Was voting a waste of time?
Seriously, why did I bother lugging myself all the way back to London to vote?
JACK BENDA, Week 4: In the post-election white noise of dodgy opinion pieces and aggressive Facebook posts you quickly find yourself feeling a bit down about democracy.
No-one is really happy with the result of the election. If you are a left winger then you’ve probably worked out that the SNP’s hold over Scotland means that labour will probably not get an outright majority for a long long time.
If you are a Tory you know that your relatively small majority means that back bench rebellion will be a bigger problem than ever. Everyone feels the creeping tide of UKIP’s 3.8 million voters, and they feel screwed over by the voting system.
The turnout was only 66.1%, and of that only 36.9% voted Conservative. Labour got 30.4% of the votes yet that still meant that the Tories got nearly 100 more seats in the commons. If you look at the charts, votes and seats just don’t correlate – we all know that first past the post is useless and why.
But even if we had voted for AV in the 2011 referendum (a system of proportional representation), then would we all be any happier? Ukip would have formed 12.6% of the government as the third most voted for party. The parties would end up disappointing voters even more, being unable to push through any legislation.
But the problem runs even deeper. It isn’t illegal for parties to lie in their manifestos – only detrimental for popularity. But I bet you that most of the pledges in the Conservative manifesto will remain un-implemented or forgotten by the next election because of a “bad economy”, “back-bench pressure”, “not enough time”, “the opposition” and so on.
It isn’t even illegal for politicians to lie to the House of Commons. There is very little stopping MPs from providing false information to everyone in order to protect their political careers. Surely the people running our country on our behalf (apparently) should have to entirely open with us, let alone honest?
The British “middle class” – the key Tory voters – believe that Conservative economic policy and “fair taxation” will protect their hard earned income. Really? The Tory party is bankrolled by the very richest people in our country – bankers and big businessmen. So long as the party is funded these people, their taxation cannot be fair.
Instead they will have to mercilessly make cuts to the NHS, the police and other public services, until the welfare state is no more and instead we will have an entirely private key service industry.
The “middle classes” will then have to pay for private healthcare and education for their children on top of tax-rates that will inevitably rise when the NHS is milked dry.
Would Labour do any better? Probably not. Our parties are controlled by the super-rich, even Labour. According to the Electoral Commission, Labour received £18.5 million in 2014 alone – a huge amount of money. About £1.7 million pounds of that was from companies – they had a £386,605 donation from PricewaterhouseCoopers (a networking firm) in the last quarter of 2014.
They are all in the financial pocket of some group or another. They aren’t acting in the interests of their voters – they are acting in the interests of their donors, so whichever one you are voting for you aren’t actually getting represented.
Have you ever tried to contact your local MP? I once contacted Sarah Teather, my Lib Dem in Brent, about adding a ‘none of the above’ option to ballot papers. She promised she would ‘bring it up’, which of course she never did, and she never got back to me about it either.
Real influence comes from hiring some big lobbying firm, and having enough money to do so. It’s entirely dominated by the rich. But should money give you a louder voice? No.
The question that you end up asking is ‘why on earth did I bother voting?’ But you quickly get shot down with arguments about ‘how lucky we are to have a democracy in the UK’ and about the suffragette movement.
But we don’t have democracy – all the evidence points towards it, and the suffragettes were about equal opportunity and equal voice, which has become a fallacy. Protest has become the only way to get your voice heard.
But even protest has become ruined by the way we are policed. Students being kettled, Bojo trying to buy water cannons – if you have ever been to a protest in London then you will know how you are made to feel.
You feel like they want to stop your voice from being heard. You don’t feel that those policemen in heavy riot gear are there to protect you – you feel like they are there to shut you up as quickly as possible.
Yet still people vocally stand behind this or that party, even though they do not listen to us. I did vote in this election, but it was a hollow experience – I felt like I was whispering into a pillow when I put that little cross next to the least useless candidate. That’s not how politics should work.
I don’t have a solution to this massive problem, and yes I sound very cynical, but it is frustrating when people think that we can only find solutions within the current system, even though that system actively works against us. Do you really think that voting really means getting your voice heard?
We need to think outside the ballot box if we’re ever going to have a political voice.