Voter Apathy

One of the things that constantly troubles me about British politics is the level of voter apathy. Low turnouts are expected norms. One thing that the US presidential election did achieve was a record turnout – and I’d love to know how we can achieve that here. We often hear people here complaining about our government and our politicians, so why do so few of us care enough to turn out and vote? I do think many people here are cynical about politics and politicians. They are characterised as “all the same” and “never keep their promises”. An initiative has been launched ‘Power – an independent inquiry into Britain’s democracy’ (chaired by Helena Kennedy QC). As a LibDem, I’ll venture one suggestion. The crazy, outdated first past the post electoral system we cling to leaves millions of Britons feeling disenfranchised because they live in so-called “safe seats”. Why go out and vote if you live in a constituency where the same party always wins? The Jenkins Commision found that our current system is grossly unfair and it is time for a change. Tony Blair let that report gather dust – perhaps he feels his commons majority isn’t big enough?

3 thoughts on “Voter Apathy”

  1. An open letter to the British People
    From an American Citizen

    Dear British People,

    I am compelled to write you after hearing on the radio of the families of Scottish soldiers and others protesting your involvement in the Iraq war. This is not the first thing which has disturbed me, but the final thing which has motivated me to write you. One of your towns wrote one of ours during the election, so since we are establishing a dialogue I thought I’d set electron to screen because, well, I have something I would like to say. I don’t know who, if anyone will read these words but I must pen them even if I am only writing to myself. If I err in some factual way in my perception of you or your points of view, then I apologize in advance. I may have misperceptions of you, just as I believe that you have misperceptions of us. It is a wide water which separates us, though until recently I have thought that our minds met far more closely than distance would suggest.

    I am an ordinary American. I am not wealthy, powerful, or highly educated. Whatever I know and who I am is what I have taught myself to know and to be. But as such, I know that what I know and feel is shared by millions of my countrymen and women. I am one of those “dumb? 59 million Americans who voted for George Bush and a Democrat as well. If you don’t have an agenda then you will be pleased to learn that we are not quite the unwashed heathen fools that your left wing press has led you to believe. You, my gentle British Citizens are the victims of a distorted, arrogant, overeducated, and under common-sensed, press which has turned idealism and progressiveness into a dogma that they try to hang around your neck every day of the week. They have forgotten the meaning of balance and common sense. They have a strangle hold on your consciousness. How do I know? We have the same thing over here. But we are fighting back. We have created new outlets that reflect OUR values and points of view, and they grow and flourish (Fox News being in the Vanguard). No longer are we at the mercy of the lies, distortions, and political correctness which have been crammed down our throats for the last thirty years. When I look to the TV for news and analysis, I and millions of my fellow citizens can now listen to people who don’t skew their commentary to a political or personal agenda. We now have news outlets which inform us as to what is really going on (as much as it can be known) behind the scenes and under the covers of politics. There are now plain spoken commentators who, without pretense, inform us instead of trying to ‘mold’ us. What a vast relief! It is a kind of Revolution going on here, one that is long overdue. The reelection of George Bush is not a fluke. It is part of a growing awakening or rediscovery of what and who we are as Americans. The silent majority is waking up and discovering that we have power. Power to think and feel what we want to think and feel. To do the shaping instead of being shaped by a small, self-elected, self important, self deluded elite. The back of the left wing media monopoly is broken here and it will never again be able to exert the power over our minds that it has in the past. Take a moment to roll that over in your mind because it’s a god-honest fact. I just thought you should know since the world seems to be rather concerned about political realities here in the US. It is also fitting that an ordinary, unimportant guy such as myself should be one of the humble proponents of this message. The whole, spontaneous event is made up of millions of people very much like me.

    We are all spiritual beings, no? I do not attend church nor am I interested in doing so. Yet I have a very spiritual view of life. There are also millions of Americans just like me with parents who attended church regularly, but whose children have taken a more expansive view of spirituality. Also, all these so-called evangelicals who reportedly gave the election to Bush are not as prevalent as the press would have you believe in order to shock your secular sensibilities. The press has parodied these religious people in order to shrink and turn them into a caricature. I can tell you that if you met these people you would like them a lot. They are not one dimensional. They are complex humans just like you and I. Everyone must find a spiritual core or they WILL become a caricature and do stupid, evil things- that’s just the way it is. These people have found the goodness inside themselves in their own way and I honor them for it.

    Now, I would like to set you straight about George W. Bush. How can anyone know the truth about the man with the kind of press coverage he gets in England and the rest of Europe? He gets nothing but negative coverage here among the old guard press as well. But we (all us dumb people) know some things that you are not allowed to see. I guess everyone needs someone to look down upon and he does fit all too nicely into those cowboy stereotypes that you guys get from our movies but you know what they say about something that works too easily… It probably ain’t so. And guess what? It ain’t so! So, what do we know that everyone else is missing? George Bush has heart and he has backbone! He’s not dumb either and that is an easy, cheap shot. Well, so what you say. Everyone has heart and will in some way or another, except of course politicians. But George Bush has the heart of a Lion! I have seen it with my own eyes. When he takes a fireman by the shoulders and looks into his eyes you won’t find any politicians crocodile smile there. When he hugs a little girl to his breast whose mother has been slaughtered by terrorist filth he’s not playing for the cameras. He feels. He really feels. Just go ahead and try to tell me that’s something small. When he says he is going to do something, well, by God he goes ahead and does it! That’s something we like here. We like it a lot. We are sick and tired of politicians who blow in the wind (and the polls) without a moral compass or a fundamental core. Like John Kerry, for example! Nobody knew what Kerry stood for… Because he wouldn’t say! Kerry is an effete, opportunistic, cold blooded politician who in the final analysis stood for nothing but John Kerry. That’s why he lost, if you would like to know. Most of the votes he got were simply votes ‘against’ Bush! Yes, George Bush made mistakes. He didn’t properly prepare for the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq. Many people continue repeating that there were no weapons of mass destruction and that he lied. Well, here is a news flash. He did not lie. He had an intelligence failure. There is a difference. Everyone around the world thought Saddam had W.M.D. including your own intelligence service for chrissake. Try to tell five thousand murdered Kurds that he did not have W.M.D. … oops; you can’t because they are all gassed dead. George Bush took us into to Iraq to defend this country and to protect us- the American people, and he did it without the permission of the French. That is another big reason why we like him. George Bush has failings, just like us, just like us all. But we forgive those shortcomings- to a point, because George Bush is one of us and we love him. George Bush does what he believes needs to be done not what is expedient. Then he stands up, takes the criticism and does not waver. It’s called leadership, and it’s something that’s sorely lacking in most politicians. It would seem that your Mr. Blair also has more than an average dose of true grit himself. There is truth and eloquence in Blair’s words and we see him as a visionary and equal- not a poodle! (or even a Cocker Spaniel ;

  2. There’s no accountability, Steve.

    Nobody’s held to account: inquiries that are launched are … shams; they mislead without consequences – we’re supposed to be politician’s bosses, but if you or I mislead our bosses the way they mislead us, we’d be out on our arses with a charge of gross misconduct – politicians twist and turn, and spin their lies, and they know that nobody’s going to touch them.

    Proportional Representation might make them less untouchable in this respect, but there’s a whole lot more that needs to be done than that: the system is corrupt from the inside: politicians are too free to do as they please, or as their corporate backers please – democracy is a charade, where they tell people what they want to hear to get into power and then do as they please: they’re con-artists.

    Why the hell would anyone but the most naive idealist, conceivably have any enthusiasm for such an obviously unhonourable, self-serving and duplicitous machine as Parliament.

    It doesn’t matter if there are a few good MPs amongst the bastards – the system doesn’t keep the bastards in check.

    Election is a ticket to rule, not represent, and until that is addressed (and it won’t be from within, let’s face it) a pox on Parliament, and all it’s syphilitic works.

    And, if I can speak frankly (er … yeah, I think I was already, too) we need reformists with fire in their bellies, not the ineffectuals that would appear to be the Lib Dems in the house.

    I don’t think it’s that there’s voter apathy as much as voter distrust, disillusionment and, in some cases, disgust.

    PR would be the merest toe-touch of the first step of a journey of many miles of reform that’ll be needed.

    Personally I predict riots in the streets before Parliament will ever allow itself to be reformed in any meaningful way that takes away the largely unfettered power that a party in power has. There are just too many reasons for an incumbent government to keep the status quo, or increase their power over the populace.

    (ID cards, and the associated databases, anyone?)

  3. But why should I vote?

    I’m a voter who has lost the belief and confidence in our system of government, a system that speaks of equality and free choice and yet has in my eyes treated certain members of society with greater respect than the rest of us.

    If you earn over 100k a year, then you have done very nicely out of New Labour. The following are but a few.

    NHS consultants
    Judges
    MP’s
    Senior members of the armed forces
    Senior members of the Police
    Royal Family
    The super rich

    (Can we see a pattern forming here?)

    They are all members of the top one percent of society. Now I wouldn’t blame you for thinking I disliked people who have been successful in their lives. Of course you would be wrong. I don’t have a problem with anyone who has been successful, I just wish we could all share in their success. (You know the freedom and equality that our Prime Minister so often talks about but sadly as yet has failed to deliver?).

    No, what really angers me is when I work the skin off my backside and have pay into a system that is rigged to support those in the above list, at the expense of the rest.

    When I’m told that I may have to work in to my seventies in order to get a pension, due to the incompetence of Parliament and its members, regardless of party name or colour that they hide behind (at the end of the day their all members of the same club are they not?

    When I’m told that things can only get better, like that song of the 80’s. The bit that New Labour failed to mention was, you had to be on a shed load of money or be a Member of Parliament first.

    Why are MP’s not on performance related pay and subject to employment laws and have the same redundancy rights like the rest of us. I mean do MP’s sign a contract of employment and have a job description?

    No

    If an MP get kicked out of Parliment he will get one year salary. If I’m made redundant I get two months pay the legal requirment on an employer.

    The list goes on………

    So, my question was “Why should I vote?? I mean, what’s in it for me? What do I get out of it?

    Job security….no!

    Guaranteed standard of living….no!

    Lower TAX bill….most defiantly not! (if not in the top 1%. Remain on slag heap of life)

    Better public services….no (bogged down in red tape, managers too busy watching their own backs fearful of been contracted out. Directors thinking about next weeks golf match. Not forgetting the NHS consultants screaming for their new IT toys. Which they hope, will help them do their private work faster).

    Guaranteed standard of high education for my children…..no (you guess right. Only top 1% will be able to afford higher education for their children. An average university course is likely cost anywhere in the region of thirty to fifty thousand pounds within ten to fifteen years).

    The list goes on……………..

    I mean, I can’t even sell my vote. We live in consumer run capitalist society, where we are told that time is money. Yet, who is going to pay me for my time and where is the incentive for me to be an active member of society? Because at this moment in time the way I see it, there isn’t any.

    So I ask again “Why should I vote??

    I challenge anyone to give me an answer. I remember the power cuts of seventies as a child. I remember growing up in an unemployed one parent family on a council estate in Leeds during eights and nineties of Mrs Thatcher’s mass unemployment experiment.

    And I remember the mass sale of public assets and the millions that certain ex-MP’s made in share options as a result of gaining jobs on the boards of these new companies.

    The list goes on….

    That’s what I remember….I wonder what’s going on right now!

    So why should I vote and give someone a guaranteed income for the next four years who will be on far more than I will ever earn. I earn 18k a year have a wife, two children and not forgetting the two cats. Last year me and my wife claimed family tax credit (you remember the ad? The one that went “it’s money with your name on it.? Well now….this so called government of people, have said to us, they gave us too much and we now have to pay it back. So the new ad should say

    “It Parliaments money, with Parliaments name on it and we want it back…now!?

    At the last election the voter turn out hadn’t been a low since 1918. At that time most of the male population was still in France after the first world war and women didn’t have the vote.

    Voter apathy in this country has northing to do with the electorate been dis-intrsted in the Polotics of the United Kingdom.

    But has everything to do with the eletorate been sick to the back teeth with Parliment that does not care for its people, only its own self intrests.

    Why is that the only time Parliment works with any degree of sucess is when it is threated by an exsternal force and even then it does a piss poor job of it!

    I often wonder what are so called living constitution would do if no one voted. what is this beast we have created over the centuries that now requires us to consider voting on a written European constitution, when we don’t have one our self’s (the Magna Carta and the English Bill of Right don’t count. Have you ever read them, its the biggest load of bollocks ever put on paper!)

    If Parliment whats to stop voter apathy it can do it in one of two ways, either force people to vote for it. Which would be greatest error it could ever make, even the Prime minster knows that.

    Its the English people that created Parliment and it will be them that have the power to destroy it if they so wish.

    The gratest threat to any system of goverment is not form external forces, but from its own people. Is that not how the US was created, by english people fighting against Parliament.

    Or they could just stop lieing to us, give them self’s the rights that the rest of us have and be personaly acountable for thier financial incompetences.

    Some how I don’t think so, their more chance of a second civil war!

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