A few weeks ago I listened to a brief discussion on Question Time about how the ‘youth of today’ are becoming increasingly disengaged with the electoral process. It seemed to me that the discussion, which centred on why people do not vote, totally missed the mark. Firstly because it is not, in my opinion, about disengagement with voting and secondly because it is not just youth who are becoming disengaged.
Yes, the voting process itself could be improved. For example, why in this electronic age do we have to turn up at a designated location to vote; and when we do turn up surely the identification process could be a touch more rigorous?
But my issue is less with the process of registering my vote than the broader political process, with which I find myself more and more disillusioned – to an extent that might just lead me to fail to vote for the first time in my life. I can, and will, tell you what upsets me about the process so much that more and more often I find myself turning off the radio or TV when politicians appear; but what I find a bigger challenge is how to change the situation for the better.
So, what hacks me off about the way politics currently works? Quite a lot, so get yourself ready!
- SHOUTINESS!!! This category has a couple of variants:
- “I am going to say what I want to say, even of the only way I can do it is to shout over you.”
- “I am going to say what I want to say regardless of the topic under discussion and the question asked.”
- Dishonesty – ranging from ‘promises’ or ‘commitments’ made during the hustings that are subsequently reneged upon to claiming expenses to which they are not entitled.
- “You voted for it” – claims, typically accurate, that a particular policy was in the manifesto and you voted us in so you agree with the policy. NO. It is a very long time since we had a majority government and even then I can’t imagine that everyone who voted for them agreed with every specific in the manifesto. This is lazy thinking and a version of dishonesty.p
- Party Politics – I am asked to vote for an individual, who as soon as they get into The House become subject to party whips telling them how to vote on most issues. How about MY MP votes in line with the wishes of their constituents, or even their own conscience or personal insight?
- Career politicians – The youngest current MP is Pamela Nash who was 25 years and 11 months old when she was elected to Parliament in the May 2010 general election and the youngerst in modern times was Bernadette Devlin who was a few days short of her 22nd birthday when elected. Now, I ask you, just how much experience do you need to be able to contribute effectively to deliberations about the country? More than you get through a career that starts with a PPE degree, then a few years as an intern for a senior politician, followed by election to a safe seat. I want my MPs to have some experience of the world, not to have been brought up in the ‘Westminster Bubble’. Which brings me to …
- Second jobs – I actually support the idea of second jobs as they stand a chance of connecting MPS to the ‘real world’. I can’t support Malcolm Rifkind’s claim that he is self-employed (maybe he is legally!) with a part-time job that leaves him plenty of spare time. However, if like Gordon Brown you earn just short of £1m a year for your external activity just where might your loyalties lie?
- The drift to the middle – despite party politics, it seem to me that both major parties are increasingly competing for the votes of those in the middle. Yes, the Conservatives come at the issue from the viewpoint of the land/property owning relatively wealthy and Labour approach from the oppressed working class, yet ultimately that distinction is narrowing.
- Yah Boo, You Suck! – Anything going right is attributed to the skill of the ruling party and anything wrong is somehow traceable to the behaviour of the opposition. The global economic crisis was not caused by the Labour administration but by the greed and immorality of a cadre of bankers who probably vote conservative! Whoever was in power it would have happened.
At the end of the day, this is an opinion piece and the data to support my assertions may or may not be out there – I have not tried to find it. But my perception is my reality.
What to do about this is the next question.I will muse on this in a subsequent blog.