Stop the Tories ballot rigging proposals
A letter to the Swindon Advertiser
The parliamentary majority which the Tories won in the General Election was delivered by the undemocratic first past the post system (FPTP). Whilst they might be said to have a Parliamentary mandate they certainly do not have a popular mandate, with little more than one in three voters supporting them and just under one in four of the electorate. Their vote increased by just 0.8%. A big majority of voters, 63.1% of those who voted, voted against them. Tory grandee Quentin Hogg once warned about the dangers of ‘elective dictatorship’ under this system. FPTP allows them to do whatever they can get away with so long as they can win a vote in parliament.
That the Tories have secured a small majority with such a vote underlines the need for a more proportional electoral system. Whatever you might think the politics of UKIP one MP from a vote of 3.8 million can scarcely be deemed democratic. The same applies to the Greens with 1.3 million votes. In Scotland half of the electorate has three MPs out of 59.
Unlike the coalition government the Tories will be unable to blame the Liberal Democrats for what they do or don’t do. We will see policies designed and implemented by the real ‘nasty party’ on its own. Rather than being the ‘party of the workers’ they are the party of the exploitation of workers. A government with the support of a quarter of the electorate is proposing to impose a threshold for industrial action requiring an 80% mandate on a 50% turnout. This is a threshold which does not apply in any other election or ballot. At the same time they are proposing to end the ban on utilising agencies to recruit an external strike-breaking force and to make a picketing offence a criminal act.
The irony of this is that it is not a response to an epidemic of strike action. The balance of power in the workplace is already overwhelmingly in favour of the employers. There is a climate of fear in the workplace resulting from the absence or weakness of collective workplace organisation and the growth of precarious employment contracts: zero hours contracts, temporary contracts, bogus ‘self-employment’ and so on.
What the government is proposing is an attack on the fundamental democratic right of workers to withdraw their labour. It is a ballot-rigging proposal designed to give even more power to employers to exploit their workforce and to undermine the power of workers to defend themselves against exploitation. This anti-democratic measure should be opposed, not only by trades unionists, but by all those who suffer injustice and indignities in the workplace at the hands of over-bearing employers and by any genuine supporter of democratic rights.
May 31st 2015