Thursday, 10 September 2009

Apathy in the UK

Some things I've heard lately have got me thinking, the ridiculous things people say compared to their actions. What really got me thinking is the elections in the middle east and the huge civil unrest that goes with them, we have people that have waited their entire lives for the opportunity to vote and are prepared to die for that right, some, on the other hand, are prepared to kill for that right. So what do we give in return for our right to vote? Some grumbling about having to get on the electoral register then a handful of people go the whole hog and bother to vote.
Iraqis queing to vote, guarded by armed police
Many people seem to believe that joining facebook groups is in some way as effective as casting an actual physical vote, take for example the huge number of people who joined the group "1,000,000 United Against the BNP". I personally know at least eight people who joined that group and did not go on to vote in the local and European elections, of those eight people I think that three of them constantly reposted the group on their wall and constantly invitied friends to join. Excuses ranged from "I went to the wrong polling station" "I didnt register" and "I forgot"... then the BNP got two seats and every last one of them complained, unfortunately they were democratically elected in free and fair elections and are now entitled to all of the media attention (re: question time debate) and participation in mainstream debate as the other parties.
In 2005 (the last general election in case you cant remember) the turnout was 61% and that was pushed up by the huge backlash against the Iraq war, the 2001 election saw a 59% turnout. However, this is comparatively low for the UK when every election until and including 1997 saw a turnout above 70%, most surpassed 75%. A number of reasons could be blamed for a decline in voter turnout, one possibility is that people are satisfied with their lives and believe that govenrment is functioning and will continue to function correctly regarless of the political powers. However, a more likely reason is the realignment of the main parties has left voters alienated from their traditional political bases believing that "their party" does not represent their interests anymore and that voting has no real effect since the party policy is very similar on both sides. It is a similar story in the United states where turnout between 1972 and 2004 was consistently in the low-mid 50s percentage-wise.
Many people see politics as ineffectual due to the way it is portrayed in the media, all that ever seems to happen is that the two main parties disagree with eachother, the opposition suggests that they would do things differently, criticising the status quo but never suggesting any real alternative. This is usually passed off with the usual rhetoric during party conference time when everyone waits till the last minute then hashes together proposals and manifestos, "now is the time for change", "Britain deserves better" or "I wouldn't let them run a bath" all the usual sloganeering... Worst of all is when two parties come up with the same big idea all hell breaks loose, everyone tries to claim they came up with it first and that is absolute proof that the other party has no policies. It's constant fistycuffs at dawn and when parties aren't bickering with eachother they are bickering with themselves making the whole process of government even more ineffectual, we saw it in the 80s with labour and we saw it in the 2000s with the Conservatives, and we have spent the last year watching Labour almost implode because of even more infighting.
In short, people dont want to vote because they believe it makes no difference, but it does, regardless of how petty and ineffectual parliament may appear it is the decision centre of the UK, the whole process of government affects not just the UK but world interests and we have a duty to partake in that, not just by voting but making greater demands upon our elected representatives. Remember an MP is there to serve all of his/her constituents not just the ones voting for them, and that is where our political power lies.
Unless you are unlucky enough to have a minister or shadow minister for an MP, in which case you are fucked...


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