Cultural experiences and funny musings by two twenty-somethings living abroad
Russell Brand sparked off a big debate a few weeks ago after an interview with Jeremy Paxman in which he encouraged us never to vote in a system that fails to look after people properly. Yet despite Paxman chastising Brand for never voting in elections, he himself also chose not to vote at the last election because he was completely unsatisfied with the choices on offer. Generally, I believe it’s wrong not to vote because you cannot complain about what politicians do when you chose not to vote for anyone in the first place. All Russell Brand seemed to do was to try and give some “legitimacy” to not being bothered to vote.
But I did agree with him on one thing – The choice of parties and politicians at the moment are incredibly unappealing. Whilst I have so far voted in every election I’ve been able to, I can’t say I’m particularly sure about who I will vote at the next election. In fact, I really don’t know at all. And that worries me because I strongly believe in democracy and the idea that you cannot criticise politicians for making unpopular decisions when you have the ability to vote and choose not to. No party has so far been able to convince me at all why they deserve my vote and I fear that I won’t be able to decide who to vote for at the next election. I just wish there were an option on the ballot paper to choose “none of the above”.
Let me explain each party through: BNP – Shouldn’t really need to explain this one, I’m not gonna vote for a bunch of Nazis. UKIP – Besides the fact that I disagree with their policies entirely, the party has had characters with bigoted and racist attitudes. Plaid Cymru – Can’t vote for them because I don’t live in Wales. SNP – Can’t vote for them because I don’t live in Scotland. The Greens – Won’t vote for them because they can’t even govern a city properly let alone a country of 63 million (believe me, the people of Brighton won’t be experimenting with them again). The Lib Dems – Can no longer trust them after telling the most blatant lie in recent political history. Labour – Can’t vote for a party that led us into the biggest financial mess in recent history and can only seem to identify themselves as “anti-tory”. And then the Conservatives – I can’t vote for a party that has brought in painful – perhaps necessary – austerity, but has applied it unevenly, dispelling the notion that we are all somehow “in it together”.
You could put this all down to the ramblings of some grumpy and disengaged voter with a chip on their shoulder but unfortunately, I’m not alone in feeling this way. A recent ComRes poll suggested that as many as four in ten voters in the UK are considering not voting for any party at the 2015 election. That’s not just the three major political parties, but also the smaller parties that would usually benefit from the protest vote. Going behind that statistic further, almost half of all voters under the age of 30 are not going to vote at the next election. For almost half of all young people possibly not voting at the next election, not because of apathy but because of alienation from the political process, is incredibly damaging for our democracy and a damning indictment of our politicians.
Parties in our country need to connect with the electorate much better. Far too many people are dissatisfied by what’s on offer, either because they have lost trust in political parties or they are dissatisfied by party policy or they can’t trust parties to do their job properly. I don’t think we are on the verge of having a British Revolution but I do think that the longer this issue is left unresolved, the more our democracy will be undermined and the few of us left who might be bothered to vote might just vote for a really nasty party that really does not have our best interests at heart – in fact, we’re already seeing that with the success of UKIP and the BNP’s breakthrough at the 2009 European election thanks to an appallingly low turnout. We have a vote, we should use it and we must use it, but parties need to prove why they are deserving of our vote by behaving responsibly economically, boosting living standards, protecting the environment, making our towns and cities safe and being honest from the outset. Surely it can’t be that hard… right?
By Jasper Roskilly