ELECTION: Why a Battle of the Baggage requires the right to positive abstention.

The choice before the electorate begs our abstention. This should be enshrined in the ballot papers.

Seven weeks ago I was in Teignmouth visiting friends, and the subject of positive abstention came up: that’s to say, having an option saying ‘None of the Above’ on the ballot paper. On the way home, there was an excellent discussion about it on Radio Four, in which one woman from the Electoral Reform Society pointed out that active abstention is a way of finally getting it through politicians’ heads that low turnouts are partly apathy, but more often a combination of disgust and rejection. Yesterday I had lunch with an old friend and mentor who also opined (without prompting) that he thought the ‘anyone but this lot’ option should be included on polling day. I myself have been campaigning for the Anyone But Bercow option on all papers crossed in Buckingham.

This is not chattering classes stuff: it is, as far as I can tell, a spontaneous desire by the more intelligent people in Britain to prove (at last) that the problem voters have is not politics per se, but political Parties peopled by deaf transmitters. (This in itself, of course, explains why the proposal won’t be adopted).

The election due to take place just over six weeks from now is turning into The Battle of the Baggage: New Labour weighed down by Trade Unions and bent MPs versus Dave Toryism encumbered by Lord Ashcroft and the Filthy Rich bankers. Over-simplification or not, both are trying to be something they aren’t, both are looking backwards, and both are bereft of good ideas.

In between these two is a smaller Party comprising the uneasy merger of two previous incarnations based on social democracy in one case and individual liberty in the other: so it’s a sort of disciplined collective for contrarian libertarians. Faced with such an oxymoronic raison d’etre, the Libdem stance is, unsurprisingly, largely based on its good fortune in being neither of the other two Parties.

In short, all we know is what the three main offerings don’t want to be seen as – not controlling and Left, not nasty and Right, and not muddle in the Middle. The only problem being that this is precisely, in turn, what they are.

In this context – and given that our taxation entitles us to representation – estimates calculated by myself and others suggest that a good 45% of us don’t want anything on offer. This alienation will be reflected on polling day in a ‘turnout’ of (I predict) no more than 55%. Such would represent a mockery of democracy. And the only thing that will save for our democracy a tiny residue of respect is the active abstention option.

My favourite to date is ‘None of these represent my needs’, but it’s not that snappy – anyone with any better alternatives should feel free to join the comment thread.