When offered a choice between two politically intolerable alternatives, it is important to choose neither. And when that choice is presented in rival arguments and debates that exclude from public consideration any other set of possibilities, it becomes a duty to withdraw from those arguments and debates, so as to resist the imposition of this false choice by those who have arrogated to themselves the power of framing the alternatives.
But I'm not sure Justin's right to prefer to spoil the ballot rather than not vote. He says:
Low turnouts at elections get spun by the victors for their own purposes. John Prescott once blamed low turnout on a “culture of contentment” among voters. Non-voters get branded lazy and apathetic when in actual fact low turnouts are largely caused by a dangerous and depressing dislocation from our so-called democratic process. To turn out to spoil your ballot, however, sends a message. It’s a rejection of our political system and our grossly inadequate, unrepresentative and inequitable electoral system.
But I suspect politicians will spin spoilt papers as well; they'll dismiss them as inconsequential lunacies.
The problem is that politicians live in a world of their own. This is why, despite losing 3.9 million votes between 1997 and 2005 - equivalent to the entire electorate of Scotland - New Labour governs with even more arrogance than ever before.
If they're going to live in a world of their own, we should too. We should ignore the election, and - as far as possible - ignore all candidates and politicians and retreat entirely from party politics. A boycott is a long-established way of demonstrating contemptuous opposition.
I like to think the precedent here is the fall of Nicolae Ceausescu. For years, his rule was illegitimate. It continued partly each Romanian thought other Romanians supported him and partly because he lived in a world of his own in which he thought he was popular and powerful. But eventually a tipping point came. An apparently minor event revealed Ceausescu's illegitimacy. In the space of weeks, revolution went from being unthinkable to inevitable.
Of course, I don't know when or how the UK's tipping point will come. But I suspect it will, simply because older people are far more likely to vote than others, and these will eventually die off.
Until this point is reached, I'm with MacIntyre:
What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us...This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time (After Virtue).