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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 results.

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 confidence.

© Winamop. June 2006

Read old page 94s here.


© Winamop 2006