Thinking About: Voting
We had elections here on Thursday and for the first time since I started voting in 1979 I almost decided not to cast my vote. A bit of background might explain this.
Back in the late 70’s when I was young and politically naïve I voted Conservative believing at the time that they stood for freedom and individuality. Yes, I’m sorry to say that I helped in a small part to bring Margaret Thatcher into power – sorry about that. Anyway, as I grew older and more world experienced (or world wary) I realised that the Conservative ideology stood behind those in power and for the protection of the wealthy. So I switched my allegiance to the Labour Party who where, back then, Socialists. Although I didn’t agree with everything they stood for I agreed with enough of it – indeed the majority – to give them my vote on a regular basis. Of course in those years they were mostly in opposition because Socialism wasn’t exactly popular. But they stuck to their guns and I admired them for putting principle before power. So when Tony Blair’s government came to power I, along with all of the Left, rejoiced – only to find out to our horror that we hadn’t elected a Socialist government at all but had instead installed a Tory government in all but name. Needless to say I despised them for what they had done – abandoning their ideals in order to form a government. I found that I could not in all conscience vote for them and haven’t since.
So, for the past decade or more I have voted Liberal-Democrat. At last, I reasoned, I had found a party of principle who openly opposed the Iraq War and believed as I believed….. Or so I thought. When they joined the Conservative Party coalition I had certain misgivings but the killer for me was when they went back on their promise to abolish student fees. Going back on a very public pledge was bad enough in itself but to add insult to injury they tried to justify themselves to the public by basically stating that principles are OK when you’re in opposition but once in power you have to be reasonable and pragmatic about things. In other words it’s OK to have principles as long as you are not expected to stand by them. Despite the fact that this particular policy has zero effect on me I was revolted by their complete about-face on the issue proving to me, and lots of other people, that they too are a party without principles who will abandon their ideals when it is pragmatically prudent to do so. At this point I was a hairsbreadth away from giving up on all politicians and sure that I would never vote again.
Two things however prompted me to stop off at my polling station on the way to work on Thursday. One was that I wanted to vote in the Alternative Vote referendum – I voted Yes. The other was to register my protest at the duplicity of all political parties. To do this I ‘spoiled’ my vote by writing NO after every candidate’s name. It was a pointless gesture as gestures go but a heartfelt one. I will continue doing this – or variations thereof – as long as I feel this way. It’s either that or not vote at all which I’m unwilling to do. Most people, I suspect, don’t vote through apathy. I’m not voting (for any of those lying bastards) through anger.