Saturday, 5 March 2011

A Vote for Me is a Vote for Something Else

Another by-election, another small turn out and doubtless soon to follow we will have the usual laments about voter apathy which always seem to have the sinister undercurrent that the whole system should be abolished and we should resign ourselves to autocratic rule by those who know best. There may well be laments about how more people vote in X Factor or whatever than vote in elections. But as Mark Steel has pointed out more than once, people don’t bother to vote because they can’t be bothered with democracy, they don’t vote because they can’t see the point. Their votes have no concrete effect. He may be right. On a local level, Tesco recently failed to get permission to build a new shop near where my mother lives, said permission turned down by the democratically voted local council. Tesco then trotted off to London to get that decision over-ruled by a government made up of two parties who failed to win the last election. David Cameron wants to privatise just about the entire state which I don’t remember being mentioned in the TV debates and Nick Clegg justifies breaking his university fees pledge on the grounds that not enough people voted for him which is not so much realpolitik as petulance. ‘Manifestos are poetry, policies are prose’ says a character in The West Wing. Maybe, but I reserve the right to get annoyed if I am sold a book which is advertised as being by Oscar Wilde but is in fact written by Jeffrey Archer.

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