No, this isn’t a post on AV.
Yesterday, April 13th, saw the result of two rather pointless votes.
In the first, much trumpeted by the Labour party and their media arm, the delegates at the spring conference of trade union that is the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) delivered a vote of no confidence in the current Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley.
Obviously a union voting against a Conservative minister is up there with ursine defecatory habits and the religious orientation of the Pope in terms of news but much was made of the decisiveness: some 96.1% of attendees (and 98.8% of those voting) agreed with the motion. A very impressive margin but one that does deserve closer inspection however.
The RCN has approximately 400,000 members. Obviously not all of these were in the Socialist Republic of Liverpool for this vote but how many were there? 10%? 5%? Sorry too high. Only 497 members, a little over one tenth of 1% of the membership, were in the hall at the time the vote was taken.
Suddenly it doesn’t look very impressive does it? “0.12% of union nurses pass vote of no confidence in the Secretary of State” is hardly newsworthy.
I’ll accept that the sentiments expressed may be held, if not in such percentages, within the greater RCN membership but the sample size on display is so statistically insignificant that it is not worth Lansley, authoritarian incompetent that he is, losing any sleep over.
The second, much less mentioned, vote yesterday was for the successor to hapless Aaron Porter as the President of the National Union of Students (NUS). In terms of relevance this can be ranked up there with the results of the local parish vegetable growing competition given that most students couldn’t give a fig which wannabe politician is currently claiming to represent them.
The President of the NUS is not elected directly by the membership but instead by delegates of the various universities who are themselves elected on turnouts that, from what I recall of my own student days*, struggle to break into four figure territory as apathy, rather than discredited far left wing ideology, tends to be the political opinion of most.
These votes are not representative democracy in action but rather two minorities taking the results of a vote that polled only a minuscule percentage of their membership and dressing it up in such a way as to have others believe that it means something.
NHS reform is necessary and will happen eventually regardless of the conservatism of the RCN (and the other medical unions) on the matter whilst students, having already not stopped going to university in huge numbers after the introduction fees under the last government, will continue to apply accepting that higher fees are simply part of the deal.