Friday, 21 May 2010

Democracy is so confusing

Democracy is a funny old business - and very much in the eye of the beholder.

 A little snippet in the  news today: Cameron has just changed the rules so that government ministers can sit on the Tory back-benchers' 1922 committee  - and so  keep all those troublesome and off-message old farts in check. It's a stroke of genius - a bit like sticking some representatives of the gamekeepers' federation on the national executive of the poachers' union. If a leftwing group pulled a stunt like that  it would be called entryism or meeting-packing.

Much like the Tories' similar genius in changing the no-confidence vote rules to virtually ensure a five year fixed term - and so lock the Lib-Dems into coalition. You could almost murmur the ominous words 'Enabling Act'  with all its connotations of parliamentary Bonapartism.

Of course to raise this is quibbling about triffles compared to the fiasco of the general election itself - with disputed electoral rolls, ill-equipped polling stations running out of ballot papers, and voters turned away from the polls because they couldn't be processed quickly enough. Not to worry though  - next time Rawanda is going  to send some observers to ensure fair play.

On the other hand, if you are  a trade union trying to conduct a ballot across a large membership scattered across, and frequently moving between,  numerous workplaces, the details of which the employer is under no obligation to update the union about, - then woe betide you. You might send a few ballot forms to the wrong place (the RMT) or you might not  inform your members correctly of the details of  spoilt ballot papers (Unite BA workers). 

Even if the results give you  a significant 'mandate'* (there's a word that's been touted around a lot recently) - you're still vulnerable to your opponents crying foul and getting a court injunction against you.

* Speaking of mandates here's something to ponder
Unite 80% majority for strike action
RMT 54% majority for strike action 
Conservative  36% of popular vote
Lib Dems 23% of popular vote

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