One of the hot n’ tasty – albeit pseudo-informed – statements of this year is, ‘if you didn’t vote then you have no right to complain.’
It is getting increasingly difficult and increasingly stupid to make this argument with any real sense of conviction.
This year the voters were juggling less discernible differences between to the two major parties, dwindling credibility of the Liberal Democrats and swelling inflammation of the UK Independence Party. This year the media giants were out for blood with an unmatched and intense bias. This year pitted the candidates against each other in an awkwardly broadened yet puddle-deep televised debate. And this year saw Russell Brand throwing his hat into the ring!
Turnout at the 2015 General Election was the highest in nearly two decades with 66.1% of eligible people voting. This means that more people voted with less credible information than perhaps ever before.
The First Past The Post system gave the Conservatives 330 seats – a parliamentary majority – with only 37% of the vote, and only 24% of the eligible vote.
It’s easy to see why people don’t consider voting as an effective option.
It’s even easier to demonise non-voters as something less than British, or something less than human.
I’m not being melodramatic. When we deny people the right to be disillusioned, confused, appalled and upset – or when we deny them the right to complain about the decisions being made over and without them, we deny them the basic human rights of free expression and free speech.
We also fracture the foundation stones of democracy.
Part of living in a Democracy is the protection and representation of even those who disrespect the system. The beautiful downside to any Democracy is the freedom it provides to even those who would seek to undermine it.
At it’s extreme, a true Democracy goes out of its way to protect even those citizens who actively seek to destroy it. This is the wake of a Democracy, the price we pay for representation and the only real way to ensure the freedom of its people.
It’s not enough just to say, ‘you didn’t vote so all your rights, privileges and complaints are immediately invalid.’ Using that logic Children have no right to complain either, nor does my wife who is a tax paying, settled foreign national.
First Past The Post may have worked when we we’re a two party country, however the nightmare of this system now is the feeling of powerlessness it leaves for many who have a genuine reason to believe that their vote simply wouldn’t count.
Those of us who did vote, however have a nasty – and dare I say ‘slightly’ fascist – idea that because other people didn’t vote, their privileges and even their human rights to free speech and free expression are somehow to be regarded as less than ours.
This country is not split into voters and non-voters.
We the people are not ‘we who turned up’ and the future of our prosperity, health services and education is not reserved for only those special few who share our ideology about voting or our ability to vote.
In a Democracy we believe in the vocalisation of minority opinions. We believe that all sides should have a right to be heard. We believe that everybody has a right to their opinion – right? But somehow there is one glaring exception: everyone has a right to their opinion only as long as they actually vote. They have no right to any different opinion on voting – and all their opinions are devalued if they don’t.
There is a silent argument about those who won’t/can’t vote still being part of the country, protected by it’s laws with a right to be discontent. ‘You didn’t vote so you can shut the hell up and lump it for the next five years’ is simply a dramatic misunderstanding the system we live in – and the one that we vote in.
We need to get our game faces on and encourage voting – but this will not happen by degrading, devaluing and further disillusioning those who didn’t. The country is not split into voters and non-voters. We should move past these lazy, elitist arguments and start coming together to raise the bar, give hope for the future and actually fix the problem!