Tuesday 7 June 2022

The problem of majorities


Giving people the choice between two options and counting the number supporting each is a reasonably effective way of making decisions. What it is not, however, is a way of changing minds. Whilst ‘the rules’ of the debate and vote might state clearly that the majority verdict on any question will be the one implemented, what rules cannot mandate is that the minority will somehow change its mind and wholeheartedly support the decision taken. This is a statement so obvious that it should not even need to be said, but we all know that when a party loses an election, it doesn’t simply pack its bags and dissolve itself, it continues campaigning for the next election.

And yet… The expectation of many Brexiters was that all they had to do was win a majority, and everyone else would get behind it and use their abilities to resolve all the problems the Brexiteers had caused by promising an impossible scenario. The expectation of unionists after the Scottish independence referendum was that a party which only ever existed to promote the cause of independence would simply change its policy to reflect the will of the majority. In both cases, they seem to have been genuinely surprised that those who felt the wrong decision had been taken by the majority could and would continue to campaign for what they believed to be right. The problem that many majoritarians face is their own unwillingness or inability to understand that the outcome of a vote changes few minds. Changing minds requires persuasion and argument. Democracy might require people to live with the outcome of any vote until they can change it, but it does not – and cannot – oblige them to like it or remain silent. A democracy which does not permit people to continue to argue their case is not a democracy at all.

And that brings us to the Tory Party and yesterday’s vote. The party’s MPs certainly took a decision, and took it by a clear majority. But the expectation which Johnson and those around him seem to have that the fears some MPs have of losing their seats at the next election will now evaporate because ‘the majority has spoken’ is equally unrealistic. A simple majority system doesn’t mean that those who fear that his law-breaking and dishonesty will lose them their seats will suddenly become proud of those self-same attributes. Given Johnson’s propensity for believing that he can bully, bluster and lie his way out of any situation, I’m not as convinced as many seem to be that his fate is now sealed in the relatively short term. It ought to be, but that depends on a degree of self-awareness which is alien to him. I suspect that those in his party who continue to oppose him face a longer and harder battle than they might currently expect. A different leader would recognise that losing the confidence of at least 40% of his MPs makes him a lame duck and that fighting that fact does more harm than good to his party, but the current leader has no more interest in his party than he does in the population at large. His Conservative opponents and supporters alike may be seriously underestimating Johnson’s capacity and willingness to take them all down with him.

1 comment:

Spirit of BME said...

The Boy Johnson escapes again, like a comic- strip hero of the sixty`s, on which as far as I can see, he has modelled his whole life on.
There is a fundamental flaw in the election rules, as it is a call for an assessment to be made, -it should not be a secret ballot.
Assessments in business world, all those that have an input are identified so you can judge if their conclusions carry weight or not ,but this type of election you would have all kinds of agenda`s going on ,as people might seek to want change in order to progress up the ladder if they succeed to force a new leadership contest.
The Boy is of course, because of these rules holed below the water line as his administration will encounter people ‘working without enthusiasm’ including the civil service.