Let’s All Vote

Peter Robinson and his party hope that soon, Stormont will take control of corporation tax… that very same institution that he recently declared as “Not fit for purpose”

Join the club, there are a lot of us who feel the same…we’re waiting on a back order of membership cards, you see, the anti-Stormont membership packs are being handled by the DVLA in Swansea…

Gregory Campbell said words to the effect of “we can call an election, but it will be exactly the same Assembly afterwards, people will vote the same” and unfortunately this is all too true. The issue in Northern Ireland that isn’t necessarily shared in many other places, is entrenchment within a cause. Yes, people in England vote Labour because their dad voted Labour, and their dad voted Labour and so on and so on…but this is not the same. If the Labour leader decided one day to take a massive dump in parliament square whilst wearing a Saddam Hussein costume and shouting “VIVÉ LE FRANCE!!” those labour voters would switch, no questions asked. Not so in Northern Ireland.

Sure, the switch from DUP to UUP or Sinn Fein to SDLP is not so great a jump as to question ones identity, but that is not necessarily the solution we require.

To listen to the Stephen Nolan show, or any other political sounding board for the masses, is to hear disappointment, disenfranchisement, hatred even. I believe that now more than ever, the despondency shown by a parties electorate to that party, is at critical mass. Unfortunately there is nowhere they will jump to (not nowhere they CAN jump to…very distinct difference here)

I feel that the time is ripe for an election, but not just any old election. A big one. THE big one. My thoughts are two-fold.

1: Mandatory voting.

The disillusionment with the assembly needs to either be rectified or justified, like a married couple who have done nothing but fight for 20 years “WE JUST CAN’T GO ON LIKE THIS”…”it isn’t good for either of us”…”We’ve just grown apart”…and other such clichés. In 2011, 54.5% of eligible voters had their say. in 2007, 62.3%… in 2003, 63%…in 1998, 69.8%. Voter apathy is turning our province into a barely-mandated farce.

Take Jim Wells, the health minister who is suggesting Minimum-Unit pricing for alcohol, deciding whether or not the Dalriada unit closes or not, maintains the ban on gay blood donations, will refuse to consider any progression or reform of abortion laws..a minister is in charge of a great many important issues in our society, was elected with a vote of 6543(on the 5th count…just 5200 people had him as 1st preference). He represents “South Down”, and in the last election, the turnout was 58.1%. He legislates on our health service…based on 7% of an area voting for him; or to play with figures again for a moment, 93% of his own area didn’t vote for him, yet he holds one of the most vital departments in our society. And he was the 3rd highest polling candidate (after Margaret Ritchie & Caitriona Ruane). Laverys Bar has more of a mandate to govern…and a lot higher approval rating.

Hardly a firm mandate. Although when the DUP protect their ministers from trouble like a baby Panda, I suppose that mandate is extended somewhat…perhaps the DUP should run on a “Protect the endangered MLA’s” mandate..

So I believe that for 1 election and 1 election alone, voting should be made mandatory. As in:

Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, France(Senate), Gabon, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey & Uruguay.

I know there are those who are against voting for religious grounds, well thats fine…go and spoil your ballot. Just get involved. Give whoever is making the decisions a mandate to make the decisions.

I believe that this is a solution to a number of problems, including which parties are represented. NI21 was a failed experiment (unless their AGM this coming weekend has a surprise or 2 planned), one which could put off new parties from standing in the future, but I believe a One Big Election concept would encourage all those who are of a political persuasion to band together and represent.

2: Ballot Measures, or Ballot Propositions.

Nearly everyone has heard something to the effect of “Vote yes on proposition 265”. This is a mechanism representative of direct democracy. I propose that we have a mass-proposition in this One Big Election of mine. Every issue that is proving to be divisive…everyone can have their say on it. Not only would we then have a much stronger mandate for those in office, but they would also have a much stronger mandate on the issues that matter. Vote DUP because you are pro-union and they best represent your views on that issue? That’s grand. But if a ballot proposition on Gay Marriage or Abortion or Sunday Trading laws were to show a huge majority of public support in opposition to the party policy, then they would simply have to represent that in the assembly. Perhaps even a much greater breakdown could help steer Northern Irish party policy for years to come…if figures were to be released showing that, for example,

41% of people voted for the DUP

73% of those who voted for the DUP are in support of gay marriage

26% of those who voted for the DUP are in opposition to abortion

85% of those who voted for the DUP are in support of Sunday Trading Reform

Well then the DUP know who they have to please if they want to keep their majority. The same as true for any other party. It can be a very active way for the people of Northern Ireland to help shape their future, if we are all honest, the current system is doing nothing but keeping the shape of the present, if not preserving the shape of the past.

Every controversial public issue could be up for debate. I had discussed this with someone recently who is despondent with the same issues as I am, and we had played around with the idea of trying to start some sort of alternative election movement, where in an off-election year, everybody in Northern Ireland could have their say on these issues, of course it wouldn’t be binding, but it would be a flavour of the feeling of the people…a potential for a real mandate.

Take for example:

Easter Licensing, Abortion, Sunday Trading, Fracking, Wind Farms, Welfare Reform, A&E Openings, Paid Prescriptions, Flags & Symbols, Parading, Urban Regeneration, Priorities of the PSNI…and anything else I’ve failed to remember. If we were to have sufficient lead in time, the respective groups involved in these topics could really make their case and let the people decide for themselves. Its one thing having Bernie Smyth shouting her case on Great Victoria Street, and she is who shouts loudest…but does that mean she should get her way? If a majority of the electorate voted to make abortion legal, in line with the UK, then she can stand and rant away, but the decision will have been made for her.

Also, take the sensitive issues of parading…if we had firm figures on those in each street or postcode, of those who are for or against parading…this would make the position of the parades commission almost cast iron. “Permission for this parade is denied because 73% of the people who live on the route have indicated that they wish no parade to pass their house” or “the parade can go ahead but must avoid BT88 8AA as the residents here have unanimously declared they wish for no parades to pass their residence.” Who can argue with that? The PUL community have argued that “protesters are bused in to oppose parades” well, let the residents themselves speak at a ballot box.

I see no reason why the political parties would not get behind this idea, save for one… The idea of failure. The prospect of having their policies which they hold so dear, to be shown to be in complete contrast to the will of the electorate. Sure, everybody thinks that the more people who get involved, the better it is for the political process…but when the people who get involved speak loudly against the status quo, perhaps those currently in positions of power may find themselves in shakey ground.

On the other hand, perhaps this idea is dead in the water as the DUP would only put a petition of concern against it…

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  • Croiteir

    And who is picking these “key” issues? This is just a liberal wishlist that has not got the level of support that they need to get onto the statute books. So the answer os force people to vote on them. No – I will not bother going to the polls unless I want to. Jail me if you want. Typical liberal though, wanting to force people to do their bidding as they know better than the rest of us. Arrogance dressed as progress.

  • Zeno3

    Well said,

  • Zeno3

    Become a Politician.
    First, Select yourself. This is fairly simple. You just decide that you are the type of person born to be a Leader.
    Second, Join a Party, any party, it doesn’t really matter.
    Third, be a Yes Man. Agree with the Party Leader no matter what. In other words, some proper ass licking is required at this stage.
    This will get you selected as a candidate and keep you as one as long as you do what they tell you and toe the party line.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thanks Zeno3, at least a few of us aren’t running to throw our necks under the yokes of our own abysmal “elect”. The trouble is I’ve met far too many of our masters to be as stary eyed about them as Reader appears to be! Close up the veneer quickly cracks, especially in private, and you get to hear what they really think of the punters when they are talking to “people in the know”.

    Thanks for the check list for becoming a professional Oligarch (sorry, did I mean to say “Democrat”). I’m told by friends that I scrub up well, and might just get away with it if I could keep a straight face for the next twenty years!

    And how these people on the thread do not see that voting is giving a mandate, an authoriusation, to the people you describe still beats me! They do not phone up and ask which parts you supported and which you did not. They apply the mandate to the entire party programme! Pick and mix is a private fantasy!

  • Zeno3

    What would happen if None of The Above got the majority of the votes and kept winning when the parties produced new candidates?

  • Zeno3

    Look, if the parties just put up actual Clowns they would still get elected as long as they could identify which one was themuns.
    Mathematically, half the population are at or below average intelligence. I can only assume that it is them that vote.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hiya Zeno3,

    “Mathematically, half the population are at or below average intelligence. I can only assume that it is them that vote.”

    You may say that, I coulden’t possibly comment.

    Reader is already pretty miffed that I use the term “Voting by Standing Order” although it’s pretty clear to anyone actually looking at the situation here that that is what actually happens. He feels I’m insulting the electorate while I think I’m simply putting a name to an unpleasant political reality. But I think that there are other factors at work in maintaining this ugly voting habit.

    On other threads I’ve suggested that the 55%/45% vote in Scotland was an effect of Stockholm Syndrome. I think this effect is implcated over here, too, in the irrational voting of 50% of our fellow citizens for people with such contempt for their electorate that they needed to oppose important liberalising changes proposed by Lord Lester for the defamation laws, changes that might expose them to serious criticism. That, and the long residual inferiority complex engendered in a portion of our commmunity by a colonial experience that has inculcated a nerviousness about challenging authority. SF rail against Britian, and their supporters, provided with a ready villan, feel that they must be imune from colonial period thinking, but I still feel that a lot of their support is patterened upon a reluctance to confront or question leadership because of the residual hangover of the colonial mindset that has over the long centuries been encoded into their very DNA.

    It is so utterly obvious that those they elect to Stormont are unable to govern in any meaningful sense, or even discuss the possibility, that I feel some serious explanation over and above honest ignorance is required.

    Mick has suggested in a couple of excellent (but ill subscribed) postings some time back that what we really need is serious popular engagement in the political process. I’d go a bit further and suggest that this needs to be much more than simply the reconditioning of the old broken nineteenth century representative system and requires a much more hands on approach by us all. Only that will be able to mature us as a community beyond this neurotic need to be abused by opportunist masters elected every so often. The Five Star in Italy have thrown out a few ideas in their manifesto that deserve some serious attention, and if they are to be simply dismissed by our Political Abuse Addicts as “just a protest party with no future”, and no attention given to what they actually have to offer us, then God help us all!

  • babyface finlayson

    Well it is a pretty unlikely outcome but it would be great in my opinion.
    The existing parties could not claim a mandate so they would be forced to change their policies,form alliances,maybe go away altogether. Perhaps an alliance of the moderate parties would emerge, who knows.Perhaps Seaan’s Direct Democracy would result in the short term with a series of referenda.
    The outcome could hardly be much worse than what we have.

  • Zeno3

    “Well it is a pretty unlikely outcome but it would be great in my opinion.”

    Now we are back to it being impossible to change the system no matter how many vote non of the above. The very least that should happen is that if you can not get more votes than the non of the above total you can not be elected.

  • babyface finlayson

    Well yes, I think that is what I was saying.
    If a majority voted ‘none of the above’ no party could claim a mandate and any new coalition would surely have to go before the electorate again.
    At least the potential to change the status quo would be there.
    What is your alternative suggestion?

  • Tacapall

    If the majority decided not to bother even registering to vote would that not be sending a clear message to the government that the electorate want nothing to do with them or their politics. Would that not change the status quo ?

  • babyface finlayson

    Possibly, but it would be open to interpretation as apathy, or could be spun as simply people being satisfied with the status quo.
    An active electorate voting for ‘none of the above’ is a clear message that could not be ignored.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    You use liberal as a negative thing…. 1: amongst other suggestions, I said the united ireland issue. If that’s a liberal issue then I’ve missed something. 2: suggestion: public submission of ballot issues, 50,000 people express interest in it being on the ballot, it goes on the ballot. Remind me again, what objection could you have to airing your opinion? Surely as someone who comes on a political forum, that is exactly what you are doing already, except with the opportunity of enacting change of ensuring the status quo remains.

  • Croiteir

    Of course liberal is negative, the promotion of death in abortion is an example of the disgusting and warped liberal mentality.
    We elect people to make these decisions, just because they do not make thee decision you want you then want to change the rules, tell you what – vote for people who wish to promote this idiotic proposal.

  • Tacapall

    “or could be spun as simply people being satisfied with the status quo”

    The majority not even bothering to register to vote could be spun as the majority being satisfied with the status quo – Thats exactly why no-one should trust politicians.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    If we’re honest, “we” as a wider society don’t vote people to to make these decisions. “We” vote people who best represent our stance regarding A: the union and B: how we feel about themmuns (hate , dislike, tolerate etc) what their actual policies are on things like urban redevelopment, immigration reform, franking etc is a long way back in the pecking order. What in earth is there to object to in the idea of making your views known??? If you were walking down the street and an Ipsos/mori researcher asked you to answer a couple of questions, and you had nowhere urgent to be, would you go buckmad at them for having the audacity to assume you might have a viewpoint to share? I’m sorry you feel liberalness is something to be afraid of..an equal future where we all have the same rights, terrifying thought for some…don’t worry though, we’ll try and ease you into the 21st century slowly, not going all demolition man on you, don’t want you to get disorientated when 2 men hold hands or a woman’s life is saved by aborting her unborn child.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    Also, I’m objective enough to say “fair enough” if a majority of people feel strongly enough about a particular issue. Not sure you can say the same to be honest… And it wasn’t suggesting to change the rules nor that they don’t make decisions I want, it is policy steering and potentially giving the elected a proper mandate for legislation. But I imagine a realistic mandate is as scary for you as the concept of liberalism.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    “Mathematically, half the population are at or below average intelligence”….,well, yeah….that’s how averages work…

  • babyface finlayson

    On that, at least, we agree.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Croiteir, as Robert Graves once said when presented with the observation that a developer was “A God fearing man”, there are Gods and Gods. Similarly there are Liberalisms and liberalisms! I prefer the term “moderate” for myself, as my family has too many memories of Cyril Smith to comfortably use the other word, even with a small “l”.

    But I still think that “Apollonian” moderation and empathic attempts to see the other point of view do not have to end up sponsoring a complete absence of moral compass.

  • Zeno3

    Abolish political parties and elections. Select 108 people at random using the Jury selection system and let them make all the decisions. Government of the people by the people is a true democracy.

  • babyface finlayson

    I don’t want to be rude but how is that ever going to happen?
    It would require a huge grassroots campaign to get going, so who is doing that?

    In the meantime we are stuck with what we have. By not participating you are effectively giving them permission to do what they want.

  • Zeno3

    Just because we are stuck with a corrupt system that is not a democracy doesn’t mean we have to support it. Taking part in that is insane.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Interesting that half the population still votes also. Not that I’d make any exact parallels between these two statistics…….

    As I said below, “I coulden’t possibly comment.”