Political pundit Iain Dale is pissed off that some people don’t vote. In his “Attitude Column”, the LBC-loudmouth proclaims:
In all likelihood half of you reading this article won’t be bothered to get off your pert little arses and go down to the polling stations on 7th May. And yet you are happy to take part in votes to decide who wins the X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent.
Arrogant arseholes suffer a tendency to equate not voting with voter apathy. In an otherwise sensible article in the Daily Telegraph, James Kirkup argues:
If young people are stupid enough not to vote, stupid enough to listen to a rambling millionaire idiot like Russell Brand who tells them to squander their democratic rights, then they deserved to be shafted by the system. Democracy is a game like any other, kids: if you don’t play, you can’t win.
As middle-age approaches with increased velocity I certainly can’t be accused of being a kid, though I have been accused of behaving like one. But insulting young voters won’t do much to encourage them to participate.
As for the blackmailing bollocks about people laying down their lives so I can vote … Yawn. Surely, the freedom defended is the ability for me to exercise my right to vote. Subtly, yet significantly, different from a compulsion to vote. As with the idea of ID cards, such a view inverts my, albeit woolly, belief that we the people are the source of political authority and legitimacy. Legislators should be holding power to account on our behalf.
Perhaps I should have titled this short blog ” Why I am bothered not to vote”?
Along with young people, I embrace certain social media, such as twitter and e-petitions, to engage with and vent my spleen about the political issues which exercise my increasingly addled brain. Action from below, for want of a better phrase, to my mind allows for more direct political participation than the traditional means of the ballot box.
Holding power to account, notably highlighting the corruption, criminality and incompetence practiced by our cherished corporate and national institutions in the face of a collective historical amnesia, led to me write the Londonlowlife blog. Agree or disagree with me. Don’t accuse me of being apathetic.
Not that I haven’t voted before. My vote was cast for the Tories in the elections of 1997, 2001 and 2005. 2010 marked the first occasion that I didn’t bother to vote. Yes, I was apathetic. 2010 marked the year I stupidly walked away from the contest to secure a full-time teaching post in academia. 2010 also marked the year I started drinking again.
Back in May 2010, I walked past the surprisingly long queue outside the polling station on election day. Besides, I was late for an appointment with one of my barmaid’s to practice her French on me. Shallow? Yes, but she’d just turned twenty and is twelve years my junior. And Philip Hammond, current Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, was duly returned to parliament with 55.9% of the vote (66.45% turnout); a majority of 16,509 votes.
Five years on, who to vote for? Having turned my back on the benefits of experiencing a conventional middle-class up-bringing, some assume I vote Green. The Green’s policy to return utilities, public goods, to public ownership shames “Labour”. I also have long hair and am believed to be fond of the occasional Jamaican cigar. But I’m open-minded about fracking, believe the UK should be expanding its nuclear power energy base, support Trident, and am rather fond of losing money on national hunt racing.
“Labour” is a joke. As with the Lib Dems and Tories, finishing schools for graduate political researchers and policy wonks. Retirement paid by the revolving door post-parliamentary consultancy. Similar sacred truths uttered to camera. BBC Question Time is only for me if someone of the standing of a Galloway or a Starkey is speaking.
The bien pensant priggishness of Labour and the Lib Dems brings out my inner Farage, while their view of the EU remains too rosy. As for the constitutional complications resulting from a minority Labour administration propped-up by the SNP? And so to the Scot Nationalists. Without doubting the good intentions of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, they tap into a visceral, tribal instinct at which UKIP too is clever at evoking. Nigel Farage? I’d gladly have a pint with him, but his team and supporters attract the fascists in suits.
Where to but the Tories? No Monster Raving Loonies down here in Runnymede & Weybridge. Besides, a blue rosette stuck to the Smirnoff I’m supping would lead to this bottle’s election if standing for parliament where I live.
The sidelining of Damian Green and Ken Clarke is a measure of the dangerous drift which the Tory party has taken. EU reform is imperative, CAP must be scrapped, yet it is sheer madness for Britain to walk away from the EU without a fight.
On the subject of economics, the Conservative-Liberal coalition is probably the government best-placed to tackle Britain’s deficit with a degree of honesty. Yet, to use a bullshit-bingo phrase beloved of public office scriptwriters, no “lessons have been learned” about the structural instability of unregulated free-market capitalism.
Though the Tories are quite happy to permit the restrictive practices of robber barons such as Enterprise Inns and Punch Taverns, the property giants and racketeers committed to the destruction of the local pub.
But you don’t just vote for the party, you vote for the person. What about Philip Hammond? Philip Hammond may be said to honestly represent the will of this slice of stockbroker Surrey, but he’s not for me. Philip “no votes in defence” Hammond offends my inner right-winger, especially in the face of Comrade Putin’s war-games in Eastern Europe.
Philip Hammond also offends my inner libertarian. My MP abstained in the vote for gay marriage, trotting out the well-worn line that civil partnerships made gay marriage redundant. Squabbles over the meaning of marriage aside, Philip Hammond also abstained in the vote to introduce civil partnerships. My suspicion as to some of Hammond’s views is increased by the knowledge that he voted against equalizing the age of consent and against the repeal of the repellent Section 28.
As one of Britain’s downwardly-mobile men employed in a non-skilled low-paid job , I remain to be convinced as to how my participation in elections “count”. I’ll carry on blogging, twattering and signing petitions. But to those who chide “if you don’t vote, you don’t have a say”, you’re fucking deluded if you think anyone is listening.
- Iain Dale, “Attitude Column: Get Off Your Pert Little Arse/Big Fat Arse and Vote!”, http://www.iaindale.com/posts/2015/04/19/attitude-column-get-off-your-pert-little-arse-big-fat-arse-and-vote
- George Eaton, “Philip Hammond taken to task over his Gay Rights Record”, New Statesman, 17 May 2013, http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/05/philip-hammond-taken-task-over-anti-gay-rights-record
- Isabel Hardman, “Even if there are ‘no Votes’ in Defence, Cameron must be aware of Mutiny in his Party”, Spectator, 5 March 2015, http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2015/03/even-if-there-are-no-votes-in-defence-cameron-must-beware-of-mutiny-in-his-party/
- James Kirkup, “Nobody, not even even stupid young people, should be Forced to Vote”, Daily Telegraph, 14 January 2015, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/general-election-2015/11343617/Nobody-not-even-stupid-young-people-should-be-forced-to-vote.html
- Eleanor Muffitt, “Young People Don’t Vote because Politics is Stupid, Not Us”, Daily Telegraph, 15 January 2015, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/general-election-2015/11346325/Young-people-dont-vote-because-politics-is-stupid-not-us.html
- “Pubs & Pubmen: Watered Down”, Private Eye, no. 1388, 20 March-2 April 2015