Wednesday, 23 February 2011


Anyone who has ever knocked on doors seeking support for their party has heard the words: “I’m not interested in politics or in voting; I never vote; you politicians are all the same, you’re just out for yourselves.”

I have sympathy for those who don’t believe that their views are properly represented, or who feel that their vote can have little influence in a first-past-the-post voting system, but I have none at all for those who can’t be bothered to vote even as a gesture of protest.

Hearing the news each day from the Middle East brings home the stark contrast between those in Britain who hold our democracy in contempt and those who fight for it elsewhere.

People in Tunisia, people in Egypt, people in Libya have taken to the streets and laid down their lives for the sake of having what the complacent non-voters in our country appear to despise so much – the chance to influence the way they are governed through the ballot box.

I doubt that I would have the courage to face the wrath of authoritarian regimes as those seeking democracy in the Middle East are doing now, but I cherish what we have in Britain. It is very far from perfect but, in the words of Churchill: “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

Some 37 years ago I joined the Liberal Party and first knocked on a door to ask for support. Over the years I have grown to respect supporters of all political parties who have done the same. Politics in Britain is tame by the standards of many places elsewhere but those who try to influence the decision-making process are standing up for the fundamental values of freedom all the same.

Maybe it’s time that the candidates of all parties, the people who put their heads above the parapet and engage with the democratic process, got together to tell the non-voters what we really think of them.

I cannot be alone in finding that a great many non-voters tend to be smug, superior and disdainful. So often they give the impression that they think it’s clever not to vote. In their arrogance they express the view that politics and politicians are simply beneath them. Some simply have no appreciation of the idea that anyone could be motivated by concepts of public service, or by a desire to achieve change for the greater good, probably because the thought of doing the same has never crossed their minds.

Non-voters can despise practising politicians all they like, the reality is that they have cast aside their chance of having any influence and have opted instead for impotency. The vote is power, and we who use it are pretty contemptuous of those who do not.

So, non-voters, hear it from one practising politician:

“You insult the memory of those who fought for the vote in Britain and who are fighting across the world for it now. Our law gives you the right to emasculate yourselves by choosing not to vote but don’t imagine that this wins you respect.

“We live in a democracy and while the views of voters matter the views of non-voters do not. By not voting you have made yourself irrelevant.

“We don’t care what you think. You have made the decision that you want no influence. So be it, you have none.”

I feel so much better for writing that. Maybe I’ll get some cards printed that I can carry with me to give to non-voters when next I go knocking on doors.

“SORRY,” they might read. “Sorry for having disturbed you and sorry too that I wasted my time. Perhaps if you suffered under authoritarian rule you might appreciate why the chance to vote is something to value and use.

“Fortunately we live in a democracy, but please don’t expect politicians to take any notice of your views, we serve at the whim of voters and you have chosen not to be one..

“If this annoys you there is always something you can do about it. USE YOUR VOTE!”


McDuff said...

Actually, I think you're wrong. The protestors in Libya and Egypt and Tunisia have not laid down their lives for "a chance to influence their future at the ballot box." They have done so in no small part for the definite goal of removing corrupt leaders.

The Egyptians did not want the chance to vote against Hosni Mubarak in an election. He offered them that and they held the square and marched on the palace. No, they wanted him *gone*, and they wanted him gone *now*.

Democracy cannot be squeezed down to "votes". It's more than that. If all you do is vote, you'll end up with the situation we're in now, with the one party who was historically on the right side of things aligned with a Tory party led by a man who would be selling guns to Mubarak right now if his own people hadn't kicked him out.

When you look at the abjection of our national politicians, I think it's they who insult the protestors and revolutionaries of the Middle East, not the people who have realised that we're not going to get any significant change in this country unless we stop just voting and start camping out in front of Parliament.

A Voter said...

You know why people don't vote Mr Davies?, because we're bloody fed up of MP's promising this that and the other on the campaign trail then conveniently forgetting everything once they're in power. Get off your high horse and put your own house in order first before attacking others with your ridiculous self-righteousness. As you seem to be pointing out, this is a democracy, so voting is NOT compulsory

Michael Gradwell said...

I have met people like "A Voter" who, despite the pseudonym suggests that they don't vote. If they have the ability to put forward this argument then they may also have the ability to stand for election. A Voter attacks a hard-working MEP but what are they doing? We won't know because of their anonymity but instead of insults they could, if they were brave enough, attack the blog's content.