Winning by a landslide

Winning by a landslide

If a political party wins an election with 60% of the popular vote it is a landslide. In almost all democratic systems 60% of votes would deliver enough seats to form a government. 

If any individual candidate received 60% of the vote in her electorate she would win the seat in parliament. That seat would be considered ‘safe’ given that there is at least a 20 point margin over the nearest competitor. And likely much more if there were many candidates. A huge margin in anyone’s political language. 

Such results are rare. 

Politics is won at the margins, not with those kinds of numbers. Democratic elections are often won with less than half the vote going in favour of a single party.

I recall back in 1979 when Margaret Thatcher first came to power and we lived through her initial years of changing things up. The legacy of those changes we’ll leave for another conversation, but I remember when her government was returned for her second term the Tory party received less than 40% of the votes from the people who voted. But in the ‘first past the post’ Westminster system the Tories gained a majority in the Parliament. 

Elections for who governs us are marginal a lot of the time. 

Donald Trump was elected having lost the popular vote in the 2016 US election, but having more than a hundred more electoral college votes than his rival. Whichever way you look at it, half the people or more did not want the person or the party that was elected.

If politics is just tinkering around the edges and the fundamentals are roughly the same then the result makes little difference. If a party comes in and is unable because of the legal system to dismantle the rules and regulations and is simply providing a little bit of a tweak here and there. Not too much damage is done. 

But if we go back to divisive politics. Where electing one party over another is quite a radical change in the way that the world is run. And the way that the country or jurisdiction is run then those margins make a big difference. 

It means that nearly half or over half in some instances of the people will not be happy with those in power. 

Photo by Timo Volz on Unsplash


Engagement with politics matters

All this should encourage political awareness.

If you want your party and the principles that they support to win elections, then it’s time to get out and about and make them happen, engage in the political process and perhaps that will be part of the future story. 

But what it also means is that whoever loses, there is still a large number of people who support the losing side and don’t agree with the way that the politics is run. 

So the convergence of ideas is an important stability factor for societies. If we are to be stable over the long run when we need to have a convergence of ideas and an ability to ensure that everybody benefits from those ideas. 

Back to Thatcher again, and you can argue that she changed things up at a time when a change was required. She took advantage of the opportunity to bring to an end the period when socialist reform had run its course. 

A new idea was needed to energise the economy. 

We’re in the same situation again. The legacy of that neoliberal idea that began in the 1980s is now old and tired. And whilst it’s created wealth it’s also created disparity. The super-wealthy have appreciated the bulk of the gain and the trickle-down effect runs out of steam before the poorest benefit.

We are close to the wealth disparity present at the time of the early socialist revolutions when the people were much poorer than the elite. 

Floodwaters of the Okavango River soaking into the sand

Floodwaters of the Okavango River soaking into the sand — Photo by Alloporus


Engagement with the future 

The pandemic presents an opportunity.  

We already have governments doing u-turns on fiscal deficits, locking down whole communities, and fast-tracking vaccines that used to take years to deploy. 

That suggests that radical options should be very much on the table.  Some of the sacred cows we’ve been sold are not as holy as imagined. 

If money can be spent to shore up livelihoods in a crisis, why not all the time? A universal basic income perhaps?

The opportunity is to reflect on the future. What it could, might or is likely to be like. Where humans have the advantage over all other creatures is that we can not only gaze into the future but we can do things to shape that future.

We could inject another paradigm into global politics and global economic structures. And given the juggernauts coming down the road, such a shift is critical. 

The pandemic has already shown us that we can change paradigms and still survive. 

And recall that winning big is not always necessary. 

Change can happen at the margins.


Please browse around for a while on Alloporus | ideas for healthy thinking there are over 400 posts to choose from


Hero image of Thatcher’s Rock Green, Ilsham Marine Drive, Torquay, UK by Jack French on Unsplash 

Dark days are over

Dark days are over

Photo by Kevin Bluer on Unsplash


These are dark days.

A pandemic is killing people in every country, destroying livelihoods and economies.

The US president is lying as he aims to bring democracy crashing down in his country.

Great Britain, once a powerful nation, is a fetid heap of unpleasantness on the floor and in such a mess that it chooses to appoint a failed, misogynist, ex-prime minister from Australia to get them out of their trade hole. Good luck with that.

And everywhere people are concerned and worried.

Mental health is the worst it’s ever been with almost everyone showing signs of strain.

It’s extremely hard to be optimistic in such times.

Indeed, all population ecologists from Thomas Malthus onwards will tell you this is exactly what to expect. As populations reach and exceed the levels of resources available to them it gets ugly. And whilst this is fine for plant and animal species in the depths of the Amazon rainforest or the arctic tundra, humans are immune for, after all, we are not animals – modern politics notwithstanding.

The technical phrase is density-dependent population regulation, the fancy term for keeping numbers in check.

Density and competetion

As resources become limiting so population growth rates start to slow and eventually go in reverse as a result of lower fertility, infant mortality and mortality from competition among adults in the population, with the most vulnerable going first. It is no coincidence that the consequences of the COVID-19 virus fit these attributes and is an acute problem for aged-care facilities.

There is no doubt we’re beginning to see these patterns in the human population of the world. We’ve beaten off density-dependence for so long thanks to our technology and our ability to absorb resources from nature. But now it’s beginning to bite as we reach the limits of our capacities and offer a resource to nature, our bodies, for it to exploit.

Given these realities, it is very difficult to remain positive. Hard to see the upside in any of these things.

But upside there is, for no matter what happens, it will not happen forever. Even if the worst catastrophes strike, there is a time after them.

Even after the mass extinctions over evolutionary time that we portray as catastrophes, diversity came back stronger. There were always more species on the planet following extinction events than there were before them. Prior to our current attack on the planet, there were more species than at any other time in the history of life on earth. There’s nothing to suggest that once humans have passed, that won’t happen again. The remnants of diversity will spread out recolonise and diversify into the available landscape when humans finally leave the stage.

The problem is not the long-term future of the world. She is quite fine, thank you very much, and will potter along merrily without concern until the sun finally swallows her up.

The problem is ourselves. What do we do to prevent a catastrophe… for humanity? How do we go about making sure that solutions are possible and more than a punt on the horses.

I think our hope lies in our psychological response.

We always revert to our lizard brains when we feel threatened or fearful or insecure. But we have a higher brain which can override that lizard fight, flight or freeze response. And we must tap into that capability more than ever before.

Right now we have to be investing in our mental health, training and encouraging people to be aware of their lizard brains. And give them the tools so as not to give into them.

Of course, anyone can say “zen out” in a blog post.

Achieving it in the population at large is another thing altogether. There are so many reasons why people wouldn’t respond and we cannot expect all people to do so.

Given enough compassionate folk who have recognised the need for awareness and for those people to lead the way then we can move forward with positive solutions.

Over at sustainably FED we have found a way to encourage those solutions through the use of evidence, especially the science behind food, ecology and diet. We believe there are solutions to any number of sustainability challenges if FED comes together in an integrated way.

Here are a few

  • Recycling nutrients
  • Making biochar
  • Changing global diet and food production based on the nutrient density of food rather than profit
  • Calling out the scoundrels mining natural capital
  • Looking long in production systems

Humanity has a great chance of surviving the dark times and coming out the other end the better for it. Any new normal can easily better than the old normal.

But we do need great ideas.

The tools exist for the technical and scientific evaluation of sustainability ideas to find those that will work in a new normal. All we have to find are the youngsters with the great ideas.

In the meantime, we can all try to recognize our lizard brain response and not be consumed by it.

We also recommend a meditation or two, some relaxation in nature, maybe some gentle classical music.

Recognition of what the planet offers rather than the porkies our social media feeds us.