We should all vote. It matters. We might not like politicians – actually, some of them are quite decent people – but we need to put our dislike of politicians to one side.
People really did fight world wars to protect our country and our freedom. Millions died in them too so that should be enough encouragement. But does voting make any difference and if not, what should we do about it?
I didn’t vote Tory in 2010 and I have never dreamed of voting for the Lib Dems who, certainly on the ground, are a whole lot nastier than their happy-clappy bearded sandal-wearing image might suggest. They have never really stood for anything, except in by-elections where they stand for anything and everything. They are the masters of facing any way the wind blows so long as they can get a few votes, protest votes. Once they got into power, they were just yellow Tories, the enablers of Cameron and the most right wing government of my lifetime. Voting did make a difference last time, although I’ll bet the millions who voted Lib Dem didn’t expect to be voting for the tripling of tuition fees and the chaotic top down reorganisation of the NHS, which given another five years of Tory rule, will surely be wholly privatised.
Five years is a hell of a long time between general elections, so long that rather than being part of a genuine democracy, we live under an elective dictatorship where politicians can get elected and then do whatever they like and there is nothing we can do to stop them. This applies to all political parties.
I find the same thing locally too. I do not remember being asked by the Tories and Lib Dems if I supported closing the Filton airfield and building a new town requiring a new secondary school and up to six primary schools on the site, or whether I minded the remaining green fields of Stoke Gifford and Harry Stoke being concreted over, with barely a thought being given to the potential traffic chaos that will surely reign in a couple of years. Today’s gridlock will feel like the old days soon enough.
The politicians beg for our votes, spending many millions to bribe us and yet they are barely accountable in any way. We have little or no access to the written media which are owned by people with interesting tax arrangements and foreigners (or both). In fact, the former Australian now American billionaire Sun owner Rupert Murdoch has instructed his journalists to do their best to block a Labour government because of the “damage” he thinks it will cause his company. A free press where the Mail, Times group, Telegraph group and the Express group routinely actively campaign for a Tory or Ukip government.
Yes, I speak from a left of centre perspective because I believe in controversial things like the NHS and dignity in old age – I know, I know: that makes me a dangerous extremist in Daily Mail parlance – but my beef is with the system which all but denies us any kind of voice in a five year period. There must be a better way.
I saw my local MP Jack Lopresti a few times during the last parliament and long before I walked through the door I knew I would be pissing in the wind. I went to see him about issues that were affecting my family and me, but I knew that as the things that were adversely affecting my life were Tory party policy and even if Jack agreed with me on the issues, he would never, under any circumstances, do anything to rock the boat. In short, I wasted my time. But that is not to say that Lopresti is unique in this. My MP used to be Tony Benn and he had a reputation as being a great MP which to my mind was a bit of an exaggeration. He visited Bristol every other Friday evening, staying at the then Unicorn Hotel, took your details which were then sent by someone from his team to a minister. The reply would come from Benn, stapled to a letter from the minister which said, in effect, “tough shit”.
It’s the centralisation of politics that does this. Governments of all colours are loathe to let go of power, as Michael Gove demonstrated so ably during his disastrous tenure as education secretary. My answer would not necessarily to have more frequent elections, but more decentralised elections. This would require decision-making, and by nature some public spending, to be carried out at a far lower level. Politicians in their luxury ivory towers in London or wherever do not need to be accountable. They are far removed from the public they serve. If we continue to concentrate power at the top, this is how it will always be.
But still you must vote. Even if you think it won’t affect or change anything, there are millions worldwide who would die and have died for the vote. What we need is a system whereby our votes matter more, but until then, just put that cross in the box.