It's become a requisite for Huffington Post UK Bloggers to comment on the recent Newsnight interview that saw Jeremy Paxman and Russell Brand engage in a game of political darts. The HuffPo has had a myriad of comment ranging from Russell is dangerous, to trying to help him become the next prime minister. One thing's for sure, Brand has managed to get the county talking, and that's a political bullseye in itself. It seems it takes a rather large hammer to crack the apathetic nut that is UK politics, and this proves Russell's point as to why there's a very real and ingrained reason that we're swaddled in political apathy. We are creaking under the laden weight of a benign democracy.
The principle point of Paxman's questioning is that Brand has never voted so why should he have any say - and indeed, this is an argument that is as perennial as the clichés that inevitably follow. It seems that if you've chosen to abstain then you have no voice, you've betrayed democracy, and should self-flagellate. If this is the case, then I will happily trawl through the voting records of MPs and we can sort the lethargic from the proactive and cast our 2015 votes accordingly. Abstaining is as valid form of democracy as casting a vote.
I confess - I have voted only once, so does this give me an allowance to have an opinion? Just a small one, maybe? For me it was a considered decision to not partake in what I view as a weighted and rather disconcerting political system that only really gives me two options: I either vote for political football team blue, or I slam down an X in the red team's box. I feel no affiliation towards either party, and I certainly do not wish to wave their scarf. Up until the last general election, the Lib Dems were largely considered the guilty pleasure of parties but were actually a wasted vote due to the rather odious fact that they would never stand a chance. The wasted vote syndrome is desperately tragic and is fuelling our journey, edging society ever closer to full political disenfranchisement. It's a curious place indeed when the term wasted vote is a household phrase. Clearly this demonstrates that we're ready to except that votes lack any real credence given the fragility of their value.
The First Past the Post voting system is constructed to suit the entrenched needs of the two political powerhouses and the career politician -- and this system props up the institutionalism of our social inequality. Under FPTP, we will never see a fair proportionate representation. The case for Proportionate Representation, or even STV, must be heard if we're sincere about having a diverse depiction of our elected members of parliament. As it stands, if Russell Brand, I, or any other person that feels inclined to run for MP wishes to do so, then it's practically a guarantee that the only electoral battle that we would be engaged in is that to retain our deposit. Crikey, even Peter Hitchens concurs with this on last week's Question Time.
We have reached a place of constructed intransigence. The smaller parties, who have as valid a platform as the behemoth powers, simply cannot compete on any conceivable level. When we have such a stacked system, it's certainly hard to define it as democratic. To go further, this short clip from Rufus Hound makes the great analogy of what 'choice' means in real terms.
Then we have those that say that if you moan and can't come up with attainable solutions then you shouldn't have a say. Really? Once again, then I must be labouring under a different understanding of how politics works. I thought it was the role of the interwoven system to elect representatives who then create fair and considered legislation based on evidence and the collective need of the electorate. If I'd known we'd have to problem solve and create a cost benefit analysis on every piece of legislation, well, I wouldn't have voted at all. I had no idea the electorate's job was to be a think tank. We do have sensible process that can actually work well if allowed.
Take my own corner of the political world - drug policy: Working in this field demonstrates just how inert our safeguards have become. The ideal is that of drawing up legislation based on the best available evidence from academics, science, impact assessments, and an array of systems that should ensure unbiased clarity and shape policy for the betterment of society. In practice we see nothing of the sort. The act of cherry picking has become such a national pastime that fingers are well and truly sticky and stained red. Drug policy is but one small example of how self-serving the policies have become. The result is an absolute, justifiable distrust, and an utter farce.
Like Russell Brand, I too have been seen wandering the halls of the Palace of Westminster. It's a place I know quite well. And yet, I still am left in a place of complete unfamiliarity. The building - as beautiful as it is - is indiscriminately uncompromising. The chambers are archaic, set up for a one on one battleground, excluding of anyone outside the confines of the relative safety of the two big dogs of the yard. The House of Commons is not a forum and can never be conducive to a quorum. It's pantomime, with all the dames and jeers one would expect to see from a child's stage. It always needs reiteration that They Work For You.
In 2010, on the heels of the last election, the Speaker of the House, John Bercow, gave a series of lectures where he laid out measures for sweeping reforms of the chamber. Knowing the level of discontent that now resides on the electorate's shoulders, Bercow was quick to point out how 'the usual channels' has become a common phrase to describe business in the Commons. The Speaker also made some courageous observations on how outside interests dictate order and tone. It's no secret, and has become perplexingly self-evident, that many of our career politicians serve corporate interests above that of their constituents'. This is just another symptom of what is a sick and ill-fated democracy.
Russell Brand used the word revolution, and it is indeed a big word; to the modern day ear it sounds bloodthirsty, whereas the literal definition infers a drastic change to political ideas or practice. I would like to change the burden of proof; I would like to hear the case made of why we shouldn't strive for a revolution? Is the status quo working? Are we collectively content? Are we fairly represented? Should we mutually stand up for ourselves in the literal sense and throw a hat or two in the political ring come 2015? I've seen the political heavyweight film Brewster's Millions enough times to know that None of the Above and lateral pragmatic thinking is achievable. The UK's democracy has become dangerously stale, and with the conversation reaching its crescendo, perhaps it's time we make the necessary noises to make things get a little more interesting, in which case, I'm in. Democracy is not a spectator sport.