In Defence of Those Who Did Not Vote
There is an infographic doing the rounds on the Internet at the moment. It presents the winning party for each constituency in the party colour, except that it treats “did not vote” as an additional party, coloured pink.
Here’s a summary of how parliament would look in numbers if “did not vote” was an actual party:
- Did not vote: 345
- Conservative: 208 (of which 1 Scottish and 6 Welsh)
- SNP: 50
- Labour: 41 (of which 1 Scottish)
- Liberal Democrat: 2
- Green: 1
- Speaker: 1
- Ulster Unionist: 1
Depending on your interpretation of whether “did not vote” means no candidate is returned, a not-voting “observer” is returned, or “did not vote” represents a unified party able to vote as a block in parliament, this would either mean an effective Conservative one-party state or a did not vote majority government. I’d hate to have the former; I’m not sure the did not voters are organised enough for the latter.
What’s interesting in this is that the biggest loser in such as shift is the Labour Party. Both the Conservative Party and (especially) the SNP held their ground quite well. This suggests that Labour had a real problem in motivating their voter base in this election. From a single election result, it is hard to say if this indicates that the Labour heartlands are simply more apathetic in general, or if Labour failed to rally their base in attempting to reach out to other areas.
I am one of those who “did not vote”. As it happened, there were no parties who represented my views. The Conservative Party did not represent my beliefs; UKIP certainly wouldn’t. The Labour Party (who won in my constituency) failed to convince me they were not merely “austerity lite”. The Liberal Democrats gave up too many of the critical campaign promises for me to trust them. I had an email from a Green party legal representative a week before the election stating their intention not to work with me.
Let’s be clear on one myth right now: Even if every SNP voter had switched their vote to Labour, the Conservatives would still have won with the same majority that they have now. The SNP seat switch from SNP to Labour, and nothing else changes in such a scenario. Labour would have come a closer second place, but it would still have been a clear second place.
Back on topic, “did not vote” does not mean “supports the conservatives”. Sometimes it means apathy. Sometimes it means no meaningful choices were present. It never means “supports the winner” — only actual voting for them means that.
As it happened, I had intended to spoil my vote. The presiding officer at the polling station, for their own reasons, decided that I should not be allowed to place my ballot paper in the ballot box. So, I am technically an abstainer, but not through choice.
But let’s suppose I had voted. Either had I voted for a losing party, in which case my vote made no difference (exactly the same as simply not voting). Or I had voted for Labour (the winner where I lived), in which case I would now in turns be blamed and praised for every action of the entire Labour Party over the next five years, regardless of whether I believe in Labour or not.