I don’t vote. I did once, in 1997, but after the subsequent guard changing I never felt compelled to again.
In fact as my political understanding grew, in both detached and immediate arenas, I became firmer in my stance that voting was not the best way to change things. Or rather, not the best way I could help change the things I wanted to see change. To me charity begins at home, and I saw more power in both a non partisan approach and the private sector – whilst shouting in the face of a four year term ‘YOU’LL NEVER GET ANYTHING DONE.’
Plus I simply couldn’t endorse any political party on the hustings, or tow the ‘best of a bad bunch’ line all the way to the ballot box; it made no sense to underwrite something I didn’t trust or believe in.
I wrote the following editorial about this in May 2008: http://birminghamreview.net/opinion-bonkers-boris-and-the-state-of-the-nation/
I left the country shortly after (not because of) that editorial, effectively sidestepping the conversation I was so often unable to have in person. All I could do was watch from afar whilst Britain brushed child abuse networks under the carpet and refused to visit countries that were ashamed to sell sanitary towels. Ah, the glass house hangover of a debauched Pax Britannica.
But now I’m back in Britain on the run up to a dangerous general election; for the first time since Oswald Mosley we have real trouble as a candidate. And as Ed Miliband continues the Labour Party car crash with garrulous promises about apprenticeships (née YTS), whilst the coalition Government tear tiny strips of each other and bigger ones from frontline services, there’s a truth I may need to face – it could be time to get back on the electoral roll. Or, at least, to start having the conversation again.
There seems to be a lot of scared and hate filled rhetoric circling today, whilst the social climate (and even the economic one, if you’re prepared to see it) are better than in times of yore. And I know there is always a counter point to a counterpoint, but look around you; the lights work, the water’s clean, and Polio is now not much more than a Dickens reference.
But the middle class burden seems to weigh heaviest on those who have no reason to run, and apathy has once again has led to anger. We are once again, as a nation, blaming the poor, vulnerable or last through the door. People I have grown up respecting are starting sentences with “the credit crunch” and “I’m not racist but…” I feel, for the second time in my adult life, perhaps it’s time to politically chip in.
I asked my mother this morning what would be her most compelling reason to vote, she answered “…the NHS, whoever would be the best for state healthcare.” I can buy that. And whilst I’m not sure what will be the catalyst for me to once again put a cross down on paper, I am going to go through the top four manifestos.
I may still not vote.
Ed King is editor of Birmingham Review. Follow him at https://twitter.com/edking2210