Two things are very apparent following the European Elections - very few people in the UK voted (fewer than in the last election), and those who did abandoned the usual suspects to put their support behind isolationist parties like UKIP.
As we've come to expect in modern politics, the regrets and recriminations from media and politicians have come thick and fast in the last few days. Who's to blame for the low turnout? Should Nick Clegg step down?Is UKIP's success just a protest vote?
One man under fire in the blame game is Russell Brand, the entertainer-turned-political commentator who last year famously denounced voting as 'trivial' and tokenistic, in favour of a revolution against the entire political system.
For some, Brand is at best, to blame for the low turnout, and at worst partially responsible for the misguided attempt by citizens to use UKIP as a protest vote against the other parties.
Why? When Brand admitted last year that he had never voted, and didn't intend to, he garnered a fair amount of much-deserved praise for articulating widespread feelings of apathy and disillusionment among the voting public. But he also garnered criticism for failing to provide a legitimate political alternative. In the absence of any real solution in response to our political problem, is it any wonder that some voters are left trying to find their own mechanisms for expressing their political discontent, and promptly fall into the populist party trap?
But holding Brand to account for anything more than a failure of imagination is, in my eyes, a bit of a stretch. Brand is right that voting has become relatively meaningless, for reasons which I have explained elsewhere. But that realisation, paradoxically, should be just the start - not the end - of our thinking. Solutions lie neither in voting in the conventional way, nor in abstaining. Rather, we need to find completely new ways of using our votes which directly address the forces that today make them meaningless. This, you might say, is the art of 'political jujitsu': instead of using our own force to directly combat the redundant political system (which won't work), we use the force of the system against itself to our advantage.
Such solutions already exist - inventive ways to use our votes to empower ourselves and compel politicians to act in our interests. That's what my Simultaneous Policy (Simpol) campaign is all about. As one former apathetic voter commented, "In the twenty years that I have been afforded a vote, I am ashamed to say I have never used it. My theory was that not to vote was the best way of securing my protest to all or any political parties.... But as soon as I digested your information I signed up to Simultaneous Policy without hesitation and now feel almost compelled to get involved".
Given there are unexpected yet powerful ways we can use our votes, we shouldn't be too hard on Brand. Rather, we have to take responsibility for how we use our power to vote - a power many have given their lives and livelihoods to gain on our behalf. At the end of the day, Brand doesn't have responsibility for what we do with our votes - we do.