Voting or not voting?

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My quiet Sunday morning has been shattered… by something called the Wirral Egg Run. A ridiculously large number of motorcyclists gather at New Brighton, then ride 20 miles all over the Wirral to Clatterbridge hospital to deliver Easter eggs to children, watched by a ridiculously larger number of cheering spectators. And this takes place just outside my front door. For about 4 hours (there really are a ridiculous number of motorcycles involved). Still, it's for charr-i-dee.

Less shattering was a discussion on Twitter. Someone there made the decision to not vote any more. It's hardly groundbreaking, since 35% of people didn't bother to vote at the last election. But it's a subject that annoys me, since the people who don't vote are the ones that make the loudest noise about how dissatisfied with politics/politicians they are.

Frankly, I've never understood this. Put simply, if you don't vote – and you have the right to not vote in the UK – then you give up your right to complain about the outcome. If you didn't contribute to the result – even by going in and spoiling your paper if needs be – then how can you complain that you didn't get what you didn't vote for?

I can't think of any other subject where we allow the most noise to be made by the people with the least invested in the subject. People who complain about the state of the railways are the people who use (or used to use) the trains. A driver who never uses the rails doesn't comment – or if she does, gets shouted down by people who do, and rightly so. The same applies in other spheres of ordinary life. But if you don't vote, that seems to entitle you to complain about things that voting brings about and does or doesn't change.

Of course, it's worse when you don't vote rather than actually exercising your right to do so, because of the statement you are making. The argument is usually "the political system has disenfranchised people like me, therefore I don't/won't/can't vote". The problem is that politicians do all they can not to listen to us, except when we're saying what they want to hear. Or are saying something different that can be spun to sound like it sounds like something they want to hear. The only time we get to try to make them listen is at the ballot box; declaring that you've been disenfranchised and then disenfranchising yourself (you did it, not them) allows them to ignore you more than if you did actually vote. Worse, the politicians look at 35% not voting and take home a message: 35% don't care what we do. The number of people they can fuck over is vastly increased (for the record, it's people who voted against you + people who didn't vote, which, in our minority-votes system, means politicians are allowed to fuck over anything up to around 75% of the population between now and the next election).

Because of that, people who don't vote don't count – to politicians or to me. Why should I listen to the grievances of someone the government is fucking over when they did nothing – nothing whatsoever, not even the bare minimum asked of them, which is putting a cross in a box – to try to help themselves or try to prevent this outcome? Why should I have my ear bent by someone who can't even travel the half mile to mark a piece of paper to try to prevent other people being fucked over by the government?

To me, not voting is extremely selfish. You raise yourself and your circumstances above those of the other 65% of the population that, rightly or wrongly, believe they are contributing to the process, telling those 65% that your circumstances are so very important that you can't even begin to put a cross in a box, so fuck the rest of you.

Also, ahem, people died so we could have the right to put a cross in a box (and, with luck and a fair wind, a 1 in a box in future. See, that's not complicated, is it, Mr Cameron?). A woman threw herself in front of a horse race and died so that other women would have the right to vote. Men and women are dying even as I type in Libya, Egypt (still) and Bahrain amongst far too many other places, all because they want fellow citizens to have the right to put an X or a 1 in a box. Yet people in the UK stay home, don't bother doing the bare minimum, but do complain very loudly about how they're being ignored.

And then they call you a cunt for pointing it out. Oh well.

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3 comments

  1. Very few deliberate non voters are motivated by high principle. In my experience those who don’t vote, in 99% of cases, just can’t be arsed to bother, and dress this up as a noble gesture. It’s actually a monstrous conceit by lazy people to imply they have higher motives for being so idle. I rate it important enough to take General Election day as a day’s leave from work. Every time. And my vote may make no difference to the outcome but the principle is, to me, critical.

  2. Quite honestly I think we should have compulsory voting in this country, like in Australia. Then you’d actually have to go there are DO something, and while you could simply spoil your paper, while people were there perhaps they might decide to actually vote instead? In fact, I would propose having the option "None of the above" on the compulsory ballot paper so that you could express that view if it was how you felt rather than having to "spoil your ballot paper" which has always, to me, sounded a bit like soiling your armour.That being said, I don’t know how anyone ever gets to change electoral law. Most people evidently can’t be bothered and, looking at the "no to AV" crowd in the run-up to the referendum on May 5, it would seem that the way to win a referendum in the UK is to lie loudly, blatantly and long, secure in the knowledge that nobody in an official position will ever stop you, and the Advertising Standards Authority apparently has no jurisdiction whatsoever.(PS: Don’t try posting here via a Facebook login, it appears to fail however many times you try it, from any browser – in fact, Posterous seems to be broken in so many ways I will be sure to avoid it in future.)

  3. Posterous is a strange beast. It has a lot of functions that I really like and it works intuitively out of the box. It’s a bit like the Mac to Blogger’s Windows in that respect. And just like a Mac, when things don’t work, they really really don’t work and there’s sod all you can do about it. In Blogger, you can adjust settings and move stuff about and add plugins and so forth (and like Windows, you have to do all of these things now and again whether you want to or not). In Posterous, if a function doesn’t work, it doesn’t work and that’s that. But (like the Mac) when it does work: wow.

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