I know where I’d like to put my vote, but there doesn’t seem to be a slot for it…

10 04 2012

So, the last two weeks have been ones of pasties’, panic buying and all round petulance from the pathetic politicians of the day. Between them, Messrs Cameron, Miliband, and Osborne have inspired me to share with you why for the moment at least, I am done with voting.

Firstly, I would like to apologise if this week’s blog comes across as a touch vitriolic, I will try to offer up a balanced argument but I cannot guarantee it because of all my beliefs, my position on voting is probably the idea I am most tied to and therefore least likely to offer up a fair opinion on, but I’ll give it a go…

My stance so we’re clear is this, I will never again vote for someone or something I don’t believe in and therefore the chances are that I will never vote again. Understand this, I am not committed to never voting again, I simply refuse to blindly commit to voting regardless of the quality of the candidates on offer. If everyone else likes pushing the poop around Downing Street every four or five years then go ahead, be my guest, but don’t show me shit, call it democracy and then expect me to swallow it.

Before I get into my why’s and what’s on the topic, I’d like you to take a moment to watch this, which in my eyes is one of the greatest five minutes of stand up comedy ever conceived…

I first saw this clip from the great George Carlin five or six years ago and I believe that it was the first time I had ever considered voting from this point of view. It certainly didn’t change my mind in that moment, (those of you who know me will remember numerous occasions in the past few years where I have implored everyone I know to get up and vote), but it did change my perspective and it planted a seed. It conditioned my mind so that I didn’t immediately roll my eyes when listening to someone considering withholding their vote and it meant that I looked more closely at the people I had to vote for and listened to what they had to say.

Let’s face it if anyone does listen to politicians anymore (which I seriously doubt) then you can’t help but feel a sense of flabbergasted wonderment in the face of these wet, out of touch puppets to big business we call our leaders. Take David Cameron, our ‘beloved’ PM who by some measure of good fortune and dumb luck has ended up leader of the same country that less than a lifetime ago was led by Winston Churchill. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Indeed it was Mr Cameron’s announcement a couple of weeks ago that ‘topping up’ at Petrol stations might be a good idea ahead of proposed strike action that sparked this blog. Put simply we once lived in a country (and indeed a world) whose response to a potential crisis was to batten down the hatches, cut back on frivolous spending and save our resources. Now we appear to be a nation that has one stock response to every problem, consume consume consume!

Was Mr Cameron under a rock last time there was a petrol shortage in the UK? Does he not realise that the modern-day Brit needs no second invitation to panic buy and hoard stuff they don’t actually need? Who advised him that telling the British public to “take necessary precautions” would be a good idea? I assume therefore that it came as quite a surprise to Mr Cameron that we then heard stories of old ladies filling up paint cans and jam jars with petrol.

Indeed a friend of mine got caught in a two and a half hour queue at a service station in the middle of a work day, only to then find himself semi-squashed between his own car and that of some poor nut job who had clearly lost their mind in the face of this perceived crisis and  given up on humanity altogether. My mate was understandably delighted upon realising that his body had acted as a more than adequate buffer, protecting his brand new car from the maniac’s and duly brushed himself off, paid for the petrol and told Facebook.

Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t surprise me that this was the advice given, after all George Bush told America to get out and spend money in the wake of 9/11 and that was almost eleven years ago, we’re fighting a different war to the one Churchill was. It is a war of big business and free market economics, this is what guides politicians, not these now empty words like freedom and liberty as they would have us believe. This is one of the chief reasons I do not see myself voting for any politician at any election for the foreseeable future, it doesn’t mean I’ve stopped listening though.

Very conveniently this morning, I was once again left in awe by the audacity of our own Chancellor George Osborne‘s suggestion that he is ‘shocked’ that some of the richest people in our country are able to arrange their finances so that they pay virtually no income tax. Are you sure about that George? You, the Chancellor of The Exchequer, the supposed go-to-guy in Westminster on all things money orientated, have such a poor grasp of the tax system in this country that you didn’t know people of exceptional wealth could easily and legally pay as little as ten percent tax on their yearly earnings? REALLY?!

For me, this moment is simply re-confirming, for the umpteenth time what many of us were absolutely certain of quite a while ago. George Osborne is either clearly so out of his depth that he is potentially the single greatest threat to the long-term stability of the British economy, bar none, or he is a genuinely evil man who time and again shows nothing but utter contempt for the British public and is convinced we are a bunch of gullible, alcohol obsessed morons. Either way, I’m not sure he should be left in charge of the budget of a local GREGGS, let alone that of our entire nation.

Politics should lead business in terms of forward thinking, but time and again it is the other way round, I believe the reason for this shift is because of the role that big business has played in politics since the end of the second world war. We now live in a world where it quite literally owns our politicians, indeed we have seen in the past couple of weeks how if you have enough money, you can pay to have dinner and drinks with the PM and potentially influence policy both at home and abroad. Where’s my dinner Dave?

Ironically big business now leads politics in many areas, including that of sustainability where on the one hand we have Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan which is a genuine and ambitious commitment to long-term sustainable development. Then on the other hand you have stories of cuts in funding for green businesses like wind-farms and uninspired clap-trap about the need for sustainability to make ‘fiscal sense’, from the government. Well yes of course it does but if that is at the heart of your thinking then you are kind of missing the point. No wonder voters are fed up.

Don’t get me wrong, business still has a long long way to go, but it is at least moving in the right direction, something that cannot be said for politics, which appears to have given up, turned around and gone home for a pot noodle and a wank.

The big problem is that the blame does not lie solely in the hands of Dave, Nick and Ed and their chums in westminster. You can’t even completely blame Maggie or Tony, yes they got into bed with corporations, but those mean old corporations didn’t have to be so rough and my god were they rough!

What was once a trade for great leaders of men, for people with wild and crazy notions of a brighter, fairer future, is now one for sneaky little back  stabbers and ‘poster boy’ politicians who are groomed and then controlled in order to perpetuate the established society and to serve the best interests of their ‘generous’ backers.

If politics really is in the back pocket of the worlds biggest organisations (and I think if the Leverson enquiry and the ‘cash for access’ scandal are anything to go by, they are), then how can politics ever get back to a place where it is once again a meaningful expression of democratic freedom?

George Galloway of the Respect party and Big Brother fame is certainly giving it a go and has been for some time, if I’m honest he says some things that I agree with and you cannot deny that the pounding he handed out to the Labour Party and the Tories in Bradford last week was mighty impressive.

In reality however, the Respect party are at best a protest vote, an option currently without a representative thanks to the Lib Dems, who appear to be on the verge of complete annihilation, and protest votes don’t really stand for much anyway. All-of-which leaves us hanging on the edge of a two-party system of the sort the Americans seem so very fond of.

Even if George Galloway didn’t say mental things like “The Bradford Spring” and was capable of putting his views (which are not without merit) on Palestine and the Middle East forward in a way that doesn’t sound like a big fuck you to Israel and the Yanks, I still don’t think he’d ever have a chance of breaking the two-party system in this country because big business will never back a politician like him and neither will the media.

The media in particular, absolutely hates George Galloway and always has done, I have not seen an interview with him since his victory where the interviewer showed him one ounce of respect. They spend so much time with ridiculous questioning about nothing that you never really get to hear what he has to say and he ends up coming across so defensive that you can’t possibly begin to buy into his politics. The interview below with SkyNews is a prime example of what I mean. This is what happens to anyone who thinks differently in politics, they are shifted to the side and either disappear into nothingness or become a social pariah to their peers, the media and the wider public, thus crippling their ability to do, or indeed say anything.

As I sit here today with my modest (at best) intellect and having thought about it for at least six minutes, I can see one possibility that could not only dramatically alter the way we think about politicians but the way they think about us. I believe this could be easily implemented and could have a rejuvenating effect on our society, which for the moment at least appears to be limping towards its own destruction.

Basically and very simply, I think we need to begin counting no shows at all elections as a ‘must do better’ or a protest vote, I believe everything you do on voting day should count, it all matters. Regardless of whether someone doesn’t vote as a protest or out of sheer indifference, both signify a massive failure of politicians to engage that person in the future of the country.

At the last general election thirty-five percent of the UK’s eligible voting population failed to turn up, if that thirty-five percent had counted towards something, at the very least a registering of disapproval of the candidates and parties on offer, then it takes on a whole new level of significance.

At the very least it forces us to engage properly on the subject of why people don’t show up to vote at elections, it gives us a genuine option as a protest vote and it would force politics in a very short space of time to revolutionise the way it interacts with the voting public. In the long-term it is the sort of thing that could turn the power structure on its head, taking the power over politicians out of the hands of global organisations and putting it back into the hands (in some small measure) of the people.

It would also force the media to discuss more openly the growing number of disaffected voters who are angry at the polarisation and school boy politics of our system that bounces us from one inadequate, one-sided way of doing things to another. It might even allow some of the smaller, but wiser voices in our political system to be heard on a wider scale.

Imagine if fifty percent of the eligible voting population didn’t vote at the next general election, what would that do to politicians? How could anyone in power continue to run things with this top down, fuck the man in the street attitude of today? You couldn’t do it, not if fifty percent didn’t turn up, not if that fifty percent knew that their not turning up meant something. Suddenly that fifty percent is united, not seen as individuals and outsiders but as a vehicle for political and social change, now that would be worth voting (or not voting) for…

One final thought. Time and time again, friends, family and acquaintances have come up with the old argument that I ‘spit on the graves of those who fought for my right to vote’ if I don’t go out to vote. In fairness, I used to believe them, I even used to spout the same nonsense myself, but I ask you one question and answer it honesty. Do you truly believe in your heart of hearts that Martin Luther King, members of the suffragette movement, the people of the Arab spring and many others laid down their lives so we could vote for these sneering merchants of economic doom? I cannot believe that this is the best we can do, I will not believe it, we must demand better…

I’ll be having a barbecue on the 3rd of May and at least nine beers, none voters and voters alike are welcome to join me without prejudice, but leave your party politics at the door, they don’t live here anymore…

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