should be represented.

If they can't register and tell us their views, then we should make sure we don't just ignore them.

War memorial with union jack in the breeze on corner of estate.

4: Could someone please explain to me why it's democratic that we ignore abstentions by the electorate?

(click or tap any table row to enlarge)


I've asked a lot of questions about the relationship between the electorate and the population, but let's put that aside for a moment and consider democratic principles within those privileged to be counted as part of the electorate.

This millennium kicked-off with the accolade of delivering the lowest ever registered voter turnout. It was such a crisis that the media organisations even dared, for the first time, to question if abstention MIGHT be a form of protest and not just down to laziness or apathy.

I guessed they dared because in 2001 the electoral majority JUST managed to surpass the rate of abstention (by one tenth of one percent). So a mandate could still be claimed (except of course the electorate does not represent the will of the population - but see above for more on that). It was very, very close however so it was a concern that had to be tackled.

Certainly they turned a corner and turnout has been rising since. But they were, in historical terms, just too late. For in the fullness of time, the 2005 election result will be recognised as invalid. For the first, and only time, the percentage of abstention exceeded the percentage of votes cast for the winning party. By then, though, all media coverage had reverted to the illogical statement that abstention was entirely due to apathy - was a "we don't care" vote.

It has never been explained why a person would care enough to register but then not care enough to vote. Sure, registering is easier than voting (for most, not all, of us) but this argument is wholly subjective. The 2005 result clearly demonstrated that our democracy is fundamentally broken - since a government was formed not only in accordance with the wishes of a minority of the population, but in this instance in accordance with the wishes of a minority of those permitted, and managing to register, to vote.

And since then, governments have continued to be formed in accordance with the wishes of a minority of the population - although the bias in the electorate selection just about obfuscates this. In 2010 and 2015, the electoral majority versus the rate of abstention is not within any reasonable tolerance of accuracy to which the electoral role can be created.

In a democracy that can routinely and demonstrably return a minority vote as a mandate for the system we are doomed to consistently receive the government we don't deserve.

There are a lot of anti-Tory protests at the moment - which I enjoy - but which cannot afford us any effective change, as we continue to validate a fundamentally broken, none democratic system.

Now IS the time for protest and mobilisation - but not against the opportunist asset strippers that have learned to use the fragilities of our democracy, rather against the outrageous compromises that have been wheedled into it over the decades by the ruling elite. There is no point seeking justice in an unjust system. We must band together to change the system itself.

A building with a prominent number 69 on it.

69 - The Value Of Majority

69 is one of my favourite numbers...

It's commonly believed that a majority of 50% gives a party a mandate to form a government.

That mandate is an illusion. It assumes the winning party has a right to speak for around 18 million silenced voices.

In a population of 64m there are only 46m registered voters, about 72%.

About 2m 15-17 year olds can't vote

About 12m under 15s can't vote

About 185,000 homeless almost certainly can't vote

About 100,000 incarcerated individuals can't vote

About 50,000 so called lunatics can't vote, even if they are currently lucid.

I think about 3m non-EU/non-Commonwealth foreign nationals living in the UK can't vote

And a handful of lords, thankfully can't vote.

The Queen can vote, but like me, elects not to.

So with only 72% of the population actually registered to vote the winning party would need to attain a 69% majority to claim to represent at least half the populace (69% of 72% = 50%).

If we really want to live in a democracy we should change the rules to require a majority vote of 69%, NOT 50%, to form a government.

Or we could look again at our understanding of 'universal' suffrage.