Vote on May 6th. Or spoil your paper if you want to register a protest. But go to the polling station, stand up and be counted.
There are so many reasons to vote, not least that there has never been a famine in a democracy.Think about that for a moment. Politicians will let you starve if they think they can get away with it. Voting is how we hold them to account. It’s how we keep them running scared, and we only get the chance once every four or five years.
If you don’t want to vote in favour of any party or you have issues with the first-past-the-post system then you can
- Vote against the current government
- Vote against your sitting MP
- Vote for a minority party
- Spoil your paper – the returning officer and the candidates read the spoiled papers
Failing to vote is NOT a criticism of the status quo. Turning up and protesting is just that criticism.
Voting is how we hold politicians to account.
This process of calling them to account is real: do you think the expenses scandal would have had the MPs running scared if we couldn’t hand out P45s come May 6th? Ask Edwina Currie, Neil Hamilton, Norman Lamont, David Mellor, Michael Portillo, Malcolm Rifkind and William Waldegrave whether they felt held to account when they lost their seats in 1997. There’s no clip of Michael Portillo’s defeat on YouTube, so here is Neil Hamilton’s defeat at Tatton:
Democracy is not just good for us, it’s good for the world.
Researching this entry, I came across a second startling observation: Democracies do not fight each other. This being the case, the health of our democracy matters, and in this light it is deeply worrying that turnout has been falling steadily since WWII.
This is a symptom of a lack of engagement with the political process which should worry us all.
Corporate lobbyists and party donors fill the power vacuum left by those who don’t vote.
Voting is the most direct way to undermine that, and lobbying your MP personally is even better. But you are busy, so support campaigning charities and other organisations which lobby for the issues you care about, even if all you do is donate once in a while. Put briefly, governments make bad laws because we let them get away with it.
Voting is a privilege people are still dying to obtain.
The list is a long one, from Emily Davison, the sufragette who flung herself under the horses at the Derby to Neda Agha-Soltan killed in the post-election riots in Iran, and on to the current violence in Sri Lanka. Look up “Election Violence” in Google News.
How privileged are you to live in a country where you have the right to change the government without fearing violence or retribution? How insultingly complacent is it not to exercise that right?
Don’t let them confuse protest with apathy – state your objections to the current system on your ballot paper.
You may prefer a voting system which offers you a ‘none of the above’ option, or some form of transferrable vote or proportional representation. If you are sincere, do the grown-up thing and support the Electoral Reform Society. But don’t assume that a passive-aggressive decision not to vote will be read as a protest. Use your ballot paper to make that protest. The Lib Dems have promoted electoral reform for decades, so you can vote for them or simply spoil your paper by stating your views about electoral reform. Spoiled papers are read by the returning officer and shown to the candidates. Ok, it’s not much of a protest, but spoiling your paper is a true statement of abstention and failing to turn up is not.
If you can’t tell which party best represents you views, take the Political Compass quiz.
Sure, it’s simplistic but it’s also illuminating if you find sound-bite politics confusing. The Political Compass maps parties in terms of the interests of the individual vs the state as well as the familiar left and right axis.
I was fascinated by the chart below which shows why so many Old Labour voters felt entirely disenfranchised by New Labour:
So there you have it. Go and vote on May 6th because it is your chance to hold the bleepers to account and because it changes things. Democracy is good for people and good for the world, it is precious. And finally, the right to vote is not just a significant privilege, it is also a duty.
A swift note on the Wikipedia links: Yes I know that Wikipedia entries are not authoritative enough to support the points I am making. But they’re informative and fairly neutral: I assume you are sufficiently resourceful to do your own digging and sufficiently intelligent to make up your own mind based on what you find.