Today’s the day. Now is the time. It’s been five years since we had the chance to elect a representative government, fighting hard for our right and privileges, and for the good of every single one of us.
We ballsed that one up good and proper, didn’t we? Time to give it another go.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. I have the cliches here in my cliche bingo box. Voting never changed anything. Whoever you vote for, the government always gets in. If voting did anything, they’d ban it. Blah blah blah HOUSEYYY.
Of course voting changes things. The democratic process is the thing that gave us the forty day working week, paid holidays, the right to tribunal and a fair trial, an end to slavery and discrimination, the vote. In a dizzying period of change between the 1850s and 1970s, the society we know and take for granted was built by people on the streets and in the House of Parliament, who believed that we deserved better and were prepared to risk everything in the pursuit of that dream.
Now, of course, we think we know better. The system has broken, favouring the entitled few, open to abuse. Who’s in charge of changing that? They are. So what’s the point? We protest, and we’re ignored. So best to hide out, grumble a bit and give up.
Anyone that saw the recent BBC documentary series on the inner workings of the House Of Commons would, like me, have been slack-jawed at how out-of-date and out-of-touch the place seemed. Our system of government is filled with loopholes, stifled by tradition, unwilling to change. So what’s to be done?
Well, duh. We vote, and we vote for the party that best covers our needs. If we can’t find one that does, we vote tactically to kick out the people who don’t. If we don’t feel that anyone in government is on our side, we put a big black cross through the ballot paper. It’s called spoiling, and the great thing is that it’s still counted.
A third of the British electorate didn’t vote in 2010. That’s 15 million people who felt so disconnected and disenfranchised by the system that they decided not to be counted. That was the worst thing they could have done. If that 15 million had spoiled their papers (or as I choose to call it, choosing the “none of the above” option), it would have sent an incredibly clear message. We choose to vote for none of you. You don’t represent us. But deciding not to be counted meant that the 15 million chose to be ignored. And that’s a real shame, because 15 million no-votes would have beaten the votes gathered by Labour and The Conservatives. 15 million people rejecting the current system would have been the majority vote.
Imagine the shockwaves that would have sent through the Houses Of Parliament, and then tell me that voting is meaningless.
The thing is, career politicians are terrified of elections. It’s the one time when they have to justify themselves to the public, the one time when they actually have to do something to keep their jobs. The smug, over-stuffed bloater who keeps knocking at your door and shoving leaflets with his smug over-stuffed face through your letterbox? That’s your MP, who you haven’t seen in five years. Guess what? He needs you to vote for him. So don’t ignore him. Open the door. Have a chat. Ask him an uncomfortable question. Look at the fear in his eyes*. That’s the power of democracy.
Now tell me that voting is meaningless.
Today, we have a chance to change the political landscape. We can support the MP who works hard for his constituency, or help to bin the smug fuck who’s put through his second house on expenses. This time, the field is wide open. There’s a chance to get independent voices into Parliament, or to make safe seats less so. If you’re not sure who to vote for, there are a ton of online tools that’ll match your needs and values to a party. You might be surprised at who you support. Even if you just cross out every choice on the ballot paper, you’re making yourself known.
So get yourself to the polling station today. They opened at 7. They’ll be open till 10. You have no reason not to take the time. Today is the day. Now is the time.
You’re in charge. Enjoy the feeling.
*Notice I’m describing your MP as male. The gender skew in Parliament is still deeply biased towards men. Is that a bad thing? Well, it’s certainly unrepresentative to a population that’s pretty much half and half male to female.