On Thursday 6th May 2021, we had a bumper crop of elections taking place across the UK, including Scottish and Welsh Assembly, Metro Mayors, Police & Crime Commissioners, as well as a Parliamentary by-election in Hartlepool, and the usual crop of local council elections.
I don’t want to focus too much here on the actual results themselves, but I am always interested in learning about the ‘turnout’ figures, ie the percentage of the eligible electorate that actually went and cast a valid vote.
Local and national media will always announce the results as they do, but often the turnout figure is a glaring omission.
And elections are always decided by who picks up the most votes, that is of course how democracy works. (Or at least should work)
But with the turnout figures being overlooked, it doesn’t paint the full picture.
Take for example the West Midlands Metro Mayor election, which Andy Street (Conservative) won today.
The turnout figure was reported by various local news outlets as 31.32%, which meant that less than a third of the eligible electorate actually made the effort to go and mark a cross on a piece of paper at their local polling station.
(Remarkably this is even being hailed as a ‘success’ as it was an improvement on the 27% that turned up to vote last time around in 2017!)
So lets see, in order to ‘win’ the vote in this Mayoral election, you need to get more than 50% of the votes. If this isn’t done on ‘first preference’ alone – as this election uses the ‘supplementary vote’ system – then ‘second preference’ votes get added to the tally.
So of the third of people who actually voted, only half of those votes are needed to ‘win’.
I did some rudimentary calculations earlier, and worked out that Mr Street ‘won’ this election, with just over 15% of votes from the total overall eligible electorate.
I really would like to know and understand the reasons why two-thirds of the people here in the West Midlands chose not to go and cast a vote.
From comments I read elsewhere, its usually along the lines of “there’s no point, it makes no difference”. Which to some degree is true, certainly if you only ever vote Conservative or Labour.
The media obviously doesn’t help either, as you notice that that they only ever really focus on the two main parties, which again fuels this perception that there’s only ever two choices.
So as I see it, which the illustration above shows perfectly, is that you have a disgruntled majority of people, disillusioned with the current democratic process, and the futility of voting for the same Establishment parties over and over again, who choose to simply ‘sit it out’.
The problem is that the more people who choose not to participate and vote, the less likely anything different is going to happen. The mainstream Establishment parties only need a small number of enthusiastic ‘hardcore’ voters to give them their vote, and the status quo is maintained.
Its “tyranny of the minority”.
Just imagine what the untapped majority of ‘non-voters’ could do to the balance of power when it comes to elections, if they would just get up and make their voice heard – or at least mark a cross on a piece of paper.
If just half of you got behind some independent candidate, or someone representing a smaller party, this could all come to an end, and the power of the Establishment parties rapidly diminished.
Politics is dirty, politics is unfair, small parties and independents don’t get favourable media coverage, that much is true. So they find it much harder to compete on these terms. So you end up not voting for them, even if you may want to, because the Establishment just wants to corral voters into making a ‘binary choice’. You either end up not bothering to vote, or resign yourself to ‘tactical voting’, just to stop one or another party from ‘getting in’.
Its pure social engineering, or ‘perception manipulation’.
I didn’t vote for any Establishment party at these elections, I voted for independents or candidates from smaller parties. Was my vote ‘wasted’? Not in my own mind it wasn’t. My conscience is clear, I didn’t vote for the ‘winner’, which gives me the right to then be able to question and hold to account the individual that did.
Next time an election comes around, do you want to be the person that can’t be bothered to vote, and then complains about the outcome afterwards? Are you the person that does nothing and then expects other people to ‘sort things out’ for you?
Your vote, your choice, your say.
Or are you prepared to let a minority of people decide what is best for the majority of people? Because that ain’t democracy in my book.