Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Has Anyone Seen My Vote?

After reading Rachel's post  a couple of weeks ago, my mind has been buzzing with questions: If you don’t vote, should you have less rights? Is it possible to be an active citizen and not care who runs the country? I know plenty of politically disillusioned social workers, for example, who make a significant contribution to their society. Surely, change and participation can be measured in a number of ways? Thus, can complacency be reduced to a mark on a ballot paper? To vote or not to vote, that is certainly the question.

Quite honestly, I'll be glad when this election is over. Standing by hopelessly, as the UK's Prime Minister hopefuls attempt to bewitch us with elaborate, alas empty promises of progressive reform and future prosperity, plagues me with a host of political anxieties. It's not so much that all three candidates, in my opinion, are grossly unworthy of leading our country. It's the clatter of boring policy, which the cynical amongst us might argue pimps out limited solutions to increasingly complex and over-sensationalised issues. Not to mention purposely complicating the political process to avoid accountability for failed policies three months down the line. Not me of course. I see it more like an esoteric power struggle within a masonic minority, show-cased by a geeky media. Trying to watch televised debates, or inform myself through the press plunges me into a state of comotosis, from which I emerge confused and frustrated. There simply is no substitute for ideology.

Perhaps this small discomfort is the least I can do as a responsible citizen? Surely, it is our duty to all those who sacrificed themselves to universalise the vote, to exercise it? But I can’t help but feel this perspective is a little short sighted. After all, the Suffrage movement, and others to which we are all so indebted fought for the vote to challenge non-representation and have a voice, nothing less. But can we honestly say that the vote holds the same value today?

Our apathy is not so much with the quality of candidacy, but with the government itself. After all, the vote is only a means to an end. And this particular end, as the multitude expense scandals, lies and unjustifiable wars demonstrate, is in dire need of change. From this perspective voting is arguably propping up an institution that is simultaneously self-serving, contemptuous and ultimately powerless to respond to the poverty, insecurity and fear crippling our world at the hands of insalubrious multinational companies in blind pursuit of profit.

So as E Day dawns upon us, I have to ask: Why should we vote?


  1. Rachel Surtees4 May 2010 at 20:40

    Thought provoking piece, but I must say I disagree on a number of fronts.

    The level of disillusionment that has accompanied this year's election is in some ways understandable, justifiable, but the thing that always occurs to me in election years is just how quickly we forget, and how easily we are willing to cast aside our own personal sense of responsibility.

    When people talk about 13 years of bad Labour I wonder just what it is that they're referring to. Perhaps it the better schools and vastly improved NHS, then again it might be the lower rates of unemployment or the introduction of the minimum wage. Votes cast over the last decade and a half have brought about really and tangible change.

    And as for the illegal wars. Of course we shouldn't have gone, of course there's anger, but let's not forget that at every single public poll, the majority of people in this country were in favour of going to war. Every single one.

    Banks taking the piss, financial woes, expenses scandal. Terrible I know but in all honesty not too out of sync with the spirit in which we were all living wasn't it? We had a decade of plenty and extravagance - knowing that we couldn't quite afford to. We asked for it, lived it and now we're paying for it - politicians and politics can't be expected to shoulder all of the blame for that one.

    I'm certainly not trying to pretend that Labour are faultless - not at all compare the UK to the rest of the world, we're not doing so badly are we?

    I do agree that it's incredibily sad how little ideology has been spoken about throughout the campaign. But perhaps elections aren't the time for that? Policy is a way for otherwise disinterested people to understand a party's ideology, it's something tangible, or at least it certainly should be.

    I do understand that some people are so deeply disillusioned that they feel unable to support any one party to govern us. But that still isn't a reason not to vote. To spoil a ballot paper is one way to demonstrate anger and a demand for electoral and institutional reform, not to turn up at all is to claim that the dog ate your ballot paper.

    I could go on and on, but I'll curb myself and leave you with final reasons why you should vote:

    1) making your voice heard is as much about keeping someone out as it is about getting someone in. The BNP continues to gain in strength and apparent legitimacy, by voting for anyone but them you will help to keep them out of Westminster.

    2) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BA2Jz7xIXw

    I do hope you're convinced.

    Happy voting!!

  2. I hope you're playing devil's advocate here Candice, but if not, consider this:
    I have immense sympathy for those Germans who voted and acted against the rise of Nazism in their country in the 1930s. Against their wills they were plunged into a devastating war, and were forever tainted by their association with one of the most shameful periods in world history.
    For those who did not bother to vote or act, their apathy and indecision were complicit in the Nazis rise to power and the resulting deaths of millions of people.
    I agree with Rachel on this - we may not have our ideal selection but it has always been this way - the value of our vote is no less than in the days when the parties were polarised between wealthy and workers (perhaps it is an indication that our society has become more equal that the parties are harder to tell apart now?) because we must use it as much to vote against what we don't want as to vote for what we do.
    So all you Undecided or Inactive out there, please, go and vote - and if you don't, don't come crying to me when the country goes down the tubes ;)!