This past ten years, I’ve had a disconnect with our political system in the UK. Some of their antics over the last decade or so, both domestically and internationally, have left me wondering which planet they were on. They were taking decisions which to me looked crazy. “Don’t these people read history? Here we go again….” My frustrations built, both against the ruling parties and the political opposition.
NOTE – This post isn’t going to degenerate into a hate on any particular party. Indeed, if you leave anything in the comments after this post that peddles your particular political stance, you’ll see it deleted.
But I’d got myself into the mindset that voting was pointless, that it made little difference to me as a person, that I was powerless to have any influence. Add in the frustrations of watching politicians being interviewed on TV and I made my personal hate process complete. They never answer the awkward question they’ve been asked, do they? Instead they answer the question that they’d wish had been asked. We’ve all seen it, it’s frustrating, isn’t it?
So I grew to actively avoid any political news content, turned away when the latest, chinless wonder was on camera, whatever the party. My views? Bluntly, apologising in advance for the language, “They all piss in the same pot, with their own personal agenda related to their future personal interests in the business afterlife of an MP.” Pointless. My mindset became, “I don’t like any of them. If I vote, I’m not actually voting for the one I’d really like to win, I’m actually voting for the one I hate the least. That’s not a good, healthy reason to be engaged. I’ll just stay away.”
That, of course, is an easy decision to make. And with hindsight, that was Neill being selfish. As election day grew closer, I began to consider that perhaps some of the parties actually preferred you not to vote. With a relatively low turnout, maybe they thought that they’d be left to their own devices. Then I watched the dreadful events in the Mediterranean, literally thousands of people drowning in their attempt to reach Europe. Once again, I was frustrated at the antics of politicians and their hand wringing. I watched the people of Nepal in their desperate fight for life amongst the ruins of what was once their homes and way of life. Actually, we’re pretty lucky here.
I grew to realise that the people who say you shouldn’t waste a vote are right. On voting day, I found that large white card and exercised that privilege that many people in the world don’t have. Unlike many countries, there was no man with an AK47 standing over me as I marked my paper in my local primary school. Just an elderly man with an old chocolate brown Labrador sleeping at his feet as he took my folded paper and crammed it into the ballot box.
As I walked home, I reflected that our political system is far from perfect. Indeed, perhaps I wasn’t voting for the man I genuinely wanted to win, I was voting for what I thought was the least damaging option. But this time, I’m going to be watching you. And I’m going to be making a lot more noise when I’m unhappy when I think things are wrong and I’d like you to do something about it.
I’m writing this early on Sunday morning. My own dog is still snoozing away and the family are yet to stir. Today marks a day of celebrations of VE Day. Victory in Europe, seventy years ago now. I watched our political party leaders lay wreaths in London this week, standing alongside those veterans who seem ever more wrinkly, supporting that long row of medals on their breast, red beret still worn with great pride. I hope the politicians took a long look at the men standing alongside them. Perhaps they may shake a hand and say thank you, as I would hope that I would in their presence.
Certainly my unhealthy cynicism is currently wiped clean, which as a good thing for any person. Perhaps there are MP’s out there in public office for the right reasons. I’m going to be healthily engaged in future to find out.
I know one thing. If I hadn’t voted, I’d have felt very guilty about watching the events of VE Day today. Turning my back on the privilege defended for me by those people is something I’ll never take lightly again.