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STFU with your “vote or STFU”

I find myself being exhorted, by various Facebook friends who think they are being clever, to “vote or STFU“. Apparently, the right to vote is rare and precious, should not be wasted, and if I do not vote I lose the right to complain about the government.


This is all nonsense.

Firstly, nobody loses the right to complain about violence being initiated against them by anyone for any reason. Voting has nothing to do with it.

It is possible to dislike the policies of all candidates. In that case I am told I should vote for the least worst candidate. But this is not necessarily a good strategy. The least worst candidate might be evil, and win, and everyone will think they have a democratic mandate to do evil things. Low voter turnout could be a good thing, making governments nervous and full of self doubt.

My only alternative to voting, I am told, if I am so clever and don’t like any of the policies on offer, is to stand for election myself and find out how popular my own unique set of policies is. There are various problems with this. I am not a talented politician. Even if my policies were very popular, I would lose because of this. I have limited resources and wasting them on something I know I will fail at is pointless. I should spend my energies elsewhere doing something productive. And my policies are not popular. They are the correct policies, but the electorate still thinks that voting for other people’s money is in their best interests. Perhaps one day they will learn, and I hope to help them: there are more ways to be politically active than voting or standing in an election, such as spreading ideas or developing political strategy.

Finally, my vote is in any case statistically insignificant. Even if I didn’t live in a “safe seat”, the margin is unlikely to be 1. Even this blog post is more influential than my vote.

28 comments to STFU with your “vote or STFU”

  • Lee Moore

    As is apparent from the picture, and from the “STFU” message, the exhortation is not directed at the grannies of Bournemouth, the stockbrokers of the commuter belt, or the libertarians of Samizdata. It’s directed at students and layabouts who vote Conservative at the rate of 3 in 100,000. There is no need to worry – unless you were going to vote Labour, Green, Commie, or (pre 2010) Lib Dem, they are not going to complain about you not voting.

    It’s not a political argument, it’s just tactical.

  • Apparently, the right to vote is rare and precious, should not be wasted, and if I do not vote I lose the right to complain about the government.

    What they are really attempting to do is to narrow the right of complaint to placing a tick in a box once every five years. I am sure that the politicians and the sheep that are members of their supporters club would love this, but it just illustrates the enormity of the disconnect in the minds of the electorate.

    If people were forced to vote as happens in places like Australia and the option ‘None of the above’ were on all electoral ballots then it might provide some interesting results – how many wins for ‘None of the above’ would be required to generate real democratic change?

    While the main parties offer the same variations on the same tired agendas that the electorate has no interest in and simultaneously refuses to deal with the issues that people are interested in (EU, Immigration, welfare layabouts, etc.), then the disconnect will continue.

  • TDK

    It’s not a political argument, it’s just tactical.

    True and next week the same people will be complaining because the government has ignored a demonstration in Trafalgar Square.

  • Phil B

    The big problem is that the politicians are so wrapped up in their world view that NOTHING will get through to them

    If only 3 people in the country voted for two parties, the party that won would claim “We got almost 67% of the vote” and the loser would say “We lost by one vote”.

    Still, the recount should be straightforward. I think.

  • I quite agree. And this:

    My only alternative to voting, I am told, if I am so clever and don’t like any of the policies on offer, is to stand for election myself and find out how popular my own unique set of policies is. There are various problems with this.

    One of the main problems I have with this is that astonishingly few people share my political beliefs. So I can’t stand for election myself, as I would lose my deposit. But that does not mean I should STFU when it comes to the blithering idiocy that passes for British politics.

  • Polleyanna

    Well at least turn up and spoil your ballot paper.

  • prog

    Tactical voting is futile in the vast majority of constituencies – most voters will continue to be represented by their incumbent MPs (or replacements).

  • Paul Marks

    Vote for ME – I will keep your Council Tax down.

    Oh you do not live in Pipers Hill Ward Kettering – so you can not vote for me.

    Drat – that means I am wasting my time.

    Back to knocking on doors – and being threatened with death for non-existent “cuts” to the NHS and other things that are bugger all to do with Kettering Council (and are mythical anyway).

    Still it was my running mate Duncan Bain who had the charming chap in Wallis Road who said he was voting Labour because the “Tory Scum” were a Jewish conspiracy.

    Errr the ethnic origin of Mr Cameron is …. and Mr Miliband is…….

    Although (to be fair) the charming man at least had a bit of a point of the “blood line” of both myself and Duncan Bain.

    One has to love the common sense and generous spirit of the voters.

    They truly get the government they deserve.

    Up with party of “Working People” (“The Common Good over the individual good” – translate that into German) – and down with rich Tory Toffs like Paul Marks.

    I only pretend to be dirt poor – I am really rich, I have my Jew-gold buried in the back garden.

    As for what I discovered in Oak Road, Ash Road and Athelstan Road – I will not discuss such matters on the public internet.

  • pete

    I know two youngsters who look a bit like the boy in the picture.

    I doubt they’ll vote.

    But they never moan about the government or even mention it.

    They prattle cheerfully about video games, girls, nights out, pop music, the latest phones etc.

    They moan at me and about me.

  • Cal

    What about those studenty types who constantly complain about the government and the state having too much power, but who then go and vote Labour, who want to give the state more power? Why isn’t there a stupid poster for them too?

  • Maximo Macaroni

    Isn’t saying that “if you don’t vote, you can’t complain about the outcome” the same as saying, with regard to a horse race, “if you don’t place a bet, you can’t complain about who wins”? With the difference that no one would attempt to assert that your placing of a bet could affect which horse wins. And no one would say you have a moral duty to contribute to the winnings. It is so irrational it makes my head hurt. But perhaps that’s the (only) point.

  • ed in texas

    Their approach is more along the line of “Buy into one of the choices we’ve approved or STFU”.
    Actually, I’m more inclined towards “Vote or overthrow the government”, but then that’s really a manifestation of the same thing, isn’t it?

  • TheHat

    Given a choice between not criticizing the moaners and exhorting them to vote, I’ll go with not criticizing the moaners.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    One of my favorite inversions has long been “If you vote, you can’t complain.”

  • You’re walking down a dark street when suddenly from around a corner appears a gang of thugs.

    “Evenin’. This ‘ere’s Tom, Dick, an’ ‘Arry. One of ’em’ll be beating you up and nickin’ all your stuff in a bit. Now, which one would you like?”

    “Er. None of them, really.”

    “Oh. Right. It’s like that, is it? I’ll ‘ave to choose, then. Tom…”


    “What? You can’t complain. You didn’t vote.”

  • Matt Moore

    The only policies I care about are matters of (wrong) consensus among all standing candidates…

  • Ximo Bravo

    Those who brag the most about democracy are typically those who take it less seriously.

    “vote or STFU“ is indefensible from a democratic point of view.

    Democracy is not about voting a particular candidate or party – it is about choosing. Choosing none of the above is perfectly democratic. Choosing not to vote is perfectly democratic.

    Ordering those who do not share our choices to STFU is antidemocratic. And it is not polite, and manners matter.

  • bloke in spain

    That’s not the bloke Jeremy Clarkson’s supposed to have clocked, is it? Hard to tell with the hat.

  • Greytop

    In the end, all votes are protest votes about something

  • Thailover

    My view on voting in national elections is pretty much the same as my view on buying tickets for an enormous lottery…that my chance of effecting any difference at all by participating is almost identical to my chance if I never participated at all.

  • Lee Moore

    my chance of effecting any difference at all by participating is almost identical to my chance if I never participated at all

    Your chances of affecting the outcome by voting are minimal. Your chances of effecting the outcome depend on the scale of your fraudulent postal vote operation.

  • Mr Ed

    One may not vote against a candidate, only for a candidate. Therefore, the choice is either your choice from the menu, or the least unattractive option on it. One may not take one’s custom elsewhere.

    Anyone who travels around in the UK will meet a cross-section of the British public, and may well find it an unpleasant experience, as the lowest-common denominator invariably make their presence known.

    The train of democracy is a journey that no only do you not have the option of stopping off from, but one where you may find that the people that revolt you the most not only choose where the train goes, but make you pay for the privilege by paying their fare and for their refreshments, all the while exulting at you in their superiority and your vileness.

    There are worse systems, but the rule of law and respect for person, if not all property, would be the features that make the journey not wholly unbearable.

  • Richard Thomas

    I see Mr Brand has flip-flopped on his no-voting stance. Quelle surprise.

  • Nicholas (Self-Sovereignty) Gray

    John Galt, just to add to your knowledge, Australia has compulsory attendance, not compulsory voting. you can put a blank form into the boxes, and there is no way for them to check who did it.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    I’ve thought about ‘anti-candidates’, though: for instance, an anti-Republican so that people who can’t stand the Democrat can vote against him without giving the Republican a direct vote. The anti-Republican would be pleged to throw his support to the Republican once the public had made clear by voting for the anti-Republican that the Republican did not have a mandate. And vice versa for the Democrats, of course.

  • Qualification exams for voter sounds like a good idea until you start to think about who would be writing the exams. Likewise for candidates only the exam would be more exhaustive and require some basic knowledge of economics and law. A college degree would not cover the candidates as they plainly do not confer enough knowledge to come in from the rain in all too many cases.

    When I am dictator, the penalty for advocating Socialism will be public flogging.

  • Australia has compulsory attendance, not compulsory voting.

    I stand corrected then Nicholas – not that it makes much difference though or that your average voter (especially in the UK) could tell the difference.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Nicholas, I thank you for the clarification. Then the only countries I’ve heard of that actually have or had compulsory voting have been totalitarian dictatorships, and even then I’m not sure EVERYONE has or had to vote.

    Meanwhile, some people are making noises about enacting compulsory-voting laws here.

    This may hint to you a good reason not to turn in your Australian passport for a U.S. one.