THE BLOG

Election vs Eastenders

04/05/2015 23:29 BST | Updated 04/05/2016 10:12 BST

I am not a satirist.

Anyone who has seen me grace the stage with a microphone will tell you that I'm really more intoxication and social anxiety than immigration and social unrest.

I am, however, following that there election.

I'm following it in the same way that I follow that there politics at any other time. It is similar to the way in which I watch Eastenders. That is to say - I enjoy it, but I'm not 100% sure what's going on and why no one likes each other. And once in a while, someone has sex with the wrong person.

I have always considered myself a bit of a woolly liberal. I grew up near Lewes in East Sussex where Norman Baker was our man. He climbed up through the local council system to become the first non-Tory MP in Lewes since 1874. I remember watching Paddy Ashdown on the telly when I was a young teen and wondering naïvely why everyone didn't vote for the yellow team. They seemed so level-headed and nice.

Of course, I now know that nothing is as simple as that.

These days I try to listen to and read as much as I can. I try to form my own ideas but I'd be lying if I said I did it all by myself. I have a secret handful of friends on Facebook whose opinions I value and trust. Most of the time I wait to see what they have to say before making a judgement. I'm a little bit ashamed of this fact. I'm a thirty... never mind... year old woman and I don't think I could tell you what exactly quantitative easing is.

I am horrified by the number of people using food banks and disgusted that there exists such a thing as zero hours contracts, so logically I think that a Labour government must be better. But then, am I just being naïve to think that austerity isn't the necessary way to deal with the deficit? And what is the deficit? Who owes money to who? And more importantly,

Why don't I know?

And here, I think, is the essence of what makes me cross.

I don't consider myself a particularly politically knowledgeable member of society, but of all the people I know, I'm probably in the top third of clued up adults when it comes to this area.

I'm not having a go at anyone. I'm saying I understand. It's confusing. The ins and outs of who said what and who promises this to that and the other.

And this confusion, this naivety and ignorance makes us vulnerable. It makes us prey for the likes of Nigel Farage and Nick Griffin who want to make politics look simple and easy.

I went to a hustings the other evening. Hustings, by the way, being my new favourite word. It was for my constituency which is Lewisham West and Penge. I wanted to know what I was actually voting for, not just pinning my name to colours. I won't go on about the debate but two things from the night are worth mentioning.

Firstly, there was a candidate standing for a party called 'Liberty GB'. Their ten point plan for government includes the repeal of the Human Rights Act which, according to them, ONLY benefits terrorists and Islamists. I probably don't need to tell you the other nine points do I? Suffice to say that if the hustings had been a comedy night, then the Liberty GB candidate would have been the winner. He talked absolute nonsense from start to finish and it was heartening and joyful to see how little attention was given to this angry, misinformed little man.

The second occurrence of the evening worth mentioning is that the current MP for Lewisham West and Penge did not appear on the panel. Instead, a statement was read out on behalf of the Labour MP, asserting that his absence was due to the fact that he refused to share a podium with a racist. He remembered the EDL marches and would not give time to people with such offensive views.

On the one hand, you can see his point. Liberty GB man was a clattering arse. But those candidates that did speak at the hustings acquitted themselves extremely well in the face of UKIP and 'Bigots 'r' us'. To my mind, it was foolish of the Labour MP to abstain. So foolish that I think I have changed my vote. I was all ready to go red after the yellow balls up and now I think I'm green! I'm like a voting rainbow so I am.

But - and here is the big thing - I don't imagine that Labour MP gives a flying monkey's testicle.

This chap has been an MP for twenty odd years. The folk who vote for him always have and always will. And most of them were at home on that evening. Watching Eastenders. They probably had no idea that there was a hustings on down the road. Or what a hustings is. I only knew about it because I got an email from the lovely people at 38 degrees.

Most of us are scrabbling around in the dark. Trying to watch a slightly dull soap where all the characters look very similar and make decisions based on things that happened way before you started watching. And when it comes to putting a mark on the ballot paper, people end up going for whoever their dad said was good, or whoever their newspaper likes. Or worse, they pick up the Liberty GB leaflet that dropped through the letter box and think that a ten point plan seems so simple and palatable...

I don't think that's good enough. We do, more or less, live in a democracy and for that we are so very fortunate. But it doesn't work if it's all too intimidating and complicated. A cynic might suggest of course, that it suits the powers that be for it to be like this. If we all keep voting like our dads did then there's no real change to the status quo.

Why don't we learn about this at school? Modern politics should be part of our learning as much as reading and writing. As it is, we've got to the point where an awful lot of teachers find it hard to answer questions on foreign policy or immigration. And then what hope is there? We end up struggling to separate fact from fiction in the newspaper and believing manipulated statistics spouted from dangerous people like Nigel Farage.

We find ourselves sadly at the mercy of spin doctors and media campaigns. If one party spoke up and said that they had found a way for us all to work a three day week while earning more money than Russell Brand, there would be another party dropping leaflets through your door to say how dangerous and terrible for your children that would be. Without basic education or knowledge on the subject, how can we hope to make a sensible choice? If there is a referendum on our part in the EU, how do we get people to vote with understanding and reason and not just because they got food poisoning in a French restaurant once?

And then I get scared and that makes me want to retreat back to talking about leggings and gin. Like those people who don't watch the news because it's too depressing. But I want to resist that urge. I think we all should if we possibly can.

Maybe one day I'll try out being a satirical comedian. One day I'll feel confident enough to comment on the state of affairs at Westminster without making a fool of myself. I'd like to think I might. For now I'll just keep watching and asking questions. I only wish I had the same patience with Eastenders.