WARNING! The following article contains forthright opinions from a disillusioned ex-voter. If you are a fan of politics or an MP and are easily offended, click on the ‘X’ now. (No pun intended.)
It was 2001. A naïve 20 year old girl put a cross in the box representing Labour on her voting form, hoping to keep this party in power. She had wanted to vote for them in a few years earlier but had been too young at the time.
That was my first and potentially last vote. I regretted it soon afterwards when Britain ventured into a very questionable war. A war that many people, including myself did not want to be a part of. It may sound silly but by voting for the party responsible, I too feel partly responsible for the deaths and injuries of many troops and innocent civilians. Also, the controversy surrounding that particular war made me first start to question just how much we could trust those in power. I have been reluctant to vote since then in case I vote in another leader who is arguably unscrupulous and a similar thing happens again.
That is not the only reason why I no longer put pen to ballot paper. I find it very difficult to put my faith in any political party because I cannot really believe a word that any of them say! Too many times MPs have made a claim that their party has changed something for the better, only to have an opposing politician point out that they are bending the truth or downright lying. Too many times politicians have created problems rather than solutions and then tried to brush them under the carpet. Too many times a political party’s promises have been broken after they have gotten into power. I also do not like the way that politicians try to evade journalist’s questions. It strongly suggests that they are withholding vital information from us. How are we supposed to trust these people when they are not straight and honest with us? What trust I do have left is eroded a little more every time I hear a negative news story about some political individuals. For example, a couple of MPs were alleged to have slagged off their voters, on social media. Then there have been many stories about political corruption and of course, there was the huge MPs expenses scandal a few years ago with the infamous duck house! It makes me feel a bit unsettled when I think about what else may be going on behind closed doors at Westminster.
Another issue I have with politics is one that many people seem to have. The ‘common man’ (or woman!) cannot identify with many of the career politicians because they come from a completely different social background. How can we feel represented by these politicians if they do not know the kind of life we lead? This is apparently one of the main reasons why the public feel somewhat disengaged from politics and have lost some interest in it.
The pointless accusations and bickering between opposing party members often annoys me too. This has only intensified now that several more parties have entered the fray. The PM and opposing party leader heatedly defending their parties in the House of Commons is comparable to a ‘my dad is better than your dad’ squabble between two six year old boys! And ‘Punch and Judy politics’, where politicians exchange personal insults does not give a good impression either. These are irrelevant to the debate and frankly, sound silly and unprofessional coming from such educated people! These seemingly endless arguments between opposing politicians is one of the reasons why democracy does not work, in my opinion. If the time spent mud-slinging was spent trying to come up with solutions to problems, then maybe the country would be in a better state! Another reason is that the party in power cannot realistically represent everyone because of the (still existent) class divide! This creates alienation and resentment among the people who do not fall into the relevant ‘rich’ or ‘poor’ category, but then, I suppose the only alternative to Democracy would be a dictatorship and that sounds a bit scary, judging by some of the dictators in history!
Even if I was planning to vote, I would probably still be undecided on the day! It is harder to choose now that several more parties are in the picture. I like the sound of some policies from one party and some from a couple of others but I would only be able to vote for one. However, I strongly suspect that every party is just telling us what we want to hear anyway. Note the audience’s reaction when any MP says something positive during a political debate or on an episode of Question Time. It often reminds me of what Mayor Quimby says about voters to his bodyguard, in an episode of The Simpsons:
‘They’re like trained seals – toss them a fish and watch them slap their fins together!‘
Politics often feels quite fake, for this reason. The campaign trail does in particular, with politicians giving the impression that they are actively connecting with voters by kissing babies and donning hi-vis vests and hard hats. It is, obviously, mainly for the sake of good publicity. In reality, politicians are more likely to see us as mere stepping stones to get into or remain in power.
Taking everything I have said into account, I have to admit that I usually feel a certain smugness and defiance by not going near a ballot box! I do not want to give any party the satisfaction of obtaining my vote through manipulation and false promises! It is evident from the media and social media that many other people also lack trust in politics and believe that a lot of politicians are fairly oblivious to the county’s problems. Therefore, I have wondered why they still really value their vote and indulge political parties. Surely if no-one voted, it would soon make politicians sit up and take notice and perhaps walk the walk instead of just talking the talk!
I have even been told off by people when I tell them that I waste my vote:
‘If you don’t vote, then you can’t complain about who gets in!’
At one time I would feel a bit uneasy after hearing this and question whether I should after all. This time around, I do not really care. I do not think it will make much of a difference who gets into power. How can any party fulfil any of their wonderful sounding policies, when there is still virtually no money for them to do so?
‘Women died so that you can vote!’
Of course, this makes me feel a bit guilty and prevents me from feeling really proud of the fact that I waste the opportunity. On the other hand, we live in a free country and I think that a woman’s decision not to vote should not really be frowned upon. People have suggested to people like me that they should become an MP themselves and try to change things if they feel so strongly. The comedian Russell Brand’s response to this was ‘I wouldn’t want to become one of them.’ I too would be worried about inadvertently adopting a different mindset over time and losing my good intentions.
I give credit where it is due though and I will give some to two of my local female MPs who have often responded to my e-mails concerning online petitions. I found it quite surprising that they cared enough to reply and it restored a little of my faith in MPs. However, it will be some time before I build up enough trust to finally drag myself down to a polling station!