A week or so ago I watched the parade of rhetoric and mediocre scriptwriting that they call ‘television debates’, and sighed. I sat there, drinking my Supermalt, in my Primark onesie, with my hair looking like an extra from 12 years a slave, and realised that my physical appearance was more or less indicative of my attitude to the whole affair. Unbothered.
I used to be one of those people who foamed at the mouth at the idea of not voting. I would feel my blood pressure rising when people, especially other ethnic minorities, or women, casually declared that they hadn’t voted/ didn’t intend to/hadn’t got round to registering. “BUT PEOPLE DIED SO YOU COULD VOTE!” I would screech, as the foam collected in an angry froth around the corners of my mouth. “AT LEAST SPOIL THE BALLOT! AT LEAST ENGAGE IN THE PROCESS!!!”, leaving my largely non-captive audience slightly uncomfortable as I stood on the edge of one of my longwinded soapboxes.
But last election I didn’t vote.
It wasn’t a decision I took lightly, mind. I didn’t happen to wander past the closing date for registering on my way to the medical library, or decide that it was too cold to go to the polling station so it was perhaps better to stay indoors with a mug of warm soya. It wasn’t voter apathy.
I consciously, after much thought decided that I wasn’t going to vote.
And I regretted it.
I had some good reasons. My primary reason, strangely enough was to do with my faith. My particular denomination has a long tradition of being hesitant of voting for political parties. Not hesitant at being involved in political issues – many early founders of the church were heavily involved in the abolitionist movement and the underground railroad, and regularly spoke out on issues of civil and religious liberty. They did caution though, that aligning yourself with a particular party too closely makes it difficult to speak truth to power. Once you decide to label yourself as ‘Labour’ or ‘Tory’ publicly and become involved in any way more than just a regular voter, there is incredible pressure to work on the behalf of the party and not just on behalf of what you believe to be true and right. Not only that, they suggested that by voting for a party, you take some responsibility for their actions once in power, and if you aren’t convinced that they represent your belief system adequately, you shouldn’t vote for them. And to a large extent, I agree with that.
My second reason, and the one that most of us can sympathise with, was a general distrust of politicians evoking any real change. They say what they don’t mean and do what they don’t say. I wasn’t convinced (and smugly feel that I have been proven right), that Nick Clegg was anything more than a less charismatic David Cameron who occasionally wears a yellow tie. Poor lad. I wasn’t convinced that my voting or non-voting would actually do anything to change a system that at the core was radically unjust, where the three men, yes MEN, who could represent me all went from Eton to Oxford to Westminster, and I had NO alternative to this. This might appear to be a rather surface and naive opinion, but I don’t think it is. Really, honestly I asked, what is the drastic difference between Conservatives and the Lib Dems? Or even Conservative and Labour? What drastic measures are either party going to bring in come May?
Unfortunately, although I still maintain that the system is rotten and that it’s futile to look to politicians to change that system, David Cameron and his coalition have proven that yes, one (and a half) party can screw up an already screwed up thing even more, fairly quickly. I don’t think every single thing Cameron has done or suggested is awful, and I think a bipartisan (or tripartisan) approach is the best, but I think a lot of us, especially those who work in the NHS will agree that he has managed to effectively urinate on everything the NHS stands for.
Granted, the groundwork had already been laid for him, but we now know that believing anything Cameron said about the NHS was like believing a junior doctor who told you she could remove your prostate. You both know she’s lying, and it’s a bit comical.
For that reason alone, I’m voting in this election. Not because I think that any of these parties are good, represent what I stand for, or will even be able to dramatically change anything. In that sense, I remain unbothered.
But because faced with the option of two evils, for some reason I can’t bring myself to not at least try and help avoid the greater of the two.
Are you voting? Why? Care to share who you’re voting or?