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

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today. 

41 Responses to “Johnson (elected by 19% of voters) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy”

  1. Trevor

    This is pretty disingenuous. MPs, once elected to the House, must choose a PM from amongst their number; there is no choice on the matter. Once voting is in, a PM must be chosen, and in Cameron’s case, it was the one with the strongest mandate – note that the option of ‘not having a PM’ does not have a mandate here.

    Unions, however, have a choice once the votes are counted – to strike, or not to strike. They can choose not to strike – the option not to strike does have a *mandate*

  2. Eileen Johnson

    Johnson (elected by 19% of voters) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy: http://t.co/AwIegDYu by @alexhern

  3. Eileen Johnson

    Johnson (elected by 19% of voters) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy: http://t.co/AwIegDYu by @alexhern

  4. Nitzan Sharron

    Johnson (elected by 19% of voters) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy: http://t.co/AwIegDYu by @alexhern

  5. Nitzan Sharron

    Johnson (elected by 19% of voters) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy: http://t.co/AwIegDYu by @alexhern

  6. Staffordshire UNISON

    Johnson (elected by 19% of voters) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy – http://t.co/dmCarJKN

  7. Staffordshire UNISON

    Johnson (elected by 19% of voters) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy – http://t.co/dmCarJKN

  8. Mr. Sensible

    The government won’t get anywhere with such smears as this.

  9. Chris Paul

    RT @matt_j_little David Cameron and Boris Johnson. Professional hypocrites. http://t.co/FnEKpDlz

  10. Chris Paul

    RT @matt_j_little David Cameron and Boris Johnson. Professional hypocrites. http://t.co/FnEKpDlz

  11. Mark Meredith

    Johnson (elected by 19% of voters) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy: http://t.co/AwIegDYu by @alexhern

  12. Mark Meredith

    Johnson (elected by 19% of voters) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy: http://t.co/AwIegDYu by @alexhern

  13. Kris Adrian

    Johnson (elected by 19% of voters) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy: http://t.co/AwIegDYu by @alexhern

  14. Kris Adrian

    Johnson (elected by 19% of voters) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy: http://t.co/AwIegDYu by @alexhern

  15. mitya

    RT @leftfootfwd: Johnson (elected by 19% of voters) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy http://t.co/08JaNErZ

  16. mitya

    RT @leftfootfwd: Johnson (elected by 19% of voters) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy http://t.co/08JaNErZ

  17. Kelly Preece

    Johnson (elected by 19% of voters) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy: http://t.co/AwIegDYu by @alexhern

  18. Kelly Preece

    Johnson (elected by 19% of voters) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy: http://t.co/AwIegDYu by @alexhern

  19. Roadsyde

    #Nov30 RT @TheRightArticle: Johnson (elected by 19% of voters) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy – http://t.co/FNiCYsiN

  20. Roadsyde

    #Nov30 RT @TheRightArticle: Johnson (elected by 19% of voters) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy – http://t.co/FNiCYsiN

  21. Steve Haworth

    Johnson (elected by 19% of voters) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy: http://t.co/AwIegDYu by @alexhern

  22. Steve Haworth

    Johnson (elected by 19% of voters) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy: http://t.co/AwIegDYu by @alexhern

  23. Alex Holland

    RT @leftfootfwd: Johnson (elected by 19%) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy http://t.co/b71ztuyi

  24. Derek Welton

    RT @leftfootfwd: Johnson (elected by 19%) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy http://t.co/b71ztuyi

  25. Jorge Martin

    #Nov30 RT @TheRightArticle: Johnson (elected by 19% of voters) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy – http://t.co/FNiCYsiN

  26. Jamie

    Johnson (elected by 19% of voters) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy http://t.co/ro1Uyycd #TUC #n30

  27. Joel Clark

    Johnson (elected by 19% of voters) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy http://t.co/ro1Uyycd #TUC #n30

  28. DeludedDonny

    Johnson (elected by 19% of voters) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy http://t.co/ro1Uyycd #TUC #n30

  29. Four myths about today's strike: Busted. | Left Foot Forward

    […] claims of “apathy” from politicians such as Boris Johnson, the response from the thirty unions […]

  30. House Of Twits

    RT @leftfootfwd #N30 #mythbusting: The Unions are more democratic than the London Mayoral election: http://t.co/FnEKpDlz #sackboris

  31. Panda

    #N30 #mythbusting: The Unions are more democratic than the London Mayoral election: http://t.co/p9lFz4tJ #sackboris

  32. David Gillon

    #N30 #mythbusting: The Unions are more democratic than the London Mayoral election: http://t.co/p9lFz4tJ #sackboris

  33. E'Liza Gedrych

    #N30 #mythbusting: The Unions are more democratic than the London Mayoral election: http://t.co/p9lFz4tJ #sackboris

  34. James Weston

    RT @leftfootfwd: Johnson (elected by 19% of voters) and Cameron (23%) lecture unions about democracy http://t.co/OiPE8X84

  35. keith ferguson

    “@leftfootfwd #N30 #mythbusting: The Unions are more democratic than the London Mayoral election: http://t.co/rzAm2y4v #sackboris”

  36. Hannah Kerr

    'Tories in glass houses shouldn't throw stones': http://t.co/yphmutBS #nov30 #strikes #toryhypocrisy

  37. Gill Duane

    #N30 #mythbusting: The Unions are more democratic than the London Mayoral election: http://t.co/p9lFz4tJ #sackboris

  38. Dave Graham

    'Tories in glass houses shouldn't throw stones': http://t.co/yphmutBS #nov30 #strikes #toryhypocrisy

  39. seuss

    #N30 #mythbusting: The Unions are more democratic than the London Mayoral election: http://t.co/p9lFz4tJ #sackboris

  40. Richard Shaw

    Mayors are elected by the Supplementary Vote (SV) system, where voters can express up to 2 preferences only, and as such is inferior to AV in that it does not eliminate tactical voting or ensure that winners have 50%+ votes in final round.

Leave a Reply