Dusting off the old blog again… always a curiosity to go back to old writings, and I’m pleased to say I’m not altogether ashamed of some of it. But being that I was graciously published by the New Statesman’s election-dedicated subsidiary May2015 last month, I figured I’d give my enterprise a tentative lease of life again.
If you do somehow find yourself reading this and have any kind of interest in UK politics and the upcoming election you should check out May2015.com. Self-serving as I am, why don’t you explore it via the article I wrote, a small impassioned plea to actually get yourself up and go to the polling stations next month. I’m not being airy and idealistic about voting, quite the opposite, as frankly you’re a daft bugger if you can, but don’t. So read. “If you don’t vote, you don’t matter“
More to follow….!?!?!?!?
May2015 appears to have had a hosting issue or two lately, so just in case, here’s the piece:
As we stumble day-by-day towards the 2015 general election, the intensity of analysis and opinion from every conceivable perspective grows. The issues that matter to the people of Britain are made clear via so many polls: priorities crystallise, sentiments entrench, lines are drawn.
It’s all important of course, everything. The NHS, the economy, inequality, education, foreign policy, energy… they all matter. The complication is that they matter in unequal measure when put to one individual or the next. And from the analytical perspective there is no other recourse but to define these groups so as to make sense of it all.
Praise be to the good folk who have done the hard work, the collation and interpretation. Yet what their efforts reveal is the harrowing continuation of an already desperate and unfortunate theme. The “young”, broadly, haven’t got the message. Or perhaps, the young fail to recognise the clean gulf of daylight between their expectations and desires, and the system they’re confronted with.
A fairer voting system makes all the sense in the world. A government that listened to all concerns in fair proportion sounds completely reasonable. Democratic representation outside of the context of elections should matter. Herein is the crux. None of it amounts to a hill of beans.
Hardly a galvanising thought, albeit true. What the young voter needs to understand is that the ideals of politics are removed from reality, the system doesn’t necessarily make sense, doesn’t seem fair and certainly doesn’t appear to serve everyone. So what to do? Disengage? Accept that things are as they are and carry on in the microcosm of your life in hope that the winds of politics don’t inadvertently rattle your tub too much?
Maybe it makes more sense to change the dynamics? Statistics show that increasingly the younger element of society believe more direct forms of democratic expression should count for more. Social media campaigning, petitioning, demonstration. Surely with enough voices singing loud enough no issue can be ignored by the political class? Nope.
The vote is everything, even in a system where the value of the vote seems diminished by structural factors like ‘First Past the Post’. Forget about that. Forget about every one of your electoral gripes. There is only one form of political currency that the people of this country can spend with any hope of true recognition, and that is the vote. The vote is binding. And all the votes together are the sole unimpeachable expression of the people that we have at our disposal.
Ask yourself these things. What did the march of millions achieve before the outbreak of the Iraq War? Nothing. What did the tear-soaked pleas of the deprived and their defenders achieve before the tenets of austerity kicked in four and some years ago? Nothing. What did so much outrage against such deplorable corporate contempt for society achieve? Nothing. I could go on.
This all may seem like fair cause to imagine that your input counts for little, that the greater movements of the world will proceed unabated by your opinion or needs. Well maybe that’s true. No one ever did say life was fair now, did they? You know this, you’ve probably lived it to some extent. But even if so, and I suspect it doesn’t have to be, the correct response to all this is so completely in your hands.
Engage. That’s your responsibility. This is a democracy, the mechanisms are in place. Stop waiting for that political angel to waft down from heaven and deliver the world that appeals to you, figure out what it is that you care about, and fight for it. Above all, vote for it, or near as damned as you can. Make others believe it so they vote for it too. Elder generations and their concerns are paid such deference by our politicians, because they vote. Take the hint.
If every young person of age voted in May, there would be change. Any career politician with two brain cells to rub together would but glance at the demographics and experience a strange and sudden recalibration of focus. All the logic and justice and common sense at your collective disposal, with regard to any issue, doesn’t constitute a moment’s concern in the politician’s mind until they recognise you as an electoral force.
I’m not preaching who you should vote for. And by all means hold your own council in the sophomoric halls, wax lyrical over how the world should be. But my god, never come complaining about politics and governance if you never bothered to hit the polling station. You have no right. You left yourself out of the critical conversation.
It may be that none of what’s been said here sounds right to you, that we should be able to demand the kind of politics, politicians and ideas that we want, up front, so that engagement would seem like a less wasteful thing. I’m sorry to suggest this is entirely not the case, unless you plan on running yourself and setting your own terms. Perhaps it could be, one day, but not yet. The vote comes first.