Glossary of Political Terms

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Fabian Society

A movement founded in 1884 by intellectuals Sidney and  Beatrice Webb and George Bernard Shaw who believed the only possible way to introduce socialism would be in an incremental way using education and gradual legislative changes. Named after the Roman general Fabius Cunctator (“the delayer”) who possessed the patience to defeat the Carthaginian Hannibal by engaging in a slow war of attrition and harassment. 

false flag

A covert operation, military or otherwise, which attempts to present a different identity of the perpetrators, for propaganda, diplomatic or strategic reasons. The casus belli of the 1939 German invasion of Poland was the attack on the German Gleiwitz radio station by “Polish nationals” who were, in fact, disguised Gestapo members.  Term derives from pirate ships who would fly flags of friendly countries so as to entice target ships.


An authoritarian and nationalist political ideology that embraces strong leadership, singular collective identity and the will to commit violence or wage war to further the interests of the state. Averse to concepts such as individualism, pluralism, multiculturalism or egalitarianism. The name derives from the collective identity, the league connotation of the Italian fascio, or English faggot, for a bound collection of sticks. The symbol originally used by Mussolini was a ‘fascio’ of sticks bound with that connotation of war, an axe.


A system under which governmental powers are divided between the central government and the states or provinces all within the same geographical territory. Opposite to a unitary system as exists in the UK, New Zealand and Japan.

fellow traveller

Mid-twentieth century term to describe someone who sympathised with communism but would not go so far as to declare themselves a communist or join the party.

fence mending

A politician returning to his electorate hoping to restore his reputation with the voters.

fifth columnist

In a military or political environment, a person who surreptitiously undermines a group or entity from within. Term derived from a Nationalist general during the Spanish Civil War who boasted he had four columns of troops attacking Madrid, together with a fifth column of sympathises inside the city. The practice of the F.C. is sometimes described as ‘entryism’. The Alec Guinness character in the film Dr Zhivago was a war-time fifth columnist.


A form of legislative obstruction by an MP by continuing a parliamentary speech for the mere sake of preventing a vote. As the clerk of parliament will set an agenda calendar allocating certain bills for certain days, if the business of reading, debating and voting on one bill is not completed on its allotted day it may be a considerable period of time before it again comes before the house.


Electoral system where the winning candidate needs only the most votes, even if well below a majority.  Aka pluralist voting.

fishing expedition

Pejorative term for an inquiry with extremely loose terms of reference, if not open ended, where any embarrassing or damaging information is allegedly hoped to be revealed, even though there is little credible evidence of wrongdoing to initiate the investigation.

fixed term

Concept to describe the set term of office of representatives (eg US House of Reps is a strict two years) as compared to other democracies like Spain where the legislature (the Congress of Deputies and Senate) is a maximum of four years but can be shorter at the discretion of the Prime Minister.

the fog of war

The uncertainty in combat military operations where intelligence on the strength and position of the enemy, and even of one’s own, or allied, forces cannot always be kept up to date.

Foggy Bottom

A suburb of Washington DC and a metonym for the US State department whose headquarters are situated there. Similarly the CIA headquarters is known as Langley.

forty acres and a mule

The value, once held by certain parties, to be compensation for a life of slavery. A field order given by Union General, William Tecumseh Sherman, in 1865 that freed slave families were to be given land no larger than forty acres and the loan of a mule. Order was subsequently rescinded by President Andrew Johnson.

fourth estate

The unofficial political institution and authority comprising the press and other forms of the media. Term comes from the first three estates of the French States-General which were the church, the nobility and the townsmen.


see suffrage / franchise..

free vote  [cmlth countries]

Aka a conscience vote. The rare instance where an M.P. is not obliged to vote according to his/her party’s call. Examples have been the 1996 Victorian drug law reform or the 1995 Northern Territory’s euthanasia law.

free rider

Someone who unintentionally is able to receive the benefits of government policy without incurring the costs.

Friday news dump

Aka ‘take out the trash day’. The practice of governments releasing their unpopular news stories just before the weekend as it is believed few people follow the news on a Saturday. Not only the timing is effective for what the government wants to hide but also the act of lumping together as many stories as possible so as to minimise the effect of each one.

friendly society

Aka mutual society, benevolent society, fraternal organisation. A non-government mutual beneficial association for the non-profit purpose of insurance with regards to unemployment benefits, pensions, health, etc, with membership often according to trade, religious or political affiliations, and very often also maintaining a social function. Very popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries but with the advent of the welfare state many have closed or evolved into credit unions or mutual insurance companies.

from each according to his ability...

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. Slogan not created, but made popular by Karl Marx in a 1875 publication, to highlight a fundamental aspect of communism. Allegedly a response to the capitalist concept of private property.

gauche caviar

(Left wing caviar eater). French derogatory term for a socialist in theory who still maintains a luxurious lifestyle. English equivalent: Champagne socialist, Bollinger Bolshevik; American: limousine liberal; Italian: radical chic; Australian: Chardonnay socialist.

general election

Either an election that is not local but is for the state or national governments or an election that is the final arbiter after the preliminary ones have been dispensed with. Can be contrasted to council, primary or by-elections.


Nineteenth century philosophy created by American economist Henry George which advocated that things found in nature, such as land, always remains property of the state.  Government revenue is thus raised by rents on land (at an unimproved rate), minerals and fishing licences etc to the degree that hopefully no other taxes might need to be enforced.


How a significant number of equally sized single member electorates become populated with both party voters but to different degrees, to have a partisan and unfair effect on the total vote.

Gilets Jaunes

A grass roots French anti-tax movement which has engaged in many public demonstrations since 2018 protesting, amongst other price hikes, the high price of fuel, caused partly by new taxes to cover the cost of the carbon tax. Members span the political spectrum with a high proportion of the rural and middle classes. Yellow vests (G.J.) are mandated in every French vehicle so as to highlight drivers in breakdowns or other emergencies, and thus protesting while wearing the vests highlights the alleged economic emergency many French people are now suffering.

ginger group

A highly active or galvanizing group within a political party or movement. Like a chef who adds ginger to spice up a meal, a number of people who ginger up and motivate the organisation to act in a certain direction on one or a number of issues.


An excessively “friendly” person, typically a politician, who greets another effusively but insincerely in an attempt to gain popularity.


A policy that commits government to greater accountability and visibility, such as freedom of information laws. Russian for ‘publicness’.


Gross National Product is the total output of goods and services annually produced by a country, whether on or off shore. Gross Domestic Product is the total amount produced on shore, whether by local or foreign entities.

Godwin’s Law

Theory by American journalist Mike Godwin that as an online discussion / argument grows longer the probability of one party comparing the other to Nazis approaches 1.

going negative

A campaigning style where an election candidate will emphasize the negative attributes of the opponent rather than his/ her own positive ones or plans for future governance. Sometimes a legitimate action if the opponent has serious character or competency issues, but otherwise often used to cover up the fact the candidate has little to offer the electorate in experience, vision or concrete plans.

Barry Goldwater

Republican US presidential candidate of 1964 who maintained libertarian domestic and conservative foreign policy views. Allegedly transforming the Republican party from a Rockefeller eastern, elitist and liberal organisation to that of Reagan in 1980, his contempt for pragmatism was best expressed by his line, “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice…and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue”.


Grand Old Party. Sobriquet for the American Republican party.

grandfather clause

An exemption to a new law which accommodates already existing entities (metaphoric grandfathers) not having to comply. Eg: existing buildings not needing restructuring to accommodate new building / environmental codes. A law increasing the drinking age from 18 to 21 but exempting those under 21 who were already entitled to consume alcohol. In 2004 Australian PM John Howard, under political pressure, lowered govt. contributions to MPs superannuation from 15% to the standard 9%. However he exempted already serving MPs, allowing them to remain on the higher rate.

grass roots

The ordinary and common people, often agrarian. Term generally refers to movements / political parties created by them rather than by professionals, elitists or established leaders.

Great Reform Act

British electoral reform act of parliament of 1832 which primarily abolished the malapportionment and corruption of what were known as rotten boroughs. It also gave the suffrage, albeit limited to property holders/renters, to residents of sparsely represented areas such as the newly created cities of the Industrial Revolution, increasing the number of eligible voters by approximately 60%.

grievance debate

In Westminster systems, short speeches allowed by any MP on any subject but only granted at a specific time per week for a few hours.


An attitude often existing in academia or the media where there is found to be unanimity in approaches to certain issues, either due to laziness in research, or fear of the consequences of going against the prevailing wisdom.

group voting ticket

A device used in so called “above the line” proportional representation voting where party preference declarations can also be facilitated. The voter simply indicates for one of the many parties listed on the ballot paper. His/her vote is then taken as the declared full list of preferences (the GVT), publicly submitted by that party before the election, of every candidate running. Voters not trusting their parties and concerned about where their preferences are flowing can check the published lists, and if need be, vote manually “below the line” indicating their own list of preferences.


Adjective of Governor.

habeas corpus

Latin for “you have the body”. A writ, issued by a court upon request, for a government authority to present to court a person it is detaining, and give justification as to why he/she should continue to be detained.


Derogatory term for a writer or journalist of very ordinary, unexceptional talents employed to do routine work. Derived from the term for an old saddle horse still performing basic duties.


The official parliamentary record of whatever is said in Parliament.


A S.T.V. electoral system used in Tasmania where Robson Rotation is utilised and candidates are not allowed to hand out how-to-vote cards on polling day.

harm principle

Theory advocated by 19th century British philosopher John Stuart Mill that the state should not interfere with the actions of an individual that harm no one else: "The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant."

hawks / doves

People who advocate more assertive, confrontational foreign policy / those who advocate more peaceful or conciliatory approaches.


Dominance or leadership of one state or social group over another.

hoi polloi

The common people, as compared to the wealthy, higher educated or elite.

hollow men

Conviction free, consensus driven politicians who live by the polls and whose only goal appears to be self aggrandizement by achieving and maintaining political power. Found in major parties on both sides of the political divide but generally more prevalent with conservative parties. Term derived from the T.S. Eliot poem of that name in reference to the ‘men of straw’ described.

honeymoon period

The first few months of a new government during which the incumbent/s are granted a non-belligerent grace period by their political opposition and the media.

the Honourable

Mostly in Commonwealth countries, a style used before the name of members of parliament who are in, or have been in, the cabinet, as well as, in some jurisdictions, members of the upper house.

house of representatives

The largest and most influential house of Parliament in Westminster systems. Appoints the cabinet and from which the Prime Minister usually comes. Similar to the British House of Commons and known in Australia as the 'People's House' as compared with the Senate being the ‘State’s House’.


Cultural movement during the Renaissance emphasising secularism and classical learning from ancient Greece and Rome; the doctrine that emphasises the human capacity for self-fulfilment without religion.

hung parliament

A situation in parliamentary systems where no one party has won a majority of seats to form a government, and thus executive rule is left hanging until a ruling majority coalition is formed, or another election decides the matter.

the hustings

Involved in political campaigning, especially making speeches. The husting was originally a place of assembly at which to speak. US equivalent is “on the stump”, derived from speaking when standing upon a tree stump.


The legislative equivalent of a criminal prosecution, where a high government official is subject, by a house of Parliament or Congress, to an investigation, indictment and subsequent trial.


The current holder of a seat in the legislature or of an office of authority.


Rising in open resistance to established authority.

identity politics

Political theories or advocacy which, rather than proposing better ways to fight crime, improve the economy or save the environment etc, orientate towards the victimhood, or alleged victimhood, of certain people because of their demographics, ie age, religion, gender, race etc.

informal vote

An invalid vote on the ballot paper. Made intentionally or by accident where the voter misunderstands how he/she has to indicate the choice for the desired candidates.


The belief that policy decisions should be made to include the interests of other peoples of the world rather than just the home country. See also ‘nativism’.


An interval of normal government, such as between administrations.

invisible hand

The free market theory of 18th century economist Adam Smith that there is an invisible hand to guarantee, that without government, there will always be a supply to placate demand. “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self interest.”


A policy of isolating one’s country from military alliances or other commitments  with all other countries as a best resort to avoiding foreign entanglements. Historically a strong sentiment in the USA. President Woodrow Wilson won a second term in 1916 in promising (falsely) to keep America out of WWI, and the US was conspicuous in not joining the newly formed League of Nations. Prior to WWII aviator Charles Lindberg was prominent in the popular America First Committee which attempted to prevent the US being a participant in that war.

J’accuse !

(I accuse) Frontpage headline from arguably the most famous newspaper editorial (in fact, an open letter) of the 19th century, relating to the infamous Dreyfus Affair where influential writer Emile Zola accused the French government of anti-Semitism and abuse of process. The initial reaction from the letter led to Zola fleeing to Britain to escape a libel conviction, but the public outcry, both national and international, eventually led to the annulment of the conviction of treason of the person in question, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, Zola’s pardon, the suicide of one of the conspirators, and the resignation of the government.

Jacksonian democracy

Name of democratic reform movement in the early nineteenth century embraced by supporters of American President Andrew Jackson, a southern, self-educated soldier / plantation owner with frontier roughhewn manners, who had contempt for what he saw as the eastern educated elite keeping the common people out of the democratic system wherever possible. Some reforms advocated were: the abolition of denying the vote to those who failed property requirements; or those who didn’t pay poll taxes; the judiciary elected by the people rather than appointed by politicians; term limits on the presidency; strong states’ rights and a limited federal government; and the abolition of the electoral college.


A nineteenth and twentieth century term to describe chauvinistic, bellicose expressions of nationalism, especially in warlike pursuits. The term is often associated with US President Teddy Roosevelt.

jobs for the boys

A type of political nepotism where prestigious government jobs are given to those in the party family- often those voted out of office or otherwise unemployed- rather than those deserving due to merit. Ironically the term once had a legitimate meaning in the previous century when it was used to express public gratitude for demobbed soldiers returning home from war. See also ‘nomenklatura’

Joe Sixpack

American demographic term to describe an average, non-college educated, working class male. The implication is he is a beer drinker and beer is more often sold or handled in six-packs. Australian equivalent would be, Joe Bloggs; English, Workington man, (or ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’ in a legal context); Scotland, Jock Tamson; France, Jean Dupont; Germany,  Max Mustermann; India, Aam Aadmi.

judicial activism

A judicial philosophy advocating that courts are allowed to take an active role, not supported by existing law, to remedy alleged wrongs in society.

judicial interpretation

The various methods different superior court judges regularly use to interpret constitutional law: literal, original, doctrinal (stare decisis), structural and balancing.


A clique, faction or cabal, often military, taking power after an overthrow of the government. From the latin ‘juncta’ for join.

jus ad bellum

The alleged justification a country will use to go to war.

jus soli

Latin for ‘right of the soil’. A legal concept that automatically grants citizenship of a country to a person born in that country, irrespective of the mother’s status. Practised in almost every country of the Americas as well as Pakistan and Tanzania, while the more popular concept, jus sanguinis, ‘right of blood’, has been adopted elsewhere.


A type of situation where someone is overcome by bureaucracies operating in a surreal, nightmarish manner being incomprehensibly complex, irrational or meaningless. Derived from a common theme of novels of early 20th century Bohemian / Czech author Franz Kafka.


From the Greek word ‘kakistos’ for worst, and ‘kratos’ for rule or power, and used to describe government by incompetent and /or corrupt people.  As much as the word is almost two hundred years old, it is generally used as a term of abuse of a particular administration, rather than an objective evaluation of a government or consecutive governments that may be appointed by a particular electoral or constitutional system.


Pejorative term for a woman, generally white, middle class to wealthy, who is easily provoked to make demands at, or beyond the limit, of what would be considered appropriate or necessary.


Theories of very influential economist of the twentieth century, John Maynard Keynes, who advocated government taxing and spending to keep control on the economy. In times of recession he advocated high government spending on public works as well as intervention into the economy wherever it was thought necessary.

kitchen cabinet

An informal name for the chief executive’s closest advisers.


(rule by thieves) Cynical term used to describe highly corrupt governments where politicians, bureaucrats and their protected friends engage in sales of government licences, perquisites and other rorts.


Russian for ‘compromising material’. Damaging information about a politician or other public figure, used for nefarious purposes.


Fr. for “allow to do”. An economic system with total or near total abstinence of state interference.

Harold Laski

British socialist academic of the first half of the twentieth century who gained popularity and influence due to his persuasive and inspiring speeches. Was economics professor at the London School of Economics as well as chairman of the British Labour Party, which eventually had to disavow him in 1945 due to his hard-line Marxist views. Used as a model, both physically and intellectually, for the Ellsworth Toohey character in the novel, The Fountainhead.

Leader of the House

Australian term for a lower house MP of the ruling party who has been appointed by the executive to organise and arrange the various proceedings of that house.

left wing

see ‘right wing / left wing’

let a thousand blossoms bloom

Misquotation of Mao ZeDong’s 1957 delaration “Let… a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend...” made to invite criticism of the political system so as to allegedly promote progress in the arts and sciences of the nascent communist regime. Many of those foolish enough to accept the invitation were ultimately executed.


An early grass roots, neo-libertarian, urban, political group which existed  in the UK during and after the English Civil War. They advocated self ownership, electoral reform, separation of powers, limited use of the death penalty, religious toleration, and removal of government restrictions on trade and land use. Were given the name by the privileged aristocracy and wealthy traders who feared their estates would be levelled.


Fr. for ‘injured majesty’.The ancient crime of violating the dignity of the sovereign. Recognized in some contemporary jurisdictions as a law to prevent libel or slander against a ruling or visiting head of state.

liberal democracy

A vague term to reflect democracy controlled by restraints that only allow the seemingly good. Ie. A  constitution or common law that protects such institutions as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, a moderately free market, an independent judiciary, the rule of law, separation of powers, minority rights and the notion of the individual.

(small l)

Loosely described as a modern philosophy which favours change for change’s sake, as well as encompassing a compromising and compassionate attitude to personal lifestyle, law and order, foreign affairs and immigration, where policy decisions are often orientated towards those in more straitened circumstances.

liberalism (classic)

A philosophy advocating the rights of the individual as against the state or church as espoused by such eighteenth century English writers as John Locke and J.S. Mill. Causes advocated would be Laissez Faire economics, freedom of speech, the rule of law, extension of the franchise, amelioration in penal practices, and changing views on relations between the sexes and the upbringing of children. In modern times Classic Liberals have become either libertarians or small ‘l’ liberals.


A political philosophy of self reliance, reason and maximum non-interference by the state in matters of both economic and personal affairs. Straddling both left and right, a libertarian would believe in the right to bear arms, access to IVF or hallucinatory drugs for any adult, a free market capitalist economy and the abolition of censorship.

limited government

A right wing concept that espouses the practice that any public service that could reasonably be solely supplied by the market, or harmful action that could be self regulated or otherwise controlled by public censure, should be.

limited war

A war, often not formally declared, fought to obtain specific political / territorial objectives, rather than to obtain the unconditional surrender of the enemy.

list system P.R.

Above and below the line proportional representation voting. Voters do not have to cast preferences but can tick above the line for the candidates/parties of their choice who themselves choose (before the election) the list of preferred other candidates to which their unused votes will go.

Huey P Long

Quintessential populist, corrupt, demagogue of modern times who served as governor of the US state of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932, then Senator until 1935. Master of political patronage who became the model for the novel and film titled “All the Kings Men”. Eventually assassinated by a relative of one of his victims.

Lovejoy’s Law

Logical fallacy where a plea for pity is used as an appeal to emotion rather than depending on inductive or deductive reasoning, applied most commonly when the plea is to consider the effect upon children even though they would not suffer any more than other demographics. The US Congressional Record has noted five separate hearings between 1996 and 2001 where the term “think of the children” was used  on subjects such as opportunity reconciliation, global warming, tribal law enforcement, class action and terrorism. Term derived from fictional character Helen Lovejoy because of her signature catchphrase.

lower house

In Australia the House of Representatives or (state wide) the Legislative Assembly. Generally the more populous and influential legislative house. 


Someone who acts professionally to serve as a go-between for people or business with a complaint about specific legislation and the relevant government minister/secretary. It is in the interests for politicians to not only keep attuned of the effect of possibly problematic legislation but also to have that communicated in quick and efficient manner by an experienced and knowledgeable operator. The fact that corruption often occurs in the lobbying process does not deny that lobbying is still mostly a legitimate function. Term derived from hotel lobbies where politicians were originally approached by applicants.


A practice in American legislatures where two or more members agree to support each other’s bills.


Situated on Lubyanka Square, Moscow, one-time headquarters, and affiliated prison, of the Soviet secret police, the Cheka, and until 1991, the KGB.


Nineteenth century British tradesman who rebelled against the technology of the industrial revolution making them obsolete, by organising riots to destroy the textile machinery of the day. Named after a mythical King Ludd. Term now used to describe those opposed to technological  progress.


Term for those in society Karl Marx identified as the miscreants, lacking class consciousness and useless to the revolutionary struggle: beggars, prostitutes, gangsters, racketeers, swindlers, petty criminals, tramps, chronic unemployed or unemployable.


Derogatory term for pretentious artistic or theatrical people claiming and /or receiving special benefits or privileges.


Large, intimidating, medieval, hand held weapon. Appears with the speaker in lower houses and used as a symbol of authority.


Adjective to describe manipulative and cynical political activity where morals and principles have little account. Somewhat unfairly attributed to Renaissance political theorist Niccolo Machiavelli who wrote for an age where government and diplomacy had more life or death consequences.

machine politics

Political parties run as tightly controlled and disciplined organisations that tolerate no disloyalty, and reward proven supporters with candidate endorsements or other manifestations of patronage such as public service jobs.

maiden speech

The first ever speech  given by an MP in Parliament and traditionally granted the courtesy of no interjections.

majority preferential

Preferential voting in single member electorates.


Violating the concept of ‘one person one vote’, the existence of electorates of unequal population sizes yet still having the same number of representatives, whereby a partisan political party advantage can very often develop. The practice is still very common in the United Kingdom.

Thomas Malthus

Clergyman and political economist of the eighteenth century who theorised that the world’s population always grows faster than its food supply, and thus, rather than attempting to alleviate perpetual hunger by misguided compassion, one should allow inevitable famine, disease and war to act as natural retardants to population growth. M. argued from an empiricist point of view against the ideological, theoretical ideas of philosopher William Goldwin and other supporters of the French Revolution who believed in the perfectibility of human kind.


The alleged command, and thus authority, a winning political party has to institute its pre-election policies because of the fact it had a convincing win.

manifest destiny

A cultural belief in the early 19th century United States that it was irresistibly destined to expand US sovereign territory across North America bringing economic advancement and enlightenment. As stated by historian Frederick Merk, there was a “sense of mission to redeem the Old World [Europe] by high example ... generated by the potentialities of a new earth for building a new heaven.”


A.k.a. duality. Seeing things in black or white, good or evil, love or hate, etc. From the philosophy of Manichaeism, derived from the Iranian philosopher of the third century, Mani.

marginal seat

A S.M.V. electorate where the winning candidate/party only just won the last election and could well lose the next. Similar term in US presidential elections is “swing states”.

means testing

Limiting government benefits, such as a baby bonus or health care, to those below a certain income or accumulated wealth.

H.L. Mencken

American nationally syndicated columnist of the early 20th century who savaged populist politicians; government in general; the temperance movement; religion, specifically fundamentalism, Christian Science and creationism; certain modern aspects of science and what he saw as the limitations of democracy.

mendicant state

‘mendicant’ - Latin for begging. A state/province/territory that has not proved able to pay its own way and perpetually depends upon the generosity of other states for a significant part of its funding.


A broad, command type, economic doctrine, practised from the 16th to the 18th centuries, which predicated state power in international affairs as the predominate goal. Policies utilised would be: export subsidies; maintaining a positive balance of payments; developing colonies; forbidding trade to be carried in foreign ships; restricting colonies’ trade to only the mother country; maintaining a large as possible precious metal reserve; limiting domestic consumption such as with sumptuary laws.

MI5 / MI6

British Military Intelligence, Section 5./ Section 6.  The government service engaged in counter terrorism and counterintelligence such as searching for foreign spies / the government service engaged in foreign espionage.


Aka Generation Y. The demographic group in western society born in the range between approximately 1981 and 1996. Preceded by Generation X and followed by Generation Z. So named because the earliest of them came of age around the turn of the millennium.

mission creep

The tendency of an operation, generally military, to become more extensive/wider in scope than originally hoped for.

mixed economy

An economic system which embraces some aspects of free enterprise together with elements of socialism.

mixed member proportional

MMP. An electoral system combining SMV and PR voting, which allows individual electorates but removes their usual disproportional effects, thus eliminating the gerrymander factor. Voters have two votes: in their SMV local electorate, and in the national electorate under the  party list system. Once a party has won a set minimum of local elections, it is granted those seats, together with bonus seats which would bring it up to its due proportion of seats as per its percentage of national votes won from the second vote.

modus vivendi

Latin for ‘mode of living’. A situation agreed upon where two or more conflicting parties can come to some understanding and thus live in peace.


Acronym used by election campaigners to focus on the fundamental aspects to be successful: money, organisation and message.


A left wing, British political organisation, originally pro-Jeremy Corbyn, separate from the Labour Party, but comprising only members of it. Through disciplined organisation, it has been very successful in recruiting new Labour Party members and subsequently acquiring senior positions in the party at the expense of Labour moderates.


The theory that the economy is controlled by raising or lowering the money supply.


Rule by one person (not necessarily anti-democratic).


A situation where there is only one seller of a good or service due to either protection by legislation or the impracticality of other parties to enter the market.


A single buyer market for goods or services. Opposite to monopoly.

moral relativism

Loosely described as a philosophical concept whereby an act universally identified as immoral in the home country is however excused when observed in another because of the culture or history of that country.

Morning in America

Arguably the most successful political television commercial for a presidential campaign to date, despite the fact it mentioned no policies, specific or general, nor even the opponent’s name. Formal title, “Prouder, Stronger, Better”, it was created by the Ronald Reagan Republican campaign of the 1984 election. The beginning voiceover, “It’s morning…in America…”, was meant as a metaphor for national renewal.

Moscow on the Molonglo

Derogatory term for Australia’s capital in that it allegedly supports a surfeit of bureaucrats and regulatory systems constricting the efficiency of the national economy. Molonglo is the river running through Canberra.

motherhood statement

A ‘feel good’ platitude supporting an uncontroversial cause that few would dare disagree with.


A formal proposal by a member of a legislature, seconded by another, that a certain action be taken if the proposal receives majority support. Such actions could be, but not limited to, the censoring of a member, the formation of a committee, or a vote of no confidence in the executive.

moving the goalposts

Football metaphor to describe the less than scrupulous manoeuvre in a debate when one side will, without notice, change the goal, criterion or premise of the issue being discussed so as to help them salvage their otherwise untenable position.


A journalist / author whose goal is to only find the negative character traits / history of his subject. Term coined by Teddy Roosevelt in reference to a Pilgram’s Progress character with a muckrake who could only look down.


As opposed to an internationalist world view, the theory that a government must always give priority to the citizens of its own country above that of foreigners. The belief in the perpetuation of the indigenous culture as compared to acculturation.

natural justice

Aka procedural fairness. Two common law rights in government administrative actions / legal proceedings where a person’s rights, interests, or legitimate expectations are at threat: the right to be heard and present one’s case, and the right to be subject to an unbiased or disinterested decision maker. An example would be that if a person received a compulsory purchase order for his house by the local council he would have the right to take the council to court to supply adequate reasons for its CPO.

negative rights / positive rights

The right of self-mastery to do, or refrain from doing an action, or otherwise be free from interference, as compared to the right to gain a specific benefit that would in most cases have a monetary value. The right to speak freely / the right to having legal representation supplied when in court. Term derives from the obligation on society for supplying those rights: a positive obligation to supply the cost of a lawyer while there is no (negative) cost to allow someone freedom of speech.


Fictional language of the state in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, whereby a procession of words are slowly removed from the vocabulary so as to limit freedom of thought in the fields of self-identity, free will, etc which might otherwise have a deleterious effect upon the status of the  totalitarian regime.


A non-profit non-government organisation.


The belief of a 19th and early 20th century Russian revolutionary party that all religious and moral principles were worth nothing (nihility) and that in order to remake society, one must first destroy the current one.


Not -In -My -Back -Yard. A pejorative term to describe opposition to any public policy decision, which in itself is considered beneficial, but may happen to cause discomfort, for geographical reasons or other, when it is actually put into practice. For example airports, prisons or power plants placed in one’s own vicinity, or austerity measures which may cause budget cuts also to those who thought they might have been excluded.

19th amendment

Amendment to the US constitution in 1920 giving the vote to women by preventing disenfranchisement on the basis of gender.

noblesse oblige

A generally anachronistic concept that entails that whoever claims to be of the nobility is obligated to act honourably and responsibly. For example, it was often incumbent upon the nobility to be the first enlisters in times of war.

nom de guerre

Fr. for ‘war name’. A pseudonym used in polemical activities such as war or political commentary.


The system of patronage for Party members applied during the existence of the USSR. A list of individuals drawn up by the Communist Party from which were selected candidates for vacant senior positions in the state, party, and other important organizations. From the Latin nomenclatura for ‘list of names’.


A prerequisite to standing as a political candidate. Made only after the writ for an election has been issued. A financial deposit (which will be returned on the candidate receiving a reasonable number of votes) must also be lodged.

non sequitur

Latin for ‘it does not follow’. A conclusion that does not follow from the premises; an invalid argument or syllogism.  E.g. “This election we should vote for the opposition because the current government has been in for so long and it is time for a change.”

no platform

To deny an entity to speak using your facilities (media outlet, social media platform, lecture theatre, town hall, etc) due to the speaker’s reputation, political affiliation or speech content. The non-government equivalent to state censorship.


Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Founded in 1961 to stimulate world trade and economic progress, a group of 34 first world countries, committed to democracy and the market economy, who organise mutual plans to maintain taxation conventions and fiscal stability, combat corruption and bribery as well as other endeavours such as annual publications on the world economic outlook.


Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. 57 countries, 53 of which are majority Muslim, who, through the organisation, declare with a collective voice to "safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony". Permanent delegations are maintained in the United Nations and European Union.

Old Glory

Nickname for the United States’ flag.


A form of government where rule is by the few and in their own interest.


A concept, originally Swedish, where parliament appoints a person to act as an official watchdog over bureaucracy on behalf of the public. On its own initiative or from public complaints, the Ombudsman will investigate government officials or departments and report its finding to parliament, whereupon action may be taken. The office of the Ombudsman itself has no power to penalise, although in some jurisdictions the Ombudsman can launch criminal prosecutions. A similar role in South Africa is known as the Public Protector.

one worlder

Either: a person who believes the establishment of a single world government is desirable, so as to eliminate wars as well as advancing the common good, or: a person who believes there is an international conspiracy to create such.

optional preferential voting

Preferential voting where one has the option to choose to mark off only the number of preferences as one wishes.

ordinary vote

As compared with a postal vote, a vote cast at a polling place in the voter's home division on polling day.

the Overton window

Modern concept advanced by political theorist Joseph Overton whereby there is a small window of political acceptable approaches on any given subject at any time and approaches / ideas not within the window would resultantly be considered extreme and politically unsafe for a politician to uphold. Thus most mainstream politicians only choose from policies within the window, or only publicly declare the policies they believe in, if and when the window should move in their direction.

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fascist symbol
first past the post
fourth estate
gauche caviar
gerrymander LA
Economist magazine's Democracy Index
Teddy Roosevelt
judicial activism
"Won't someone please think of the children."
American Progress (manifest destiny) by John Gast
optional preferential