6.6.7.4 Confusion

(This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book contents.  An archived copy of this page is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/6674.htm)

Individual voters have more refined control over how they are governed if there are different layers of election, but voters can easily become confused:

  • The governance framework may be too complicated for people to fully understand, so they find it difficult to vote meaningfully. Very clear communication is necessary – and the result of complexity can be either confusion or apathy.
  • People are aware of national political parties and what they stand for, so in practice they tend to vote along party lines even though national issues are not the most important or relevant at local, multinational or global levels. The 2008 local elections in Britain provided an example of confusion: whilst the votes were for local politicians, much of the media coverage was about the national government’s abolition of the 10p tax rate – yet income tax was clearly a national and not a local issue.[1]
  • If politicians have responsibilities at more than one level of subsidiarity, they cannot be clearly interpreted as having electoral mandates in all their roles. For example national politicians are normally elected on the basis of domestic political issues, but they also represent their countries in the EU Council of Ministers and in global policy-making (6.6.4.2).

The best option for many people is probably to vote according to their political ideologies – which would be a coherent approach and would give them a hand on the governance ‘joystick’ (6.2.6.2).

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[1] Ken Livingstone lost the 2008 London mayoral election; in a Guardian review of his book, You can’t say that, it was argued that he lost it because of a national issue which had nothing to do with local government in London:

“The decisive factor was Labour’s deep unpopularity under Brown after the abolition of the 10p tax rate, which overwhelmed the mayor’s stronger support base.”

This article, entitled You Can’t Say That: A Memoir by Ken Livingstone – review, was published on 3 November 2011 and was available in September 2018 at http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/nov/03/memoir-ken-livingstone-review.