steepholm (steepholm) wrote,
steepholm
steepholm

McCoughlin's Law

Patrick McCoughlin's defence of the Tory proposal to require that 40% of eligible voters support strike ballots (in addition to requiring at least a 50% turnout) was widely challenged yesterday, as one might expect. But two answers he gave in a Radio 4 Today interview were particularly revealing. The first was his reluctance to consider allowing votes to be cast online. In other words, he's not actually interested in finding out the will of union members, just in thwarting action.

The second was more interesting. When Frances O'Grady pointed out that many MPs (including Patrick McCoughlin) failed to clear that 40% threshold at the last election, McCoughlin was ready with a response. That was different, he said, because when he was elected everyone who was going to be affected by the result had a vote, whereas with public sector transport strikes, for example, many of the affected people (such as commuters) don't have a vote, so the bar should be higher.

In brief, his argument was that the threshold for a vote should be higher, the more people are going to be affected beyond those who have a vote. Let's call this McCoughlin's Law, or ML for short.

In fact, of course, many of Mr McCoughlin's constituents do not have a vote - namely all those under the age of 18, plus various lords, criminals, etc. They are certainly going to be affected by McCoughlin's actions in such areas as education, health, transport, etc., so by ML we ought to raise the bar a bit already. Plus, McCoughlin often acts on matters that affect people in other constituencies, who also didn't have a say in his election. So, we should raise the bar again.

Obviously, according to ML the leader of any country with international influence, and thus power over people who don't get a vote in their election - the US President, for example - will need a far larger mandate than leaders of less powerful states.

Under ML, the threshold for the Scottish referendum - the result of which would certainly have affected people in other parts of the UK who had no vote in the matter - ought to have had a threshold requirement. As it happened, turnout then was very high, so the point is moot; but if a Tory government is returned in May, as well as enacting this union legislation they are are committed to holding a referendum on EU membership. If ML applies in the first, will it also be applied in the second? After all, the rest of the EU would be affected by the UK's withdrawal from the EU every bit as much as commuters would be affected by the railworkers' withdrawal of their labour.
Tags: current affairs, maunderings
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