Why Voters Don't Vote. By JBP.
Ex-voters ceased to vote because they don't believe what
politicians say and don't much like what they do, while politicians themselves
don't believe what they say because they know they have made mistakes which
they don't want to admit, and made promises which they can't keep. They can't
keep their promises because facts turn out to be nothing like what they
believed them to be before they took office, and because human beings don't
behave like theories, and because interests which prove to be thoroughly vested
loom up, and because events continue to occur so suddenly and inconveniently
that panic induces ever dafter and more desperate responses which in turn push
voters deeper into the vale of disillusion.
Politicians are normally sane and reasonably decent individuals
with a desire to improve the human world, but when they first get elected as
MPs they are immediately expected to vote as instructed by party flunkies and
thugs, to parrot out messages dictated from above, and when not doing this
valuable work should keep discreetly quiet and look loyal.
If they prove well-behaved they may be appointed Undersecretary
to the Secretary of the Drinks Cabinet, or even Minister for the Inspection of
Redundant Comestibles, whereupon they begin to grow ambitious, meretricious,
mendacious, suspicious, probably pernicious, and promissive (a word which
doesn't exist). It means that once in Government they announce more and more,
perform less and less, and have an ever more compelling need to hide the
inconvenient and deny the unforgivable. The desire to get votes and retain
power overwhelms all other considerations.
There's another side to the question. If the candidate and party
they voted for gets elected, many voters expect things to improve in every way
at once, immediately or sooner. This can't happen owing to the nature of life.
Honest, well-meaning MPs who work hard for their constituents find themselves
powerless in Parliament, grow weary and groan in the mirror, or like the
redoubtable Gwyneth Dunwoodie, become vigorous thorns in the 'Government's
side. Meanwhile those who have power misuse it.
Mr Blair is an example of the dire effect of power on a man of
talent and ambition. The longer he stays in office the more certain he becomes
that he is RIGHT, and the law of irony decrees that the more certain he grows
that he is RIGHT the more likely he is to be wrong.
Since he is RIGHT no matter what the circumstances may be, he
tries ever more desperately to exercise control over every aspect of public
life, so we get targets, guidelines, league tables, floods of legislation
(mostly ill-thought-out and badly drafted), the manipulation of news by cronies
and spinners, persistent interference with the work of teachers, doctors, civil
servants, the piling of extra burdens onto local authorities, the application
of so-called reforms which improve nothing, contempt for Parliament, and a
tendency to jot down a new and unworkable policy on the back of an envelope,
make a speech about it, imagine the problem solved and off we pop for a stroll
with Cowboy Bush the two-gun Sheriff of Iraq. At the same time righteous Mr
Blair is undermining the hard-won liberties of ordinary citizens and destroying
the traditional safeguards in our unwritten and vulnerable constitution. If we
don't protect these liberties from the depredations of Blair and his stooges
the terrorists will have won a spiritual victory.
Presented with mass abstention from voting, each party attempts
to disguise its real nature by transforming its image. Labour members voted for
Blair as leader because he was young, clever, personable and likely to attract
votes. More and more they enjoyed him less and less as his resemblance to the
dreaded Thatcher grew more painfully obvious.
Cameron is leader of the Conservative party because members
think he is young, clever, personable and likely to attract votes, despite the
fact that he is totally removed from the basic feelings and attitudes of a
traditional Tory majority.
The Liberal Democrats are led by a man who is not fashionably
young and not likely to attract wild enthusiasm at rock festivals. Whether he
will he brave enough to be thoroughly liberal is seriously in doubt..
All the parties seem to believe that electors are too dopey to
see through the dodges, pretences, slides, disguises, evasions, wiles and
denials which politicians perpetrate. But TV is a great unmasker. Viewers have
learned to note the signs of unease, self-righteousness, contempt, dissembling
and overacting in the political faces presented to them, and radio listeners to
recognise the efforts of political interviewees to gabble on long enough to
prevent another awkward question from being asked. This increasing
sophistication is a powerful underlying reason why people choose not to vote.
What should be done? It might be a good, old-fashioned idea if
Liberals became liberal. Conservatives conservative, and Labour ceased to be so
NEW that they can no longer be identified as Labour at all - in other words, if
they established with integrity their aims and principles instead of
concentrating on vote-catching and image. The irony is that each party might
gain more votes by concentrating less on getting them and more on honest
political intention. By all clambering onto Middle-ground they confuse every
issue and cause dangerous overcrowding. Historically, parties have arisen to
represent certain interests and to reflect and apply different attitudes and
philosophies to problems and events. People have always found it necessary to
gather together and work with the like-minded in order to achieve social
To express it as briefly as possible:
Liberals put freedom first. If they cease at any point to do so
they remove the reason for voting Liberal Democrat. The priorities of
Conservatives have traditionally been the encouragement of wealth creation, the
defence of property, and the maintenance of public order. Labour have since
their inception placed the movement towards equality first. But Blair poured
everything into the melting pot, and many Labour members now wander in
no-man's-land crying 'Foul! Send him off!'
To make voting compulsory is a solution to the abstaining
problem suggested by some merry political fellows fond of a joke. 'If they
won't vote for us we'll put the blighters in prison.' Brilliant! They do not
wish to accept the notion that refusal to vote expresses the fundamental right
to say 'A plague on all your houses.'
We have to realise that Governments (whatever parties may say)
don't really like genuine democracy. They would prefer people to vote, then
shut up and do what they're told until the next election, when they obediently
toddle out to vote again.
But voters are beginning to realise that if democracy is to
survive it must expand, deepen, spread responsibility more widely, grow more
transparent and adopt a voting system which more accurately reflects the view
of the total electorate. If that results in a proliferation of small and often
single-issue parties, so be it. But there's a warning notice:
Proportional representation encourages coalition. Coalition is a
recipe for total pragmatism and eventual stasis. Dumbing down philosophical
differences makes politics boring and meaningless.
Seriously to contemplate the alternatives to democracy would
send any thinking person bustling into the Polling Station determined to make
an honest citizen of the party he (or, more likely, she) is voting for. And if
the country proves not to contain enough thinking people either to do this to
to find some other way to improve and develop a fully democratic and
responsible society, then it will deserve the disaster that results, and babies
now waving their fat arms and kicking their fat legs will in time to come have
bitter reason to denounce us for this failure of courage, concern and
© Winamop. June 2006
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