A Journey Of A Thousand Miles | Abstain UK

It is beyond cliche to speak of a silent majority in politics. It is also a characteristic of Conservative politicians to presume to speak for this group. 

Is this government speaking for the silent majority? Are we to believe that in church halls, living rooms and pubs across the country, that the British people speak in hushed tones of their gratitude towards Boris Johnson? Do they fawn over the destruction of our civil liberties, the annihilation of our economic prosperity and the unstoppable growth of the state into every part of our public and private lives?

Perhaps not. Perhaps instead, the naturally conservative among us are dismayed by the direction which the allegedly ‘Conservative’ Party has taken. It seems that the Conservative Party is full of members of parliament who do not seek to act in a conservative manner. It’s membership is increasingly restless, some even cutting up their cards in defiance of the recent imposition of face masks. After renouncing this allegiance, they are left completely without a voice.

They may seek to found a new political party, as some on the left have done as a reaction to Keir Starmer. This is ultimately doomed to fail. It is quite clear that First Past the Post strangles the ability of minor parties to form and ultimately gain representation in Parliament. Not only that, at the next general election, as happened with the last, the same narratives will force the hand of many natural conservatives across the country. A split from the party is simply a vote for Labour. A split from Labour is a vote for the Conservatives. Both sides will run a campaign based on fear, as they have for many years. The inexorable march of national decline will continue unchallenged.

We are faced, on both the right and left, with a pervasive sense of pessimism. While genuine conservatives recognise that the country is being destroyed by this increasingly bizarre government, they cannot conceptualise change. They recognise, rightfully, that a Labour government, whether under Mr Starmer or Jeremy Corbyn, would be making the same mistakes.

Our task is to change the British political system so that the parties represent the views of the electorate, such that the silent majority is silent no more. From the right in British politics, this requires the wholesale destruction of the Conservative party. This will not be achieved by attempting to outflank it from the right. The groundswell of support which the Conservative party relies on from the genteel shires will not be convinced by populism, which is inevitably the form of politics that such a political party will take. Although many of them believe in limited government, low taxes and civil liberties, they will not withdraw their votes from the Conservative party so long as they believe the alternative is a vote for Labour.

The truly disaffected on the right and left of British politics has to unite to provide a credible alternative to these establishment parties. Proportional representation is often posited as a solution, however we can observe the failings of these systems on the continent. In countries such as Germany, regardless of whom you vote for, political elites after elections are able to form coalitions which inevitably do not represent the views of their constituents, as the power rests in elite cooperation.

The best method of change is to introduce onto the ballot an option to Abstain, to state that none of the options have policies and credibility sufficient to represent your views in your constituency. What makes an Abstain vote different to voting for UKIP or the Greens is that you do not have to rebel against the establishment by voting for a party and set of views with which you do not agree. It is a position, that none of the choices are viable, which would have enough support across the political spectrum to provide a credible third option between Conservative and Labour. It will also mobilise a section of the 32.7% of the country which did not vote in the last general election.

This is not a new idea. In 2010 a political movement called None of the Above (NOTA) was established to introduce this idea onto the ballot. It presented eloquently the case for introducing this option onto the ballot, and attempted to use petitions to achieve its aims. Unfortunately no sane government will willingly reduce its own power by introducing legislation that challenges power within its own safe comfortable seats. The suggestion that by spoiling the ballot and writing None of the Above, you can change the political system, is similarly weak.

There is a way of forcing this change onto the political establishment. As it will not willingly allow for greater representation, it is necessary to use the electoral system against the establishment. It is possible, under the rules of the electoral system, to register a political party called Abstain. At the next election, our best chance of changing the country, will be to run a candidate in every constituency whom will, as Sinn Fein has, refuse to take his or her seat. Instead, they will resign after three months, to trigger a by-election, giving the political system another attempt to run a campaign that convinces voters to support it. Faced with this, the system will be forced to add an option for Abstain, and the political movement can dissolve itself, having achieved its aim.

But that is the destination of our journey of a thousand miles. The first step in it is to begin to spread the message, and make the argument. We must use our platforms in our private and personal lives to begin to permeate the public mind with Abstain. We must being this process now. The current governments hold on power is diminishing, scandal after scandal. It is not inconceivable that one of the Chancellor’s emergency budgets next year will be rejected by parliament, and that a general election, the third in four years will ensue. We, who believe that this may be the last chance the country has to turn its course, must not be complacent. We do not want to have to choose between the lesser of two evils yet again. The time to act is now.

Photo from Abstain UK.

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