Friday, 14 February 2014

On by-elections...


His Grace asks us to:

Consider the turnout - 28%.

So taking his exhortation I shall do just this - try to understand why nearly three out of four electors in  Wythenshawe and Sale East didn't bother to vote in yesterday's by-election.

His Grace suggests that this abstention gives greater credence to the Russell Brand argument against voting (which, I understand, is that voting only encourages them and let's have a revolution instead, so much more fun). And that the lack of public interest in voting yesterday - despite having had a waste bin full of leaflets rammed through the letterbox - reflects public disillusionment with democracy.

For my part I take a different lesson from His Grace's text, the low turnout simply reflects the wisdom of the population. After all yesterday's by-election was in a safe Labour seat, its result would change nothing for the electors and certainly not the nature or direction of government. So, given that Manchester yesterday wasn't a place to venture out into without good reason, people went about their normal day and, in the evening, chose to stop in and watch telly rather than stagger down to the church hall for voting.

Indeed, had there not been over 10,000 postal votes (much to the chagrin of Mr Farage), the turnout would have been even lower!

The point we all ignore is that people had the option. I'm pretty sure that most of the 72% not voting knew full well there was a by-election. And they chose not to go and vote. It simply wasn't something that was important to them.

This is wonderful. Really wonderful - people are comfortable enough in their lives that they do not feel the need to play their tiny little part in democracy. And when we go and ask them why they didn't bother they'll give those familiar answers - politicians are all the same, voting doesn't change anything, Labour always win here so no point in voting. Or perhaps just the simple statement - I never vote.

Some people are bothered that the act of voting doesn't really change anything (I would argue that this isn't really true but that doesn't matter for this discussion) and fret about raising turnout - hence the easy to corrupt postal voting system. They are wrong, the fault doesn't lie with electors but with us politicians. We have lost control of things we used to control. We too often raise our hands and shrug, "nothing I can do really" when faced with a real problem for real people.

So people are wise. They know that replacing one politician with another at a by-election isn't really a big deal. And they stay home in the warm doing something that isn't politics.



Umbongo said...

"So people are wise. They know that replacing one politician with another at a by-election isn't really a big deal."

Indeed: and they're also aware that the same applies in general elections. Moreover, the strong suspicion that postal voting - instead of being a convenience for those few who can't be realistically expected to turn up in person at a polling station - has become a vehicle for extensive electoral fraud makes voting an even less useful activity.

Anonymous said...

15.4 % of the electorate voted for the Wythenshawe MP
84.6% did'nt.
And we still have "intelligent"
windbags supporting the system.
Democracy,forget it
Anyone who votes is just asking for a ONE PARTY STATE.
Pointless,just condoning the contempt of Westminster for the people
Show YOUR contempt DONT VOTE

asquith said...

I understand what you're saying in a sense, in that not taking part in politics due to being essentially ok luxury denied to those at the very bottom (prevented by dictators or hellish circumstances from doing anything) or those slightly above the bottom (who will take a role in politics because they have something, can see their way to getting more, and want/need to fight for a better future).

However, the success of that petition for a parliamentary debate on drugs has very recently nudged us towards a serious social argument on the failed war on drugs, which prohibitionists will lose...

... and that's just one of the many ways in which engagement is good. The politicians Russell Brand despises might end up giving him at least some of what h wants, without the revolution he complacently and flatulently demands, knowing full well it won't actually happen.

I do understand those who think politics won't change anything. But if you berate "them" for not listening, why WOULD anyone listen to someone who doesn't do anything to make his voice heard?

Hence I am not 100% but for the most part I am in disagreement.