In 2013 Russell Brand told BBC Newsnight that he had never voted and never would. He stated that he wasn't "not voting" out of apathy but out of absolute indifference to the lies and deceit of the political class. Russell obviously forgot to look up what the word apathy actually means in the dictionary. However misguided his attitude may be his words are mirrored by many in the UK. On the surface of it I can't blame anyone for feeling this way. When you look at the ruling parties in the House of Commons you still see the same well fed faces that have been ruling our country for hundreds of years. Russell Brand is right in what he's saying about our politicians, but he's completely wrong for not voting at all.
At the last election in 2010 I remember how well Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats were polling. After the first ever televised leader debate they were set to gain more votes than ever. I remember talking to colleagues, friends, family and I remember all of them saying they were going to make a stand and vote for a different party this time. They were "fed up" with the same old lying deceitful politicians.
The Liberal Democrats actually lost seats following the 2010 election and we ended up with a Conservative led coalition government. The reasons for this seemed pretty clear to me. After the election I asked the same people who said they were going to vote differently who they voted for. There were 2 main responses:
1. I knew the party I wanted to vote for wouldn't win so I voted tactically to keep the worst of the big 2 out.
2. Nothing ever changes so I couldn't be bothered to vote.
The electoral turn out in 2010 was 65.1%. That's actually better than it has been in the past but it still means 34.9% of the country didn't vote. The ones that did reverted to what they knew rather than what they believed in. Who is responsible for the same old lying deceitful politicians being in power? Er...that would be us.
We allow ourselves to be ruled by an out of touch elite who show us little respect and treat us indifferently. If we don't care enough to exercise our democratic right to bring the changes we want, then we have no right to complain or moan about the system we claim to hate. We have opportunities to change the way we're governed but guess what? We never take them. We only have ourselves to blame.
Vote to Vote
I've heard many excuses for people not voting, the chief being "There's no party about that represents my views so why should I bother voting?" Even if that were true (and I seriously doubt it is - there are over 200 registered parties in the UK) you have the right to form your own party. If you can't find anyone that represents your views, there is a way to represent yourself. You also have the right to spoil your ballot paper and state that there is no party to represent your position. The real reason people moan about the way things are is that they cannot be bothered to make the effort to try and change them.
What do you believe in?
Voting is easy. However when we do vote, we often fail to think properly about what we're voting for. This is demonstrated at every election when the same parties win. Instead of voting to keep the worst party out, how about voting for what you believe in yourself? Instead of voting for a party that promises change but fails to actually tell you what that change is, why not study the policies of each party and see which ones fit your beliefs the most? Whilst I admit that the current first past the post electoral system tends to favour the Conservative and Labour parties, it does so only because they know that people panic and vote for the familiar. If we voted differently in May, if we actually voted for the policies we believe in rather than for the familiar, we might one day get a government that respects our views.
There's a survey doing the rounds on social media called Vote for Policy, Not Personality. It confronts you with a list of party policies but it doesn't tell you which party they're from. It's worth checking out as it will tell you what party you should vote for based on the policies you agree with. If that doesn't make voting even easier, then I don't know what will.
The future is up to us
If we continue to do the safe tactical vote, if we continue to not be bothered to vote then we have no right to complain about the way things are. I am tired of hearing people like Russell Brand criticise and whine (particularly as Brand is doing very well out of the current system he claims to hate) when they cannot even be bothered to do two simple things that can start to make a difference: think and vote.