Cherry Picking Democracy


My post Democracy – Do we really have it?stated my concern over ‘democracy’ being ‘Majority Tyranny’, perhaps I should have addressed some concern over a ‘Minority Tyranny’. Certainly the popular right-wing media seem to advocate that such minority tyranny as exercised by trade unions needs to be curbed.

Members of the  Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) at the Home Office have voted for a strike over job cuts, pay and privatisation.

In a ballot of the union’s members in the Home Office – which includes UKBA, the Identity and Passport Service and Criminal Records Bureau – there was a 57.2% vote for a strike and a 75.8% vote for other forms of industrial action, on a turnout of 20%.

Home Office staff vote for action over cuts and privatisation – 18 July 2012

related article published in The Mail states that:

George Osborne is demanding tough new strike laws to prevent militant unions  holding Britain to ransom. He is now pushing for immediate legislation to impose a minimum turnout – possibly 40 per cent – on strike ballots in order to protect the economy. The law, which could be introduced as early as September, would prevent union barons calling damaging strikes without the support of most ordinary members.

Osborne calls for action to stop minority of hardliners holding Britain to ransom

While the intention here would seem to be clear regarding the regulation of a ‘valid vote’, it is less clear regarding any intention to regulate a ‘democratic vote’.  Taken literally, a forty per cent turnout for a vote merely raises the requirement to exercise a minority tyranny to 21% of all those eligible to vote. Perhaps the intention is that a minimum 40% of all those eligible to vote must support a proposal. Still hardly a ‘democratic majority’, but politicians have a dilemma in regulating a ‘democratic vote’, especially if the electorate may wish to see the same rule applied to the electoral system, or to Acts of Parliament.

The table below shows the maximum (1992) and the minimum (2001) percentage of voter turnout for a general election post 1979. Neither political party won the general election supported by more than 40% of the total registered electorate. The combined  total registered electorate votes of the 2010 coalition government only had 38.46% support. Clearly there can no political will for a ‘democratic vote’ that requires 40% support of  the total registered electorate.

Year

Election

Percentage

Parliamentary

Turnout

Winner

Votes Cast

Electorate

Seats

Majority

1992

77.7%

Conservative

41.9%

32.58%

336

21

2001

59.4%

New Labour

40.68%

24.16%

412

165

 

2010

Election Turnout

Political

Party

Percentage

Parliamentary

Votes Cast

Electorate

Seats

Majority

65.01%

Conservative

36.05%

23.47%

306

-37

New Labour

28.99%

18.87%

258

-133

Lib -Dem

23.03%

14.99%

57

-535

Others

11.93%

7.77%

28

-593

Coalition

59.08%

38.46%

363

+77

Successive governments, post 1945, have won general elections with 40+% of the votes cast (except for 1974) until the general election of 2005. The general elections of 2001, 2005 and 2010 have seen the voter turnout for a general election drop significantly below the 70+% of all previous post 1945 general elections.

If you take into account all of those eligible to vote – the electorate – there is only one occasion that a political party achieved more than 40% of the total electorate vote and that was in 1951 when Labour polled 40.24%  of the total electorate vote (48.78% of votes cast) and ‘lost’ the election to the Conservatives who only received 39.58% of the total electorate vote (47.97% of votes cast).

In a representative democracy where political parties are considered to be a prerequisite the membership of UK political parties has declined as the total eligible electorate numbers have increased. A minority tyranny exercised through the election of a constituency representative, able to exercise parliamentary authority  through the supremacy of parliament, assumes that any such representative is not craven .

All representative democracies have democratic deficitwithin their institutions, both public and private, and the UK is no exception. However, anyone wishing to address what they see as a democratic deficit should be very careful what they wish for.

2 responses to “Cherry Picking Democracy

  1. Pingback: Cherry Picking Democracy – Bemused - My Telegraph

  2. Pingback: Cherry Picking Democracy? | Aasof getting serious!

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