Thursday, 22 May 2014

The system doesn't care why you don't vote. That's why I voted today.

Yesterday I tweeted this image from @FeministPics (follow them, they’re awesome) 

and my timeline went whoop! Seriously, so many RTs. And, inevitably, so much backlash from people informing me that voting was a waste of time. After all, the Suffragettes weren’t fighting for a vote in the kind of Parliament we have today (yes they were!). Voting? What about the Arab Spring! (you mean, the revolutionary movement for democracy instead of dictatorships? Surely that’s about why voting matters?). Voting is a waste of time when they’re all the same, dontcha think? CaMORON and BLIAR – all in all voting won’t change anything, we need to overthrow the whole system and get rid of the current Parliamentary democracy and you know what? The best way to do that is to do…nothing. Nothing. Apparently. 

You don’t need to tell me the system is a bit crap. Being a feminist in the last few years has brought home day after day just how much the Government’s actions are screwing us over. Every day I see policy after policy disproportionately impact negatively on women – from benefit reform to cuts that lead to refuge closures to the continued presence of Yarls Wood. I hate this system. I’m sick of it. I just want to get that out of the way before anyone calls me a stooge. 

But you know what doesn’t change the system? Doing nothing. And that’s what not voting is. Not voting is a negative. It changes nothing. 

Unless you’ve been on Mars for the last month, you’ll have noticed that UKIP is expected to do surprisingly well in this election. This is despite their continued racism, more racism, sexism and homophobia. Somehow they have positioned themselves as the ‘anti-establishment’ party despite their totally establishment views, and now are seen as the obvious ‘protest’ vote against the main parties. 

People who want to vote UKIP are going to go out and vote today. People who are on that section of the right, or who are disenchanted with Labour and the Conservatives and believe the answer lies in scrapping the Human Rights Act and stigmatising immigrants for the failures of domestic policy; they are going to go out and vote today. They’re not going to register their “protest” by doing nothing. 

And so when UKIP does well, and all the non-voters stay home, what do you think happens next? Do you think Cameron and Miliband look at the proportion of non-voters and say ‘hold up! A bunch of people didn’t vote! Better try and start appealing to them, even though I don’t know why they didn’t vote. Maybe they did it because they’re disenchanted with the Parliamentary system that ignores them and passes policies that hurt them. Lets do something to get them on our side! Just in case!’ 

I don’t think they’re going to do that. I think they’re going to look at the people who voted for UKIP, and try and work out how to woo them back to the centre in time for next May. 

And seeing as we know that UKIP has flirted with their voters by whipping up fear of immigration and distaste for human rights, I think we are going to see a lot more statements and announcements that will appeal to that view point. 

It sounds strange I know, but in a Parliamentary democracy, the political parties are always going to make an effort to appeal to those who vote. 

If you don’t vote, they’re not going to make any effort to appeal to you. Because they don’t care why you didn’t vote. They have no reason to take any action to talk to you. They will not revise their policies to try to appeal to non-voters because they want to put their energy into people they know are going to turn up at the polling station. 

As a result, you can bet your bottom dollar they will make an effort to appeal to UKIP voters.

If you are on the left, and you don’t vote today and UKIP does well, and in response the Tories make more noises about scrapping the Human Rights Act, and make it a manifesto pledge to scrap housing benefit for under-25s (a group who notoriously don’t vote), and put in more policies that discriminate against families where the spouse is not from the EU, and send out more racist buses, don’t be surprised. Don’t complain to me. Go and vote instead. 

And you know what else? Check your privilege. Voting should be a right, but it isn’t at the moment. Whilst it is denied to millions across the world, it remains a privilege. When people are dying and being put in prison for demanding this basic right, it remains a privilege. This isn’t just a Suffragette issue, although the battles women fought for me to have the right to even be writing this blogpost is one of the reasons I always vote. It’s too easy for too many people to forget that not having the vote and being imprisoned for demanding it is the reality for women and men across the world today. 

Do you know why their Governments and Dictators still deny their people the vote?

Because they know how much having a vote matters. They know that the vote can change things. 

That’s why they didn’t let us have the vote for so long. 

I know the system sucks. I feel so disenfranchised sometimes, I feel so angry at the ways in which politicians have repeatedly betrayed us. I watch the braying men in the House of Commons and despair at how they will ever represent me. 

But I don’t believe I can change any of that by removing myself from the conversation. Change comes from doing, not from doing nothing. 

I’ll leave the final word to Hunter S Thompson:

Vote. It ain’t much. But it’s the only weapon we have against the greedheads.’ 

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