I have always had a problem with the word ‘mandate’ and even more so when used by politicians as if it gives then Carte Blanche to do whatever they want.
My wife perhaps uses it in the right context when she accuses me and friends when we disappear across Dartmoor or to the rugby of being on a ‘Man Date’.
My aversion to the political use of the word was highlighted in an interview carried out with a Labour MP that took place on the BBC within an hour of Jeremy Corbyn winning an overall majority of those that voted in the Labour Leadership Election.
In summary what the MP said was this,
“Jeremy has won but he has to accept that almost 38% of the Labour Members didn’t vote for him and therefore he doesn’t have a mandate”
Of course the argument from the Jeremy Corbyn side is that with a majority of those who voted he has an overwhelming mandate.
The reality of course is he doesn’t and nor do any of the current crop of Members of Parliament.
The argument that in a first past the post system they have is patently false because in terms of having won a majority of those who are entitled to vote in their constituencies they haven’t.
The MP in question was Chris Leslie MP for Nottingham East.
At the last election he was elected with 19208 votes out of an electorate of 58705 over 50% would have required him to convince at least 29353 people to vote for him leaving him over 10,000 votes from having a mandate.
Of course this whole argument revolves around which side the claimant of ‘having’ or ‘not having’ a mandate is on.
Chris Leslie is not a fan of Jeremy Corbyn so it is natural for him to say he hasn’t a mandate and he is joined by others who share his views like Jess Phillips MP.
And yet these same people complain when such as those bastions and purveyors of the truth – David Davies, Michael Gove, Boris Johnstone, Liam Fox – claim that they have a resounding mandate to make any Brexit agreement on terms of their own choosing following the result of the referendum.
The same principles should apply except of course why are we really surprised that politicians act they way they do and who is really to blame?
It cannot of course be those who turned out and voted irrespective of who they voted for and many of who also see the ridiculousness of the ‘mandate’ claims.
It is of course one of the iniquities of the first past the post system where those who decide to take the democratic option of staying at home and not to vote actually determine who wins by their absence.
Is it because they feel their vote doesn’t matter?
Is it because they feel all politicians are the same?
Whatever the reason it of course suits the individual winners – annoys the hell out of the losers – and just perpetuates the frustration with the system.
Which is why it is time to change our electoral system to one in which all votes will count towards the eventual result and by doing so perhaps restore a modicum of faith back into democracy.
As a by product the winners themselves may well be able to genuinely argue that they have a ‘mandate’.
Anyway in the meantime I’m off to Dartmoor on a “Man Date”.