JUST VOTE! – THE ARGUMENTS FOR MAKING YOUR MARK IN THE 2010 GENERAL ELECTION
Below is a rant about the reasons to vote…but if you just need help to make up your mind, then perhaps these resources will help you:
The BBC’s parties and issues pages – gives an overview of the main parties and what they stand for
www.whoshouldyouvotefor.com – take a quiz that will tell you what your political leanings are!
Find your candidates – www.politics.co.uk lets you search for your constituency and find who is standing and the stats on previous election results
UK polling report – find the latest poll information for your area
With the election just around the corner, I remain to be amazed by the number of people who tell me they are not going to vote, or someone they know is not going to vote.
I am sure everyone is almost at the end of their tether with politics – this election has been more in your face than perhaps any other I can remember. And, as the polling day comes closer and the polls keep making the outcome more unpredictable, the parties are getting desperate to be the one to stick in your mind when you come to make a cross in a box on Thursday.
So what is it all about? Why bother to get up of the sofa and vote at all? Is there a point to voting and if you think they are all scum- why should any get your vote? Even if you do decide to vote, then it’s not going to make a difference.
I have been on my high horse about this for a month or more, trying to convert the non-voting fraternity into coming out and putting their money where there mouth is. In fact, putting their money where there mouth isn’t – because no vote means no say. With election day upon us in under 24 hours, I attempt here to sway any reader who is considering exercising their most futile democratic right – not to vote.
THE “HISTORY DICTATES YOU SHOULD” ARGUMENT
The history of Parliament is a long one, the origins in this country run back 1000 years or more and for the world as a whole, democratic ruling systems are numerous and ancient. In Britain, parliament established itself to give the general population a stake in decisions that affected them to balance out the pure will of the monarch. The ‘Glorious Revolution’ in 1688 led to the establishment of a constitutional monarchy and the main control of the state turned to the elected government. For less than 400 years we have had the right to choose who governs us based upon their values and policies. A generation is generally considered to be around 20 years, meaning 20 generations have had this right. Only 20 generations! That’s nothing in the history of humanity. Just 20 of your relations have lived in a democracy in Britain rather than a dictatorship.
REASON 1 – People living 20 generations ago had no right to have a say in how they were governed, and as such, were at the mercy of a monarch. Not voting puts you in the same position as those people – being dictated to and at the mercy of a ruler you have no say in or influence over. You are effectlivly electing to live in a dictatorship.
THE “PEOPLE HAVE DIED FOR YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE” ARGUMENT
Perhaps the most worn argument is the “millions have died to give us the right to vote”. Of course this is true and I suspect many people dismiss it as it is a bit of a sensationalist argument – because it is! If people die for your freedoms, then you owe it to them to vote. It is a cliche, but there is undeniably an element of truth in that. What is the point in us standing up for what we believe in, through World Wars and terrible suffering, if we then revoke our ability to have a say.
However, I think more powerful is the right of women to vote. It was only in 1928 that women were granted the right to vote on the same terms as men. My nan lived at a time when women had less say in how they were governed than men. For only 82 years have we as a country had a full and equitable say in how we will be run. This time frame is too short to betray by a non vote.
REASON 2 – I am not sure there is a more powerful argument as to why we should vote than this. Everyone knows the suffragette’s story and I will not regurgitate it here. Needless to say, the fact it took until 1928 must be one of the biggest disgraces in our recent history. To not vote is most certainly an insult to the suffragettes.
THE “YOU CAN’T COMPLAIN IF YOU DON’T VOTE” ARGUMENT
I sincerely believe that by not voting you have no right to complain, for the length of that parliament, at how the country is being run. If you opt out of being a part of that decision, then you effectively opt out of the right to moan. The vote is one of the most powerful tools in our democratic arsenal to have a stake in the laws that will be passed and the decisions that will be made. Granted there are probably some exceptions to this rule, but I think they are few. One I can think of is if you live outside of society, independent and of your own means – then you earn the right. You do not participate, impinge on or affect the system you would be voting in.
There must be other examples too, but generally speaking, if you participate in society (by that I mean – the welfare state, state provided services like refuse collection, health and policing, paying taxes and receiving benefits, using subsidised services of any kind etc) then like it or not, you are buying into the system. We all have the power to step outside the system – live outside it either by the way we conduct our life or by moving to another country. Other than that, whether from choice or necessity, you are part of it. If you are part of it, you should express your view as to how it should be run, it is your responsibility as a cog in that machine. What is more – then you can begin the joy or criticising it. You have your stake and therefore earned your right to a say in what is done.
REASON 3 – If you participate in society, it is deeply hypocritical to not exercise your ability to say how it is run. Like it or not, we are all part of it and so all partly responsible. Voting enables you to have some influence, no matter how small. If you haven’t stuck your head above the parapet and voted for someone, then what gives you the right to criticise any of them?
THE “MY VOTE DOESN’T COUNT” ARGUMENT
Everyone’s vote counts. Stating that a vote makes no difference is literally nonsense. Of course, you are 1 in 46 million registered voters, but that is still a part. Any colony based life form relies on its population all playing a part in the whole. Strength literally is in numbers. Look at the turn out and at the last election, 61.28% of registered voters actually bothered. Suddenly you are 1 in 28,188,800. These numbers are not huge – Labour got a bit over 9 1/2 million of the popular vote in 2005. If another few million people bothered to have their say across the country, the face of politics as we know could be utterly different. Just think, if the electoral turn out could get up to 70% then that would be not far off 5 million more votes being cast. As it stands, four people in every ten that you walk past in the street are not going to express a view. What does that say about us as a whole?
I guess the question I ask myself, is do those 4 out of 10 really have just cause and reason not to vote? Do they have a sound argument to back up their decision? If 4 in 10 bees in a hive stopped bothering to participate – the colony would soon collapse around itself.
REASON 4 – Whilst you are literally 1 in 28 million, you are still part of that equation. Cliche’s are both frustrating, but also true – where would we be if everyone decided not to bother? Currently 40% of us choose not to bother and that is a frighteningly large percentage. 8,250,000 people bothered to vote in the last series of Fame Academy – that’s about a third of the number who vote in elections, which is, frankly, a pathetic statistic. Fame Academy is literally insignificant. Who rules our country is not.
It is percentages like that which allow extremest to get into power.
THE “NONE OF THEM REPRESENT MY VIEWS” ARGUMENT
The other point that non-voters often make is that none of the parties represent their views, so there is no point in voting for any of them. To this, I would suggest that view is slightly ignorant. Where in the world is there someone else, let alone a group of people, that you agree with entirely? Diversity is what makes our society so interesting, productive and successful. For a democratic system to work, political parties have to appeal to a large number of people, and, as such, it is highly unlikely and extremely unrealistic that one person will agree with every aspect of their manifesto. If parties did not work in this way, then we would have hundreds of independent MP’s and no decisions would ever be made. Unfortunately, having to appeal to several millions of people is the price you have to pay for the system of government we have adopted.
However, given the fact that you get one vote to state who you think is best disposed to make decisions on your behalf for the coming 5 years, is it really true that not one party or individual is even slightly better than the others? Even if you don’t really like any of the candidates there isn’t one that is slightly less hateful than the others and therefore better to have in place than another? After all, one of them will be elected and by not voting you are having no influence or say over that.
REASON 5 – Wouldn’t you prefer to have the person who is slightly less shit than the others in power, rather than the really shitty one? Your taxes are going to help towards their 60 odd grand a year as it is, so you may as well decide who is most worthy of your hard earned cash!
IT MATTERS MORE THAT YOU DO…
Look, I think that is enough banging on about this. You are bored, I am bored and you know I am right! Above are 5 reasons against 5 of the main arguments why it is worth your while taking 5 minutes out of your day tomorrow to have a say. Love it or hate it, this is the system we have and you really should be a part of the decision making it. If you truly do not believe in any party, person or system – then go and spoil your ballot paper. Those are counted up and still count as a statement if enough are spoiled. Better still, have a vote and then stand for election yourself next time and see how many people agree with you.
One of the biggest debates in this election campaign is over whether to have a discussion and possible referendum on the political system we have. That is a massive opportunity to affect the power of your vote – read up about what a system like proportional representation would have on Britain before you make your final decision. For a quick way to illustrate the point, play with the BBC’s Election 2010 seat calculator. Check out the percentage of the vote the Liberal Democrats would need to get a majority government!
How can you not be excited about an election? It gets everyone talking and debating the issues that count. This year, I have seen more personal messages and views in people’s windows than ever before – and that is a good thing. Just ask anyone from a repressed political state who faces imprisonment for expressing their political leanings.
Before you say it, I know all these arguments are very basic and life is more complicated than I have stated above. I know my arguments are simplistic and probably riddled with inaccuracy and contradiction. I know there are millions of counter arguments to be made. But shit, for the first time in a long while, the dissolution with politicians is really in the fore front of the public mind, and this election is your chance to comment on that. Do not waste your chunk of power to have a say – get out there tomorrow and make your mark.
Remember – it matters more you do than for who (unless it is for the Tory’s of course!!!).
P.S – I promise this is my last political post for a while 😉 Normal fun living service to resume imminently