To vote… always to vote

Polling_station_6_may_2010

Electoral campaigner Huw James responds to Adibah and Shin_LoveLife’s voting video ‘To vote or not to vote’. He thinks you should. Always.

…low voter turnout of 37% in the South West, of which young voters were amongst the highest abstaining groups…

In a recent video, Rife magazine journalists Adibah Iqbal and Shin_LoveLife highlighted some issues affecting young peoples’ likelihood to vote in the run up to European Parliament Elections. Indeed the issues brought up in the video are evidentially important, as shown by the low voter turnout of 37% in the South West, of which young voters were amongst the highest abstaining groups, supporting the recent findings of the Office for National Statistics, which said that young people were the most disinterested age group in politics, coinciding with Russell Brand’s extreme claims that the public should stop voting for parties that betray them, with a call for revolution.

So, is voting just a lot of hassle? Well yes.

But it’s one of the most important hassles that exist in our democratic society. The sad truth is that if you don’t vote, to the government, you don’t matter. You are simply a slave to the system

Your vote cost lives.

Your vote cost lives.

The lives of civil revolutionaries in the 19th Century; the Bristolians who rioted and died to defend their right to vote in 1793; the Chartists who fought for increased representation of the people men in the 1830s and 40s, calling to arms in order to defend their right to vote; the feminists from the early Mary Wollstonecraft, writer of ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’ in 1792, and later in the early 20th Century, to suffragettes such as Emmeline Pankhurst; and of actors into the American Civil Rights movement in the mid 20th Century Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X; all of whom defended the your rights of liberty, democracy, and suffrage to provide us with collective power to change our government and society.

You get the point. Historically, the fact you are able to vote in the first place is a pretty big deal, due to the countless sacrifices made by freedom fighters in an ongoing battle to remove the chains of authoritarian tyranny and oligarchy; a battle still ongoing in many parts of the world.

Perhaps you object to voting because the electoral register provides personal details (name, address, telephone number, and age) to third parties (mainly for the purposes of allowing the political parties to send you spam) this is a valid reason not to register; or at least it would be if there weren’t a box on the voter registration forms allowing you to opt out of being in the edited electoral register, whilst still being registered to vote.

Only 27 of 650 MPs are people of colour…

The video points out that the House of Commons consists mainly of straight white males. Only 27 of 650 MPs are people of colour (mostly Labour MPs), 3/30 members of cabinet are persons of colour. Only 147 of 650 MPs are women, 12 of 30 members of cabinet are women. There are 14 openly homosexual MPs, of which only 2 MPs are openly lesbian, and 1 openly openly-bisexual MP.

Traditionally oppressed groups are still poorly represented in Parliament, even if representation is increasing.

Locally, women are being strongly represented. Three of Bristol’s four MPs, and four of the South-West’s six MEPs are women. Also, openly gay Stephen Williams MP and Mayor George Ferguson directly represent the LGBT+ community in Bristol. It is true to say that ethnic minorities are underrepresented both nationally, and in Bristol. However, you can help to change this.

The video touched on the lack of political education in the potential electorate. This issue directly discourages potential voters, particularly younger voters.

In schools…teenagers should be taught more about politics through the compulsory education of politics in GCSEs…

In schools, a commonly held belief is that teenagers should be taught more about politics through the compulsory education of politics in GCSEs, or by replacing Religious Studies with the broader subject ‘Citizenship’, which would examine religion, ethics, and politics.

The southwest former-MEP, Graham Watson, suggested creating an online balloting system, where as the Stephen Williams MP suggested the reduction of the voting age from 18 to 16, both motions are strongly supported by both Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Interestingly, the video brought up the idea that politics has become a toy of the privileged children. Knowing students from both inner-city comprehensives and private schools, I believe that a similar level of people understand politics across the classes. I don’t think that political awareness is a class issue, but for all walks of society.

Politicians mostly ignore the lack of public education into politics…

However parliament is home to the privileged elite, 35% of MPs were educated in public schools and 30% of MPs are graduates of Oxbridge.

Politicians mostly ignore the lack of public education into politics; many seem to see that the public has a duty to educate themselves. This attitude is not helped by the long-winded and sometimes pompous nature of political jargon.

So much passive, euphemistic drivel and unnecessary language is used in Westminster that it is quite the challenge to decode the messages behind political talks. In some cases, the language of politician itself is used to hide quite serious messages in dull and seemingly meaningless speeches. The language and actions of the leading political parties Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and Conservatives has lost them much public trust. People believe politicians are lying, and are acting upon it.

Vote for the party whose policies agree with yours and who you feel can trust. If the leading parties do not appeal to you then vote for an alternative party that supports your view, be it The Green Party, or perhaps UKIP.

If no party on the ballot paper appeals to you, you should let the government know…

If no party on the ballot paper appeals to you, you should let the government know, not by abstaining, but by spoiling your ballot (be it by doodling, or writing a strongly worded letter on the ballot paper).

The Electoral Commission have a duty by law to record these spoilt ballot papers, and it separates those who don’t vote because they aren’t represented, and those who don’t vote because they are lazy.

Ideally, the question on whether to vote or not should no longer be a question. And if you do wish to vote in the 2015 general election, for goodness sake please register to vote. If you still feel that you don’t want to vote, please say in the comments section, it would be interesting to see alternate views.

If you want to register to vote, click here

Tweet us @rifemag and let us know your thoughts on voting and any ideas for how we can make politics more accessible…