Abstaining from voting

Lord Norton

When a vote is called, peers can vote Content or Not Content.  The voting figures do not always correspond with how many peers are present.  On occasion, some members abstain from voting.  The reason the Government lost a vote last week on the Academies Bill was because of a combination of some Liberal Democrat peers abstaining and cross-bench peers dividing disproportionately against the Government. 

There is, though, no  way of recording abstentions, at least not in the Lords.  In the Commons, some MPs deliberately vote in both lobbies as a way of recording their wish not to support one side over another and their names are published.   In the Lords, if a peer votes in both lobbies, the name of the peer is removed from the division lists.  It happened in the vote last night on the Child Trust Funds regulations.   A motion of regret was defeated by 189 votes to 154.  Hansard records ‘The name of a noble Lord who voted in both Lobbies has been removed from the voting lists.’   Voting in both lobbies is rare: there is, after all, little point in doing so.

It does raise the question of whether there should be some way of recording abstentions.  Is it in principle desirable and, if so, is it practical?   Could one have a separate line in a division lobby for those who wish to record their abstentions?  There would still be the problem (wearing my research hat here) that some peers may wish to abstain without having their names recorded, so would be among the absent, but that would be their choice.   I dislike abstaining, though I have done so on occasion.  Should I be able to have my abstention recorded?

28 comments for “Abstaining from voting

  1. Carl.H
    20/07/2010 at 12:15 pm

    All abstentions should be noted and counted as part of the transparent democratic process. However a problem may arise when abstentions outweigh the winning lobby, this may imply insufficient scrutiny and could lead to future problems with legislation.

    All Parliamentary dealings should be noted, even those deemed top secret at that time.

    Maybe we should implement Nick Clegg`s idea of AV or AV+, please put in order “Yes”, “No” or “Abstain”.

    You may well laugh but change the answers to represent the Political parties and this is exactly what Clegg plans. Of course if you are a “Yes” person you would have to put “Abstain” second because you disagree with “No”…..Abstain would represent whom ? Go on guess….Yes good old Nick !

  2. 20/07/2010 at 4:40 pm

    The plain truth is that by abstaining a member is voting equally against the two sides.

    The plain fact is much more likely to be that the member sees some good points on one side but some good points on the other side also.

    Voting equally for the two sides therefore makes more sense than abstaining.

    The insanity of that whole win-lose exploitative, manipulative and competitive debating Governance system is that some real, genuine and essential Needs, Hows and Affordable-Costs are thrown out.

    There have long been two alternative governance legislating systems, one of which was called ‘Cooperative Debating’ back in the 20th century, and the other of which I have to choose to call
    (“) Friendly Method III win-win-win Participatorily Cooperative Needs, Hows and Affordable-Costs Recognition and Problem-Solving (“).

    For short, “Method III Democracy” would cover both of the above Cooperative models;
    It would be in conflicting-contrast with the traditional, relatively puerile, and excessively wasteful win-lose competitive debating (and horse-trading) model that prevails, prevails because totally-insufficient numbers of People, Professionals and Parliamentarians, not to mention The Monarchical Establishment and the Multi-Trillionnaire ‘Private Individual-Capitalists Sector’, are capable of using the Method III model even if they could show willing thereto.

    ===========
    Consider how we The People are forced to abstain from participating intelligently and constructively, except for a deaf, dumb and blind pencil mark on a slip of ballot-paper, literally signing-away our vital needs and very lives, all in the space of less than one minute, for a further four or five years.

    We dutifully and in deeply conformist civil-obedience stand, sit or lie back whilst our so-called Constitutional-defenders, Parliamentary Advocates and Representatives, and Supportive-Civil Servants fatten their own private and personal pockets making wasteful compromise after wasteful compromise, and win-lose-lose after lose-lose-win insider-deals, indider-legislations, and insider-constitution-hobblings the latter not for a mere five years at a time but for stretches of 50 , 500 and thousands of years.
    ==============
    There is a list of new fundamentals, basics and ground-rules;
    and I am one now becoming engaged in learning them.

    Unfortunately, they are all “win-win-win” and Method III-friendly;
    so none of Britain’s Establishment, Governance, Civil-Service, Educators, or ‘Private-Sector’ magnates would be one iota interested.

    Of course, speaking from a more healthily competitive ‘market’ standpoint, that particular little mandatory-abstention upon my citizenship and upon my human-nature itself, I do appreciate is saving me time, energy, and other costs that I would incur if I tried to list even one such source here,
    Anyway, the ‘Vote’ has already been decided against both Method III Democracy and against newer, better foundations for Citizenship, Education, and a Sustain-worthy civilisation; and we can only assume in all mature adult sobriety that it always will go against win-win-win governance and in favour of win-lose-lose compromisance.

    ===============
    ===============
    (JSDM1640T20072010).

    • Lord Blagger
      20/07/2010 at 9:31 pm

      The plain truth is that by abstaining a member is voting equally against the two sides.

      ===================

      Not always. If you don’t get a quorum of votes yes, then it fails.

      Strikes me as acceptable

  3. 20/07/2010 at 4:40 pm

    I think abstentions serve a valuable service as they show that there are members who think a bill had some good points, but either the bad points are so bad or numerous that they can’t support the bill in becoming law.

    By voting both for and against – you are demonstrating such a view. I think such opinions are perfectly valid ones.

  4. Dave H
    20/07/2010 at 5:42 pm

    I agree with Carl, all abstentions should be formally recorded. It’s a bit like recording invalid ballots at an election, in that it distinguishes those who could be bothered to turn up but didn’t like the options from those who couldn’t be bothered, for whatever reason.

  5. Gareth Howell
    20/07/2010 at 7:24 pm

    “Should I be able to have my abstention recorded?”

    It all depends on how much responsibility you believe your vote to entail.

    It is not quite the same as a commons vote ie for war in Iraq, which is surely a heavy responsibility indeed which many wear far too lightly. They are accountable.

    Is the noble Lord Norton? heh! heh!

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      23/07/2010 at 3:27 pm

      Gareth Howell: I am accountable at the individual level in that my actions are transparent through being on the public record and I am accountable at the collective level in that the House is, in effect, accountable to the people through the House of Commons, which can have the final say.

  6. Gareth Howell
    20/07/2010 at 7:28 pm

    “You may well laugh but change the answers to represent the Political parties and this is exactly what Clegg plans.” The Welsh referendum for the Assembly(?)was instructive in a similar way, in that the Welsh Welsh vote and the English Welsh vote were clearly identifiable in the voting patterns throughout the principality, basing itself, as it did, on Welsh speaking or English speaking areas. An extraordinary division.

  7. 20/07/2010 at 7:54 pm

    Well, I may be in favour of recording abstentions. But then, on the other hand….

    Must leave now as it’s time for my monthly Apathy Society branch meeting. It would be terrible if nobody turned up. Oh, I don’t know, though….

    • j
      20/07/2010 at 10:28 pm

      Stephen ?
      …sorry mate, I must’ve dropped off, waiting for someone to turn up…….

      would you mind expanding a bit upon what I think you were just saying ?

      By the way, I hope I’m not being too hyper-active when I confess I thought this branch was under the constituted title ‘Apathetics Anonymous ‘ ?

      ( or could it perhaps have been ‘Anglicans Anonymous’ ) ?

      Urgh! It’s makin’ no sense (((tryin out ‘Apathetic Anglic….. No. No. Anonymous’s Anonymous ?? )))

      Mate ? where the hollo-luyah are yuh ?

      ——–
      j

      • 23/07/2010 at 11:22 pm

        j – Wouldn’t that be Anonymice Anonymous? …Anonymatus, Anonymatis, Anonymant…???

  8. Lord Blagger
    20/07/2010 at 9:37 pm

    Should I be able to have my abstention recorded?

    ————————

    Alright for you, but we still have to accept what you dictate.

    The reasons for forced representation and polticians appointed by patronage are long gone.

    In the days when it took a couple of weeks to get from Stornoway to Westminister are no longer here. Even then, if someone doesn’t want a representative, then they can vote electronically with ease. ie. If you want a representative, apoint one. If you don’t you can vote as you see fit.

    Likewise on patronage. The claim is that the house is ‘representative’.

    Of the latest batch, what percentage are political hacks? You’re not representative. With so many political hacks, even the supposed advantage of special skills isn’t applicable.

    Lord Blagger.

    PS. I’ve an idea. Give me your credit card and I’ll employ lots of people. I can get a driver, a surgeon, a doctor, a dentist. Lawyer, solicitor, …. I’ll employ them full time. Then when I need my car servicing, they can all turn up and offer their special services. Sounds bonkers doesn’t it. However, that’s the Lords for you

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      23/07/2010 at 3:31 pm

      Lord Blagger: The Lords do not dictate anything. The final say rests with the Commons, which is elected. On representation, the Lords is generally more representative than the House of Commons. Appointment is actually a more efficient way of achieving a more socially typical House than is election.

      • Dave H
        23/07/2010 at 7:55 pm

        You mean “appointment that is not abused”. Stuffing (or is that packing?) the Lords with government yes-men won’t give you a socially-typical house.

        • LordBlagger
          26/07/2010 at 9:22 pm

          Logic Phillip.

          If the public doesn’t get a say at all in what gets forced on us, we have to do conclude that those that do get a say are the dictators.

          ie. You, Lords and MPs dictate to us what we have to suffer, and at the same time are immune from the effects.

          ie. Lots of the public are going to be sacked over the next few years because of a series of failures of parliament in general. Namely, running up vast debts. Now I suspect you will say, we as Lords don’t get a say on spending. You do, and yet you’ve failed to control or regulate parliament, one of your jobs for which you get paid. You can’t even regulate yourselves. That’s why some of you are in court, and the report into other acts is a state secret.

          So I’ll ask again, why is Michael Pownall’s report a secret? So far I haven’t had any comment on this. Is it some sort of convention in the Lords? A sort of don’t ask, don’t tell?

  9. Lord Blagger
    20/07/2010 at 9:37 pm

    Voting in both lobbies is rare: there is, after all, little point in doing so.

    =================

    Little point in voting. Yep, that sums it up. Whips for you. We could just get rid of all other’s and leave the whips to decide. Far cheaper.

  10. ZAROVE
    21/07/2010 at 5:47 am

    I agree. Why not just change the Record Keeping to allow a Category for Abstination?

  11. 22/07/2010 at 4:27 pm

    ‘Lord’ Blagger has a rapier-point, but chooses to playfully slap this Opponent, on a well-padded fleshy part, with the side of his foil instead.
    Go for it, Blagger!
    The lifesupportive need, how, and affordable-cost of any one lone citizen needs to be indelibly listed and equally represented, if not primarily above, those unfairly lopsided lists privately lobbied, ‘effectively-bought’, by profiteering individual-capitalist sharks (such as the Utility Companies and the Billionaire-Individual=Capitalist ‘Cartels’).
    Go for it, man !
    ============
    With kindest regards,
    (JSDM1627Th220710).

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      23/07/2010 at 3:33 pm

      JDSM: I think your are confusing a rapier with a rubber sword.

      • 23/07/2010 at 6:12 pm

        Ah! win-win-win peace a last ?

        – – – – – – –
        (JSDM1813F230710)

      • 23/07/2010 at 6:15 pm

        Win-Win-Win peace a last ?

      • 23/07/2010 at 6:18 pm

        (this reply is spposed to be going under Lord Norton’s 0333pm230710 Reply as a reply to that reply ?
        Ah! win-win peace at last ?
        jm

  12. David Grain
    23/07/2010 at 10:59 am

    In the last days of the Callaghan government a Northern Irish MP who had never taken his seat flew over for the vote of confidence for as he said so that he could abstain in person!

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      23/07/2010 at 3:25 pm

      David Grain: Indeed he did, although Labour whips confidently expected him to vote with the Government. However, what brought the Government down was the absence of a Labour MP (Sir Alfred Broughton) who was so ill that it was decided he could not be brought in. The Government had contemplated bringing him in but his doctor vetoed it.

  13. cbriantx
    23/07/2010 at 7:39 pm

    I think recording abstentions is very important. I’m in Texas and our state government records “Present Not Voting” and this does help when researching a particular piece of legislation and trying to determine the legislative intent.

    By looking at the PNV’s you get a sense of the mood in the chamber and the amount of support for and/or against a particular issue. I’d recommend looking closer at this topic and what benefits you could gain by capturing these votes.

  14. 24/07/2010 at 3:03 am

    If, as Lord Norton ad hominemly insinuates, Lord Blagger is using a “rubber sword” and I (JSDM) am “confusing a rapier with a rubber sword”;

    and if, whenever I submit such a Reply as this one, but specificly including therein that (“) possibly such a situation as Lord Norton may be attempting to describe or hint at might mean that a much fairer and less costly win-win-win process than hitherto can take place between Parliamentarians and People (“), to that otherwise doubly pejorative ad hominem insinuation by Lord Norton against both ‘Lord’ Blagger and myself, Lord Norton or other moderator controlling posts on his site removes each such submission from the public eye;

    then I have cause to keep placing the whole Matter before the public eye.

    Therefore I ask any-one now reading this to quickly copy it for safe-keeping, lest it too be done away with like its four predecessors,
    ==============
    JSDM0300St24072010.

  15. 24/07/2010 at 6:30 pm

    Since the topic-term “Abstaining” also applies to both Parliament Houses attitude and time-planning of their duty to provide Good Governance, witness the almost daily wastage of governance-time on mud-slinging and tweedle-dun versus tweedle-dee accusatory and blindly-emotional word-battles across the Dispatch Box, and witness also the whole Monarchical Parliamentary System’s acquiescence to the blitzkrieg-like deliberate cutting-down of parliamentary Scrutiny of legislation by the House of Commons incumbent-coalition (ominously already having called itself “the Conservative Government”),
    it is vital, to British Democracy’s potential future, that my last reasonably full submission herein, that has been cleverly removed by re-instating my original very very brief and necessarily inconclusive replies hoping that Lord Norton is signalling a win-win-win outcome to be somehow happening somewhere, be posted again and be seriously noted and properly advanced, please:

    “If, as Lord Norton ad hominemly insinuates, Lord Blagger is using a “rubber sword” and I (JSDM) am “confusing a rapier with a rubber sword”;
    and if, whenever I submit such a Reply as this one, but specificly including therein that (“) possibly such a situation as Lord Norton may be attempting to describe or hint at might mean that a much fairer and less costly win-win-win process than hitherto can take place between Parliamentarians and People (“), to that otherwise doubly pejorative ad hominem insinuation by Lord Norton against both ‘Lord’ Blagger and myself, Lord Norton or other moderator controlling posts on his site removes each such submission from the public eye;
    then I have cause to keep placing the whole Matter before the public eye.
    Therefore I ask any-one now reading this to quickly copy it for safe-keeping, lest it too be done away with like its four predecessors spasmodically have been; ”

    and we, ‘though but a precious few humble and very impecunious but loyal citizens, shall thus be encouraged and enabled to continue within rather than without the greater Constructive Improvement and Effectivisation of a People-Upwards to Parliaments-downwards Win-Win-Win True Democracy.

    ===============
    (Your servant;
    JohnSydneyDentonMiles1830St24July2010).

Comments are closed.