UK Liberty

scum (or, On the Scottish Elections 2007)

Posted in voting by ukliberty on October 25, 2007

The voter was treated as an afterthought

Heated exchanges in the Commons yesterday at PMQs, when the Supreme Leader accused “Call me” Dave Cameron of “misleading people” when discussing the conclusions of the independent report into the Scottish elections 2007. (read Hansard via TheyWorkForYou)

But let’s go back in time for a moment…

An independent inquiry – the Power Inquiry – was setup some time ago “to explore how political participation and involvement can be increased and deepened in Britain. Its work is based on the primary belief that a healthy democracy requires the active participation of its citizens.”

What the inquiry found is that there are several myths and ‘red herrings’ about political disengagement in the UK. Not least among these is the idea that we are apathetic – we aren’t!

On the contrary, an increasing number of people are getting involved with charities and community work. More people are becoming involved with (and voting for) minority parties.

But we are disengaging from what most people immediately think of as ‘politics’ – the formal politics of councils and Westminster, for example.

According to the inquiry, the reasons for disengagement appear to be that

  • citizens do not feel that the processes of formal democracy offer them enough influence over political decisions – this includes party members who feel they have no say in policy-making and are increasingly disaffected;
  • the main political parties are widely perceived to be too similar and lacking in principle;
  • the electoral system is widely perceived as leading to unequal and wasted votes;
  • political parties and elections require citizens to commit to too broad a range of policies;
  • many people feel they lack information or knowledge about formal politics; and,
  • voting procedures are regarded by some as inconvenient and unattractive.

Of course, some Party comrades think it is the fault of bloggers and the media, who encourage the public to think of all politicians as “corrupt or mendacious”. Not the fault of corrupt or mendacious politicians themselves! Oh no.

The voter was treated as an afterthought

All of which brings me finally to the independent review of the Scottish elections 2007 (660Kb PDF). The elections received much criticism at the time regarding rejected ballots and confusing ballot papers and so on.

Some quotes (my emphasis in bold) from the review:

What is characteristic of 2007 was a notable level of party self interest evident in Ministerial decision-making (especially in regard to the timing and method of counts and the design of ballot papers). The timing and impact of policy decisions taken by Ministers also seem to be a critical factor. SOLAR, in particular, has emphasised that the work of the legislation sub-group was undermined by late policy decisions taken by Ministers on a variety of legislative issues. While prescribing all elements of electoral legislation remains a legislative function, Ministers will always need to take some decisions on elements of electoral administration. However, as in other areas of public life, these can and should be taken with the voters’ interests as the primary objective, supported by publicly available professional and expert advice. This appears not to have been the case in 2007.

During our consultations with stakeholders, it became clear that both the Scotland Office and the Scottish Executive were frequently focused on partisan political interests in carrying out their responsibilities, overlooking voter interests and operational realities within the electoral administration timetable.

In considering the circumstances surrounding the planning, organising and implementation of the 3 May 2007 elections in Scotland, we have observed an unfortunate pattern. Almost without exception, the voter was treated as an afterthought by virtually all the other stakeholders. Numerous factors – such as combining the ballot papers for the Scottish parliamentary elections, introducing a new voting system with different ballot paper marking requirements, the failure to conduct adequate research and testing on the impact this new system would have on the electorate, the insistence on conducting an overnight count – all indicate to us that voters were overlooked as the most important stakeholders to be considered at every stage of the election.

And why on earth does the following even need to be said?!

We obviously recommend that all those with a role in organising future elections consider the voters’ interests above all other considerations.

Dave pointed the finger specifically at Comrade Douglas Alexander, International Development Secretary and General Elections cock-upper Coordinator, cabinet minister and friend to the Supreme Leader. It was amusing/annoying to see the Supreme Leader defend him:

They were agreed after a long process of consultation involving all the parties. I have just quoted the Scottish Conservative leader saying that he supported the single ballot paper, and let me quote Mr. Gould again. He says,

“I don’t think I would absolve any party”


“‘Party self-interest’ in this context is not necessarily related to one party.”

This was not a failure of one party or one institution; it was to do with decisions that we should have made together and with decisions that we have now made to change the system.

Obviously he’s blind to the bit about the Scotland Office and the Scottish Executive overlooking voter interests in order to pursue self-interest.

Is it any wonder that 71% of the public mistrust politicians?

Just hold your hands up and admit that,

The voter was treated as an afterthought


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  1. […] Sometimes not even then! […]

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