Why Voting (and Politics) Still Matters

by Charlie_East_West on April 21, 2015

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I love politics. I still cling to a rather desparate idealistic belief that politics matters and that politics can change people’s lives for the better. I also believe that whoever can vote, should vote. It is our hard fought democratic right. For all the issues presenting themselves in this shabby little island of ours, we at least, still have the right to vote. Voting matters. It is our only chance to collectively kick out an organisation or an individual that we do not like and hope to replace them with an organisation or an individual that offers a smidgeon more hope for a better future. Not voting means losing your own legitimate right to complain.

But, like many others, my patience with politics has been severely tested over recent history. Many parts of the country have been abandoned from the political process as successive Governments have fed the public successive forms of neoliberal policy which have marginalised many areas across the UK. We have been feeding off rigid lines of a conventional system of politics that forces the electorate to opt out of politics and even worse, give up. Politics has become less about passionate discourse and the battle of ideas and ideologies, and more about rhetorical meaningless soundbites, spin and ultimately – public apathy.

Recently however, parts of the country have woke up from their political slumber. In particular, Scotland. In the 2010 General Election, every single Scottish seat remained the same. But then the independence debate happened. Scotland became politically engaged in huge numbers both in terms of activation and voter participation.

The defeat of the Yes campaign could have seen independence campaigners and supporters crawl back into the shadows, utterly demoralised and defeated. Instead, the independence campaign is now seen as the starting point towards highly maintained levels of political activation to the point of peaceful revolution North of the Border. The SNP are the main beneficiaries of this, and are currently experiencing one of the most significant surges ever witnessed in British politics. A Scottish Spring. A Scottish Syriza. Ideals based not just around self determination for a nation, but a movement towards progressive change through anti-austerity, anti-Nuclear weapons, Pro-public services.

Scotland has provided the rest of the UK with a people-based movement towards progressive change. Also, it is providing a welcome and refreshing template for political activity in the mechanisms of old school campaigning. Town hall debates, regular hustings, rallies – all the things that modern politics appears to shy away from have become retro-fashionable in Scotland.

There is always a catalyst for change. It normally blindsides people to the point where the need for change and action for change seems to occur naturally. In the case of Scotland, this occurred in the Autumn of 2014, but will it ever occur in the rest of the UK? Or will we continually sleepwalk towards yet another pro big business, pro foreign interventionalism, pro austerity, pro free market, anti-progressive administration?

For any real change to occur, the electorate must scrutinise better and become more politically aware. If we want to create something more accountable, progressive and better, we must make it absolutely clear that we are not going to accept the status quo of bad politics. For instance, not accepting poor answers, taking too many expenses, short term simple solutions, tribal points scoring, lack of negotiation with other parties, petty squabbling, undemocratic abuses to the political process, self serving vested interests and panic thinking. We have to keep learning, reading, asking, talking, scrutinising and then continually repeat the process until we get politicians and political parties who do what they are supposed to be do – namely, be paid by the people to serve by the people.

We also have to trust our own judgements. I have heard too many people stating that they will either vote tactically or vote for the party that is most likely to win in May. Call me an old fashioned idealist, but I find that rather dispiriting. On May 7th, we must vote confidently with our heart for whoever comes closest to representing own own individual set of beliefs. If that leads to a confusing mess of an election outcome on May 8th, then so be it.

I, like millions of other people on May 7th will vote, regardless of the apathy. But, I have reminded myself not just to vote, but to remain politically engaged, because that is what the likes of the Tories hate – a politically educated, critical thinking electorate.

Voting along old tribal lines, fear, ignorance or indeed, to avoid a wasted vote (no vote is ever wasted) is exactly what the political establishment want us to do. It protects their own power. As Scotland is about to teach us, voting to create real change, and voting with the heart scares the living daylights out of the tired old elite, because they know that fundamentally, if their attempts to tell us to know our place have failed, then they are likely to be removed from the thing they cherish the most – power. But, we also must learn to teach ourselves that we can only really do something to create change by engaging with the political process and then vote in accordance to what we actually believe in.

I love politics. I got interested in politics when I was a teenager, as an anger fuelled reaction to Thatcherism. So I started reading about it. I started talking about it. I started boring the arse off people about it. But, because of all of that, I voted with a reasonably strong set of beliefs. I knew what I wanted. I knew what I didn’t want.

Please vote on May 7th. You may not get what you want, but every vote matters…as does politics.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

George_East April 21, 2015 at 2:43 pm

Yeah – fuck Russell Brand.

Reply

Charlie_East_West April 21, 2015 at 2:55 pm

Exactly. His world view is ultimately defeatist. No votes = No change.

Reply

George_East April 21, 2015 at 4:39 pm

His world view is ultimately a function of him being a multi-millionaire who is unaffected by anything government does. It’s all a game.

Reply

Fionauk512 April 21, 2015 at 8:06 pm

What are your views on vote swaps between Labour and Greens, in a bid to make votes count? Such as……

http://voteswap.org

Reply

George_East April 22, 2015 at 7:45 am

Yes I say. Most important thing is getting rid of this government. We are not all in agreement about these things though.

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