Cherry Picking Democracy?


in 2012 the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) at the Home Office voted for a strike in a ballot with a turnout of 20%. In a related article George Osborne demanded tough new strike laws , leading to the Conservative Party proposing plans to tighten the law on strike ballots if it wins the 2015 election. The proposal is a requirement for at least half of eligible union members to vote (50%) in order for a strike to be lawful. (The Tories Strike Back).

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A 50% turnout (the popular vote) of eligible voters would still only requires 25%+1 of all those balloted to win the vote. However, participation in a democratic vote is open to 100% of those eligible to vote. So it may seem reasonable to take this 50% criterion as also being democratic.

If this 50% criterion is considered right for a union ballot of members to be lawfully valid, then surely it should be the criterion for a vote to be lawfully valid in a first past the post electoral system?

So will the Conservative 2015 election manifesto apply its 50% proposal to, say, parliamentary constituency elections and all referendums? Will a failure to meet this 50% criterion result in a ballot being declared void as it would for a union ballot lawfully held but not lawfully valid?

The table below shows the maximum (77.7%) and the minimum (59.4%) voter turnout (popular vote) for a general election post 1979. No political party has won a general election supported by more than 40% of the registered electorate¹.

While all have won elections with popular votes of more than 50% of the registered electorate some constituencies did not. In the 2010 general election it wasn’t a requirement, but at least two constituencies failed to achieve a popular vote of 50% or greater and a number came very close to failing this criterion.

The popular vote in the recent Rochester by-election was only 50.67% almost enough to declare the election void had the 50% criterion applied. The popular vote falling below 50% is a trend that is likely to increase by the 2020 general election and any preceding by-elections.

Year

General Election

Percentage of-

Parliamentary

Popular Vote (%)

Winner

Popular Vote

Registered 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

Popular Vote (%)

Political

Party

Percentage of –

Parliamentary

Popular Vote

Registered 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 popular vote (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.

¹Note – If you take the registered electorate as 100%, there is only one occasion that a political party achieved more than 40% of the registered electorate vote. In 1951 Labour polled 40.24% of the registered electorate vote (48.78% of the popular vote) but ‘lost’ the election to the Conservatives who received only 39.58% of the registered electorate vote (47.97% of the popular vote). [The Conservative ‘win’ was due to the electoral boundaries in place at the time].

Elections are fundamental to democracy. They are the mechanism by which citizens exercise their democratic rights. [Nicholas Paines QC]

Read 24/7/12 original here: Cherry Picking Democracy

2 responses to “Cherry Picking Democracy?

  1. jazz606 December 11, 2014 at 10:56

    It’s ridiculous that a union can call a strike with less than 50% of those eligible voting for it.
    A vote in an election is not the same thing as a strike vote.
    Some time ago there was a proposal for a ‘Null MP’ whereby if the non voters in a constituency outnumbered the votes for any candidate then a null MP was deemed to have been elected. He or She ‘took’ their seat in parliament and was assumed to vote against all motions.

    Like

    • Peter December 11, 2014 at 11:11

      I’m not really sure what you are implying Jazz; is it that at least 50%+1 should be the criterion?
      Do you think that a vote for parliament representation or a referendum result should be less because it’s not the same?
      If the Conservatives are intent on establishing a democratic vote, why is this democracy only made available to the Unions.

      Like

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