Johnson (elected by 19% of voters) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy

Alex Hern explains why Tories in glass houses shouldn't throw stones over low turnout

Boris Johnson was blustering away in the Telegraph this morning about the strikes due to occur this Wednesday. What is fascinating is what Johnson refers to “one statistic that is eloquent of the underlying reality in the dispute.”

Johnson writes:

Only about a third of union members even took part in the ballot. Of the 1.1 million members of Unison, just 29 per cent could be bothered to vote at all – and since only 78 per cent voted in favour, we have a strike triggered by less than a quarter of union membership.

Why such apparent apathy?

What an interesting question for Boris Johnson to ask.

You may remember, of course, that Johnson was elected Mayor of London in 2008. He gained 42.48 per cent of the first preferences in London, on a turnout of 45.33 per cent. So London has a mayor triggered by less than a fifth of the voting population – just 19 per cent.

Even if we allow him second preferences (he is, of course, elected through AV, something he believes is “just about tolerable” in London), he got 24 per cent of the electorate expressing any positive feelings about him at all. Less than a quarter.

The prime minister has also been outspoken about these strikes. Asked at prime minister’s questions whether strikes should be banned unless 50 per cent of union members voted for them, he said:

“Just one quarter of Unison members voted to strike, just 23 per cent of those balloted at Unite voted in favour.”

David Cameron is the head of the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland by virtue of his being the head of the largest party in the commons. He achieved this feat thanks to his party getting 36.1 per cent of the votes cast, on a 65 per cent turnout. Which means that, like Unite, just 23 per cent of those balloted voted in favour of a Conservative government.

Tories in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

See also:

Message to Cameron: Talk to us, not TV newsSally Hunt, November 25th 2011

Raab’s attacks on workers’ rights are – surprise – based on no evidenceSarah Veale, November 16th 2011

What kind of “civil disobedience” tactics will the unions use?September 15th 2011, Dan Whittle

The coalition and the unions: the state of play on day oneDaniel Elton, June 30th 2011

Gove’s call for parents to act as strikebreakers savaged by MumsnetDaniel Elton, June 27th 2011

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