There is an election today, an election that means about the same to me as whether Joey Essex becomes the next winner of Pointless, having been given questions solely about spray tanning and alcopops. Motivating myself to vote will be hard. Maybe impossible.
I consider myself reasonably politically aware. I have voted in every general election that I could (though I didn’t postal vote when I lived abroad on the basis that I cared about the result about as much as I cared about if Joey Essex won Pointless). I chose my vote, initially, ideologically as I suspect many eighteen year olds do and I probably bored my friends and family with the loud justification of my choice. Now my political awareness has extended to regularly writing and tweeting about politics and I will choose my next general election vote based upon the candidate only, or I will spoil.
I have voted in local elections. I want a local councillor who best represents me and looks after our interests, particularly in terms of my pet subject education.
I even voted in the AV referendum. A passionate “No”. You may find that odd but I analysed the proposed changes and found the new system to be a fudge, a soft soap to the Liberal Democratss that would leave voting less rather than more accessible, understood only by a small liberal elite. I still have the “no to AV” note on my Facebook page. In summary it goes:
“Mark and John would like to go to the Red Lion but don’t mind the Green Man and would go there as their second preference. Steve likes the Castle only while Darren likes it but secretly wants a coffee as he’s tired. Fred likes the Green Man best but is in love with the barmaid at The Queens Head and wants someone else to choose it for him. Tim and Tom like the Queens Head a bit but Tim also likes coffee while Tom doesn’t want to move from the pub because the footy’s on. Graham, Albert and Mike all prefer coffee to beer, Mike quite likes the Red Lion, Albert is ok with the Castle and Graham doesn’t drink alcohol. They decide to ‘democratically’ decide where they are going by choosing more than one venue. By the time they do the pub is closed, the football’s finished and the barmaid at the Queens Head is shagging Brad.
Meanwhile Duncan, a 17 year old who is predicted three A’s at A level is going to leave university with debts of £50,000 as a result of the others having a vote about changing the way they go out in the evening. Duncan is too young to legally get in a pub.”
Reasonably politically aware then.
Aware enough to know that today there is a national vote in the European Elections. I have known this for a while. I am not, however, politically aware enough that I know the name of my MEPs. You say that’s shameful for a political blogger. I say I write from the point of view of the everyman, the confused ordinary parent, and none of them know who their MEP is either. The whole thing is, truth be told, a shocking irrelevance and the actual outcome will matter less than Joey Essex winning that proverbial episode of Pointless.
This, combined with the system of Proportional Representation used, tends to mean that the outsiders get a bit of a sniff. The post I linked to may suggest I like outsiders but organised outsiders, particularly those who are ideologically driven, are just as whacked out as the main parties. I’m more for removing the partisan element and replacing it with independents who can truly represent their constituents free of ideology and the whip. It does not gladden my heart that the Greens will probably get an MEP or two or (particularly) that the BNP had an MEP. It makes me think “sod me, how are this disparate group of people ever going to get anything done?”
So I would have happily not voted, and indeed not blogged. What’s the point in taking part in a party political pissing contest when you’re trying to remove yourself from party politics?
“Oh but you must vote, people fought and died for that right” I often hear when people declare they’re not voting at all. Indeed I’ve read exactly that on a message board debate this week. I always find that patronising and, well, just a touch disingenuous. Firstly Hitler was originally elected (perhaps something that people may want to ponder before dropping their cross next to a right wing party) but secondly people didn’t just fight and die for that. They fought to keep Britain British and to liberate France and to repel the Germans from North Africa and because Jews were being gassed and bombs dropped on us and because Churchill jolly well said so. They fought for freedom and freedom includes the right to spend European Election day sitting in front of repeats on Dave with a biro up your nose and a cold bowl of Pot Noodle should you so choose.
Now I know in my general election blog I said I would actively abstain so why is Europe any different? Because I will hunt out a decent candidate in 2015 and only abstain if there isn’t one. Not only do I fundamentally not care who wins the European Election but I will be forced to vote for a party, the very thing I said I wouldn’t do again.
So, anyway, there I was, minding my own business and not voting when along came the Kippers. You’d think – certainly from social media – that this election was actually a straight fight between UKIP and the rest of the world. Farage has managed to get himself on just about every television programme going, and let me tell you, wall to wall Farage is unpleasant. So, frankly, are his party.
There’s Godfrey Bloom and his rantings about Bongo Bongo Land. There’s the Nazi Tattoos and Poofter Shooting. There’s Farage’s unfortunate comments about Romanians. There have even been suggestions that rivals and mainstream voters should by hung. In short a nasty collection of xenophobia, racism, homophobia and hatred.
“Ohhhh, look at you getting offended on behalf of others” is another unfortunate cliché I’ve seen in the run in to this election when the Kippers rather unfortunate turns of phrase are raised. But once again this misses the mark by a mile. Fellow blogger and gay Dad Nick King was outraged by the shooting comment. One of my Romanian colleagues (and indeed one of my British Asian ones) are terrified by Farage. The Romanian, quite understandably, worried about how the people next door will react the next time she and her perfectly normal professional nuclear family move.
All a jolly good reason not to vote for them you would think. Yet, for me, this part is a mere sideshow in the European Election circus. There are two far better reasons not to vote UKIP. Firstly their economic policy which stinks as much as their candidate selection. It is ironic that their voter demographic seems to be coming largely from the over 65s and the “disenfranchised” protest voters because these are the people who would be hurt the most by a UKIP actually in power somewhere meaningful. They would slash taxes, introducing a flat rate of income tax and abolishing Inheritance Tax, yet they would also increase the number of prisons and introduce a complex and costly immigrations system. They admit themselves that their immigration policies would hurt GDP. And they would part privatise the NHS. In other words health, social and education services would be cut to the very people who need them free and on tap the most – the elderly and the low paid. And you will be low paid. Those crops won’t pick themselves. Those coffee shops and hotels can’t open on zero staff. Where do you think the low paid nurses needed to make a partly private NHS work would come from?
Secondly – and insanely – vote for UKIP today and you will be putting them in to an institution they do not believe in. It’s like electing Gary Neville to play for Liverpool or choosing Simon Cowell to trawl round pubs looking for the best alternative poetry Thursday evenings can provide. They do not want to be there. If they do they’re hypocrites. You are literally wasting your vote more than if I was to spoil it.
Talking of which I have decided not to. I will spend this morning looking at the manifestos of the parties and I will vote this afternoon for the one that is most likely to oppose UKIP.