Strike ballot turnouts v election turnouts

The media is awash with claims that the next Conservative Party manifesto will look to change the rules for trade union ballots for industrial action.

A first draft of the Tory manifesto is expected to be delivered to David Cameron later this summer.

The likely new proposals follow a call from Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, to outlaw strikes when less than 50% of a union’s membership has taken part in the ballot authorising industrial action.

I think Boris and Dave need to be a bit careful here. Let’s take a look at other elections that take place in the UK and the mandate they give their victors. True, from 1918 to the 2010 general election turnouts have been a healthy 73.3%, but have also dipped to as low as 57%.

It is not unknown to become a Member of Parliament in a by-election (as happened in Manchester in 2012) on a turnout as low as 19.1%.

Typically, you can get elected to run a council with a £200 million annual budget at your disposal on a turnout in the low 30 percentages.

And let’s not forget David Cameron’s flagship policy for Police and Crime Commissioners. You can sack a chief Constable and set the budget for law and order across a constabulary on an average turnout of…take a guess. Ok I’ll tell you, the average turnout was 15%.

Boris is pushing for a change. And yet Boris himself got elected as Mayor of London by receiving the votes of just 17% of those entitled to vote in London.

A local government turnout of thirty-something per cent gives you a four year mandate before you face the voters again. Rumour has it that Cameron’s proposals will give unions just a 3 month mandate before they have to ballot again.

Just imagine having to go to the ballot box to vote in a general election every 3 months for a fresh mandate. Perish the thought.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Strike ballot turnouts v election turnouts

  1. Good point, well made. But it’s Tory ideology driving this rather than democratic principles. Trade Unionism needs to modernise and reinvent itself though.

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