Tuesday, 8 November 2011

What if we barred public sector employees and benefits recipients from voting?

When it comes to the right to vote, I’ve always taken the view that it should be universal. But looking at how many miserably awful governments this country – and that other great democracy, the United States - have lumbered themselves with over the past 50 years, I’m beginning to wonder whether we might not look at changing the rules (if only as a mildly diverting intellectual exercise).

 The central problem is a familiar one. When we vote, the most important factor in our choice is what portion of our earnings each party is going to take from us, and whether we approve of how it proposes spending it. There’s a whole bunch of other stuff, of course – but those are overwhelmingly the main factors.

Apart from the hard-core of left-wingers in our society – twenty percent? – you’d expect the vast majority of the rest of us to vote for whichever party was more likely to confiscate less of our money, and which would spend it on the kind of things we actually care about (defence, policing, decent roads, effective border controls etc.).

The UK workforce is around 29 million strong, of which 20% (six million) work in the public sector (and, of those, around 10% are civil servants).

So, that’s six million people who are net recipients – i.e. they get more money from the state than they pay back in taxes.

In addition – and almost unbelievably – 5,400,000 people are in receipt of unemployment benefits. (Included in this grotesque figure are 2.6m sick or disabled and 700,000 lone parents.)

That means 11,400,000 people are net recipients of public money. Essentially, 17.6m people in Britain are paying for themselves and 11.4m other people (and, obviously, getting some essential services in return - I'm not that blind to the need for centralised public spending).

The question is, wouldn’t it make sense for the ones doing all the paying to have a far greater say in who decides how much of their income is to be confiscated and how that money is to be spent?

The temptation must be intense for public sector workers and the close to 40% of adult Britons deriving their income from the public purse to vote for whichever party is promising to confiscate a greater percentage of private sector workers’ income and then spend it on public sector workers or benefits (when they aren’t in effect the same thing). Obviously, this temptation must be offset in many cases by genuine political beliefs, a genuine interest in what’s good for the country, and how much more tax those in the public sector are likely to pay if a left-wing government comes to power.

But for the overwhelming majority of those benefits recipients who can be bothered to vote, asking them to vote Conservative must be like asking turkeys to give Christmas the thumbs-up.

Of course, these figures don’t account for the huge number of private sector workers engaged in public sector projects – construction, IT etc. Again, the temptation to vote for big spending governments must be strong (though, to be fair, all the major UK political parties seem to be addicted to big spending these days).

So, what would the political map of Britain look like if anyone earning the majority of their income from the state – and non-working spouses living in households dependent on public sector money - was denied the vote?

First, I presume the Tory Party would shift to the right. And it would win the next election outright. And it would go on winning until the economy was back in good shape.

I realise that this sort of scheme means I wouldn’t have been able to vote during  the 18 years I was a BBC employee – and a further three years when I was employed by the Corporation as a consultant. Fine by me – I would imagine that at least 90% of the people I worked with at the BBC voted for left-wing parties.

There might be a waiver for those whose work requires them to risk their lives – the military, the police (well, the tiny percentage who actually leave their desks) and fire brigade employees.

If someone moved from the public to the private sector, their right to vote would depend on whether they had been a net contributor to the public purse since the last election.

The same rules would apply to local elections.

As for pensioners, I suppose we could do a quick tally of whether or not they were net contributors over the course of their working lives.

Of course, it’s never going to happen – but we can dream.


  1. Hmm...I'm pretty sure there's a flaw or two in your proposition. You'd have to exclude all MPs from voting, except possibly former PMs whose private earnings exceeded their public salaries, although I can see how that might add to the attraction. Our servicemen would be disqualified presumably, including from standing for Parliament. NHS doctors, except for those whose private practice outlearned their NHS salary?

    If your intention is to set up a system to ensure an enormous Tory majority - hang on, I thought you'd gone all UKIP on us - then there are other ways. I've always thought that building into TV sets a humane killer ray activated when the set is tuned to the Eastenders or Hollyoaks omnibus edition would do the job just as well.

  2. I covered the armed forces by suggesting an exemption might be allowed for those who risk their lives on our behalf. There are so few MPs, their voting rights wouldn't matter. As for doctors, they have too much invested in keeping the NHS just the way it is - sod 'em!

    Yes, my intention is to assure an enormous Tory majority - but UKIP is simply the Thatcherite wing of the Tory Party in exile. If the Tories had a socking great majority, they'd send the Lib-Dems packing (after pulling down their trousers, throwing things at them, and laughing a lot), then round on the modernisers (traitors) in their own party - including Cameron - and tell them to join Clegg and Cable and the rest of that wretched little gang, and elect a raving anti-EU right-winger as leader.

    I'm not sure Eastenders' fans mainly vote Labour or Lib-Dem (I have never seen Hollyoaks, but, from what I've heard, I suspect you may right on that front). I'd go for Newsnight, Channel 4 News and the Culture Review and Big Brother (the last one purely on gene pool improvement grounds), then turn my attention to the Daily Mirror and the Guardian. I forgot to mention that the voting age would be raised to 25, thus automatically excluding most students.

    Thank you for sharing your views Ex-KCS - most stimulating!

  3. Scottish Nationalist9 November 2011 at 19:39

    The Death Ray idea is quite splendid. But why does it have to be humane?

    I also thought you had become a UKIP-man. If so, and you have paid your subscription, you should have a quiet word with Il Duce and tell him three things:

    1. He has a clown's face face. He needs plastic surgery and to wipe that supercilious smirk off his face.
    2. He needs to change his name to something that sounds very British. With the exception of Disraeli, you don't make it in British politics with an exotic name.
    3. His tailoring is appaling. He dresses like a second-hand car salesman from Goodge St. Get him to visit Saville Row and Jermyn St. and get properly kitted out.
    4. Photo Ops should not include crawling away bloodied from a plane wreck. It indicates vulnerability and poor judgment.

  4. I'm sorry. I missed your disclaimer for the military. Are you sure the squaddy vote would go the way you want? Popular legend has the service postal vote as the deciding factor in the 1945 general election.

    I think you may be on to a winner with your idea of raising the voting age. Screaming Lord Sutch was an early advocate of votes for teenagers but he saw the need to offset this concession to yoof by raising the age of consent to 65. I wonder whether the answer to many of today's crises might not be to reverse the Sutch policy and leave all this voting nonsense to OAPs. It would give all of us something to look forward to as our 60s approached, our careers hurtled down the tubes and we lost our remaining hair.

  5. I imagine that squaddies these days would vote either Tory or BNP. The days when they imagine Labour was somehow on their side are long gone. I'd be more worried about the police, many of whom appear to have been politically brainwashed. Over-65 voting would certainly deliver a Tory government - as would either disenfranchising women or disenfranchising Scotland (Oh God - please!!!!!!) In fact, any system but the one we have would deliver a right-wing government. (Apparently, even prisoners would vote Tory!)

  6. Scottish Nationalist (very good luck with the push for independence, by the way - can't come soon enough for most of us!) I don't actually imagine Nigel Farage taking charge of the country any time soon... But what's a bluff Tory business cove to do, given the PR pimple who's in charge of the party, and the slimy modernisers who put him there (and lost the Tories an outright majority in the process)? If a proper anti-EU right-wing Tory (there is no other kind) were leader of the party, there would be no need for UKIP and Farage could go back to his business interests and, I presume, firing off letters to the Telegraph. Despite your criticisms, he's apparently a very popuular chap amonst (non-European) politicians, and I thought he put up rather a good show after his plane crash. Clown face, Goodge Street apparel and funny foreign name and all - I'd take him any day over the bunch of whey-faced, fellow-travelling traitors currently destroying this country.