Apathy really is the enemy. And as the UK election looms, I find myself becoming more and more outraged at the number of people who ‘don’t vote’ because they ‘just can’t be bothered’. For me, this really is unacceptable. Tonight, a BBC journalist was interviewing voters in the Pennines. Cue young mother with child. ‘Oh’ she said, ‘I don’t vote…’ Well, I’m sorry missus, but why did you get permission to breed! If that sounds strong, it’s meant to be. If you choose to be a parent, you owe your children a future. For me, that means you exercise your right to be a citizen – you vote! Because if you don’t, you will get the politicians you deserve. And frankly, if you haven’t voted then you have no right to complain when they claim your first born as cannon fodder for another illegal war or declare your left-handed children second class citizens and send them to live in a ghetto. If you think that is far fetched, just read an account of the Holocaust.
In the UK we really are spoilt by democracy (OK, you could debate ‘democracy’ as a term, but for now lets assume it’s the norm here). Basically you can vote across the spectrum from Green to BNP and all creeds in between, which can’t be too shabby. Still, I think it has lulled us into a false sense of security. It’s not the same in other countries. Saudi Arabia don’t have elections. In Burma, they held elections in 1990 – the first elections since 1960 – a gap of 30 years in which the military junta had ruled and still do. The point is, we are privileged to be able to make a mark on a piece of ballot paper and make history by shaping governments.
I come from a country where the majority of people were denied a vote until very recently, so are wildly excited when there is an election. And why not? Politics influences everything from health policy to pensions. It is deeply important! I contrast this with the cynical view that many Brits take about politics – OK, so the expenses scandal has discredited government as a whole – but that makes it even more important to vote for fresh thinking and new blood. If you want change, it’s vital to exercise your democratic right to make that change.
There is a part of me that thinks we should make voting compulsory in the UK, the way it is in Australia. I know, that sounds un-democratic, but there is a rider. If you think all political parties who are standing are just rubbish, I do support the notion that individuals can ‘opt out’ or deem their ballot ‘spoiled’ – but I think they should be compelled to do so. In the UK, it’s not just who forms the next government that is pivotal. Without a decisive victory for either Labour or the Conservatives, we really are in danger of losing our AAA credit rating – a hung parliament (which cannot be ruled out) would be an economic as well as social disaster for Britain. With a massive deficit from bailing out the banks, this is something we really cannot afford. It’s not too late – if you haven’t yet registered to vote, you can do it online. JFDI!!