Election Fever

There will be a general election very soon, here in the UK.

Because of this, there is increasing discourse, and posts on social media about people voting, or not voting, and how they vote, and how right and wrong people think they are to either vote or not vote, or vote but not the way other people think they should.

As you know from previous posts on this blog, I do not vote.

This is anathema to many people. For some it clearly sits along the same spectrum morally as child abuse and cheating old grannies out of their life savings.

My failure is particularly compounded by the fact that I am a woman and I do not vote. As women did not get the vote in this country until 1922 it apparently behoves me to support the sisterhood by voting. If I were also in a minority due to the colour of my skin I would probably be even more in someone else’s debt and even more obliged to exercise my right to vote by those people who believe I have a ‘responsibility’ of some kind.

I have been thinking about whether I should vote in this election. The political landscape is changing enormously in this country (surprisingly, yes, I am interested in politics, and reasonably well informed about what is going on). The upcoming election will be fascinating as it will, for the first time in my memory, really be all to play for.

The sticking point for me though, is who do I vote for? If I look at the parties I cannot find any party that represents my views. If I look at policies I cannot find any party that makes policies I want to get behind. I distrust politicians as a breed, and with good reason, it is fair to say. I do not see any of them standing up for the things that matter to me.

I do see them spending our money wastefully. I take particular exception to them spending that money on themselves.  I do see them barracking their opponents and time wasting over bills they do not want to pass. I do see them failing to turn up for electoral debates and votes that are not fashionable or in the public eye, which means that many worthwhile issues never get proper air time or policies passed because of political apathy on the part of MPs who are supposed to take an interest in all the ways the country is run, not just the big ticket issues. I do see them supporting the banks who continue to rob us all blind.  I do see them running our health service into the ground before selling it off privately and trying to keep that news off the front pages of the papers.  I do see them them smashing the educational life of our children to pieces.  I do see them shutting down the libraries. I do see them failing to address the imbalances in our justice system. I  do see them taking and taking from those of us who are poorest (and not just in monetary terms) and least able to protest.

I do see them tearing apart everything that I think is important and I do not see any party talking about rebuilding those things, or replacing them with any positive things. I see them lying, cheating, squandering, bickering and behaving like over privileged children who have never been taught to share and never been taught what no means when it comes to other people’s properties or lives.  That is what I see.

Are these the people I should vote for?

Tell me. Are those things going to change if I cast my vote? If you can prove to me that by casting my vote, my beliefs, my interests, the issues I care passionately about, will be represented by the MPs and parties in power, then I will step up and cast my vote. I am not naive enough to believe that one party will get behind every policy I care about, by the way, but it would be nice if I could support a party that had more than one or two policies I agree with.

You will no doubt tell me, that if I do not vote, I will never be able to see the change that I want, because I must be in it to win it so to speak. I know that this is not true. My experience in life shows me that the change I want to see is the change that I make for myself. The change I want to see is happening at a grass roots level and that change comes from passionate and informed people who come together to address issues that matter to them.

I do not subscribe to the malaise of believing that just because I have voted I have done my bit for Queen and country. It is not enough that every four years people shift off their arse to vote and then sit on the sofa and moan for the next four years about how the country is going to rack and ruin, and how corrupt the politicians are.

You tell me I haven’t the right to moan about politics because I don’t participate in the way you mandate I should. I say what right have you to moan when you gave them the power and the means in the first place? If I don’t want someone to shoot me, I don’t train them in combat and give them a gun and then stand amazed when they put me up against a wall.

When you are being the change you want to see, come back and talk to me about moral responsibility.

I live in a democracy. I am lucky to live in a democracy, I know that. I am lucky that I am not being imprisoned for what I write on my blog and what I stand for.

People who vote, and who tell me off for not voting often tell me I am somehow undermining the democratic process and by extension, potentially causing the demise of democracy.

I say. Listen to yourselves for a moment. Surely I am exercising the very spirit of what democracy is about? I am not doing as I am told, because I do not have to. I am not following the herd. I am not blindly voting for something because of the fear of some stick that you are threatening to beat me with (in this case, my moral responsibility to others). If you are forcing me to participate in a process I don’t believe in and don’t endorse I might as well be living in a fascist state. Democracy exists so that everyone can have their opinion, whether it sits comfortably with you or not.

I was listening to a debate on Radio Four on Saturday night, about the upcoming election and the issue of dwindling voter numbers. There were a great many people who stood up to point the finger of blame at the apathy of the young and berate them for not voting.  Then we heard some counter opinions.

A young lady stood up and said (I paraphrase): ‘It is so easy to attack the public for their failure to vote. It deflects attention away from the government and their shortcomings.  Why are we not looking to the government and the political system and asking why they are failing to represent the people they are asking to vote for them?’

It’s a good point.

11 responses to “Election Fever

  1. It’s a tricky decision. More a case of who is the least biggest tosser! I don’t trust any of them.

  2. Just a thought which may or may not work for you: your vote would be for your local MP, the person whose job it will be to represent you and your local constituency. Choosing the individual whom you consider best suited to doing that job might be a more positive and worthwhile experience than getting depressed by all the tedious national shenanigans. (I do accept that it might not.)

  3. Mrs Ford. I have thought about this. The problem in the area I live in is that it is resolutely Labour. It has been forever and a day. I can see no way that this is going to change, not even this time around. I would be more inclined to vote if we had a system of proportional representation rather than first past the post. I’d feel my vote might actually do something/anything then.

  4. I encourage people to both register to vote and to vote; not because that is how “you will see the change you want” but because it is (in a simple way) a data representation of the views of the electorate which are then used to misrepresent the views of the country.

    The last general election showed a turnout of 65% (these results are from the BBC website).
    I assume by “voters” it means those registered to vote as opposed to those eligible to vote. So in the first instance to get an accurate data set from an we need everyone eligible to vote to register; as how can you judge turnout (which is used to determine apathy; but i’ll get to that…) without knowing your true target?

    As to who or what you vote for; I don’t actually care, but if you don’t believe in politics or politicians go to your local polling station (or on your convenient postal vote) and draw a picture of a hedgehog… in crayon…

    This may seem like an enormous waste of time, effort (and crayon) but this vote is recorded as a “rejected vote” often called a spoiled ballot. These figures are included when announcing the results.

    So lets return to the question of apathy…
    In the 2010 general election there was a 65% turnout and the other 35% of (registered) voters are deemed “apathetic” by the media and politicians. That’s before we even talk about the wasters who cannot even be bothered to register… (blah, blah, [insert arbitrary judgmental comments here])

    The default assumption (by most people) is that you just don’t care and are going to sit on your sofa and whine at the news, etc. etc.

    Imagine instead Peter Snow announcing results whereby:
    100% of eligible voters registered.
    100% of registered voters turned out …
    …and the votes are as follows (based on proportion of 2010 results):

    Out of our electorate of (e.g.)100 people
    Conservative: 23 people
    Labour: 19 people
    Lib Dem: 15 people
    Other parties: 8 people
    (total of 65)

    And our supposedly apathetic, “I don’t care”, voters who actually disagree with politics and politicians and have something important they want to say about the way their society is run and how their communities work and how we should interact with each other and share our thoughts and opinions…

    There are 35 of them… by the very definition of our current “First Past the Post” system they won the election. They are telling the rest of the nation THIS DOES NOT WORK.

    No one could mandate to rule after that; every politician, every party would have to get together and say; we need to change, otherwise we are no longer be a democracy. Only then does your vote NOT count. Only then does it NOT mean something.

    So stand up and be counted; vote for change, for “I am not happy with any of you”.

    Vote for a Crayon Hedgehog.

    • I find your reasoning compelling. Not sure if it’s just because I like the idea of doing a crayon hedgehog though! I will think about it. x

      • Yvonne

        Having slept on this I have further thoughts.

        I get what you say and in principle it is a good idea, except there are two things that I would clearing up before spoiling my vote.

        If, as you say, for some reason we had a majority turn out and spoil their vote in my constituency, although this would cause consternation amongst the parties, what would they actually do about putting an MP in a seat in the commons?

        They’re not going to dismantle the political system that has been happily buzzing along since the beheading of Charles II. In my opinion what they would do is something along the lines of what we did when the country couldn’t vote on a majority in the last general election. They would find some way to get a majority between the two MPs that had the next highest votes and give them a time share or something.

        Unless a huge number of constituencies had spoiled vote majorities I think they would worry about it for five minutes, see it as a blip and carry on cobbling together the remnants of the old regime. After all, that’s pretty much how they behaved over the Scottish referendum, the threat of UKIP and how they’re approaching gathering in the swing vote for the general election.

        Also, even if the country delivered a swinging majority of votes of no confidence, what would they replace current government with? The election is already too tight to call in the current circumstances and they are still fanning around pretending everything is fine and they don’t have to change a thing.

        And do they really need me to write Cameron is a Knobber on my voting slip to record that a huge number of people in the country are disillusioned and feel that enfranchisement is a lie sold to them like snake oil by greasy spivs in shiny suits. What the spoiled vote option says to me is that they are tacitly asking you to endorse the current system by operating within it. Even if we did that, they would say: ‘We don’t need to change the current system because the fact that we had a 95% voting turn out means that our electoral system works just fine.’ It gives them the ability to twist the figures in their favour.

        My feeling is that government need to take responsibility for their behaviour and shape up, and change things. At the moment it feels like they are like the Catholic church, desperately irrelevant to the majority of people’s lives, but hanging on in there by using the threat of hell fire and damnation as a stick to beat us with.

        I want to vote, but I want to vote in a way that matters. Fifty years ago, politics mattered. The birth of the NHS and the Welfare state, the equality laws. Those things mattered. They were about the people, they spoke to the people and for the people. Who is doing that now?

  5. Dear Katy,
    Robert Heinlein (an author whose politics I am often wildly opposed to) wrote “If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates or measures that you want to vote for … but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. In case of doubt, vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong.” And often you will give the major parties a shock when they realise more and more people are voting against them all.
    While I deeply appreciate your writing, I would go so far as to say that if you are not part of a process to which you are entitled, then you are not entitled to comment on the results. I do apologise if this seems harsh but to me the right to have a say in how my country is run is the most important thing I have. And I also live in a safe Labor seat (we spell it differently here in Australia, the baby Cheezus only knows why.)

  6. Dear Toni
    Don’t apologise at all. It is good to have healthy, reasonable debate, but I do take issue with what you say. I wouldn’t post things on my blog if I didn’t want people to comment.

    Please explain to me how my opinion, as someone who is active in our community, who freely gives my time to causes I believe in means that I do not get to have an opinion, whereas people who vote, but do nothing else (and there are plenty of them) don’t?

    The majority of those who vote do that and only that. If you ask them what current policies are, or how the country is being run, they will most likely know about as much as features on the front page of the newspaper and no more. If you ask them what they have done in terms of supporting or opposing the issues they say they feel strongly about the answer, in most cases, will almost certainly be nothing. With a few, notable exceptions.

    So why is a person’s ability to put a tick in a box on a certain day more valuable and give you more rights than say helping to build and run a library, or supporting literacy in schools so that children who couldn’t read now can?

    If I lived in a country where, say, there was a voting system, but someone like Adolf Hitler was the PM, and I knew that my vote was not worth the paper it was written on, and I wrote a blog denouncing the things I thought were wrong with my country and actually got off my backside to support causes I believed in, would you think that my opinion was invalid and that I didn’t have a right to express it? Would you insist that the only worthwhile way to validate my opinion was to work from within the system, even though the system was fundamentally unworkable for an individual who is not aligned to party political beliefs? Is it easier to believe that my voice is not valuable if I don’t endorse the system if you only see the system as misguided and politicians as stupid, but not evil?

    As we vote here for parties and for MPs that represent those parties and not on issues, how is my vote actually affecting things I might want to vote for or against? This is what I don’t really get.

    In this constituency, unless there is a major disaster, a labour politician will get his seat in the house of commons to represent me. He will, for the most part, vote either the way the Chief Whip directs him to, or in line with the broader remit of the Labour party manifesto. I can write him letter after letter. I can lobby him etc, but will it change the way he votes on the issues that affect me in the commons? Not really. If you ally this to the fact we have the First Past the Post system in this country, how likely is it that my vote is directly affecting issues based political decisions?

    I feel more and more strongly that the belief in the power of what you can do by voting is a kind of opiate that actually stops many people from doing far more positive, useful things.

    You believe that if you vote, you have a voice, and that voice is listened to, and the people you elect represent you, and I think that’s a great belief to have, but my understanding of how our political system works does not afford me that same belief. If I can be proved wrong, I’d love to hear it, because feeling disenfranchised in a world that keeps telling me how lucky I am to be enfranchised is not something I want.

    I would love to feel enfranchised. I want a political system I believe in. I am not advocating anarchy, but I do not see that my vote actually matters. What I see is that it suits people to believe that it does, and keeps them in a comfortable state of inertia where they think they have done their bit and can do no more. Also it is very handy that politicians can feed you the lie that your vote matters because, rather like 1984, it keeps the proletariat down.

    I just don’t buy it.

  7. Hi Katy
    I do apologise if you took my comment to mean that you’re not entitled to an opinion – of course you are. To put it more clearly, I cannot take as serious the political opinion of someone who refuses to take part in the political process. As an earlier commenter mentioned, 35 per cent of your voting public don’t bother. This is a huge number that could effect change, if it could be bothered.

    Here in Australia we have compulsory voting, and I don’t know if this system works any better. Politics as it exists is flawed. Change for the better should be effected, but when people don’t let their representatives know they believe it’s flawed, nothing gets done.

    I have a great deal of admiration for the work you do as a member of your community and I’m sure you add to it in ways your politician does not. But he or she is unaffected by you because you do not vote or engage with him or her. I guess we have to agree to disagree. I’m voting against my standing member despite the fact he is safe in his seat because I do believe it will send him a message, however small. And I do write to them all, and occasionally get responses, however disappointing they may be.

    I believe in the voice of the people, and I’m sorry you don’t. Keep on expressing your opinions – who knows, some politician might actually read them and take notice!

    • Hi Toni

      No need to apologise. Honestly.

      Yes. I think we will have to agree to disagree. We do write to our MP by the way. Just because I don’t vote doesn’t mean I don’t participate. He’s still my MP for better or worse! X

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