Are we just naïve, pretentious and blinded?

7 Nov 2013

 

Good. I have your attention. Many of the people who will read this will have at some point spent a conversation trying to convince someone that they are wrong (be it political or otherwise), and that on all matters important; you are right. It was whilst out recently that I had a similar experience, and not for the first time either. A woman wouldn't take a leaflet I had offered, admittedly, selling the benefits of Scottish independence, but we as campaigners are told that they lust for information; those who do take your literature, in all probability, have made up their mind. These sort of moments always take me aback, and it made me think, whatever your beliefs, does the current system make campaigning for what you believe in worthwhile?

 

In a recent article by Adam Isaacs, about why he was leaving the Conservative Party, he noted that the "system" essentially leads to disengagement. Why vote when it doesn't matter? Where I live, like in most places, one of two parties will win the seat come a general election. Why would any person who wanted their vote to count vote for any party but the two in question? Russell Brand has been getting good press recently, as the average man and woman on the street understands what he's trying to say; they empathise. 

That's a key problem in politics; the lack of empathy. Why is there no recognition of a party that has different values to your own when it makes a coherent argument; why must two parties be so entrenched in their own battles that what's for the best is often overlooked? It doesn't look good. For the past month almost, Mr Miliband has been trying to trip up Mr Cameron over energy prices and I, an avid speculator and consumer of politics, am bemused by the lack of variety, the lack of compassion. Someone might have mentioned to "Red Ed" that 1775 BAE Systems jobs have been lost during the past few days. Isn't this a matter of national interest; or has the matter of trade unions become so politicised that any defence of a union by Labour would result in a "they're in bed with the unions" attack?

When politics is so petty, it isn't hard to see why people don't care. There are things that can be done, and we need look no further than the Conservative Party - shocking from a centrist like myself, I know. A recent Daily Telegraph article described how the Tories were encouraging army veterans to come forth and stand for election. The idea being that these people will be down to earth, having served their country once before, and can now do so again, but in an entirely different environment. I like the idea. Diversity is a huge issue in politics. We need Parliament to, and excuse the cliché, "be representative of the people". We need better representation of women, of ethnic minorities, of people who were state educated, and of people who aren't career politicians. As soon as politicians from mainstream parties are not seen to just be white, male and middle-class, we might be making progress. 

Furthermore, a vote has to count. It's the very foundation of democracy itself, but in this country it's a lottery how important your vote actually is. It shouldn't be this way. We need a system where each vote counts; we need Proportional Representation. People need to see that their cross in a box doesn't go amiss; they rather need to see it working for them. If a voter can see politics working for them, they will be closer to politics itself.

Finally, can we be done with this two party nonsense? It's been the same story for a while now; let's have some competition, let's use the logic behind privatisation to entice the electorate. The greater the competition, the better the deal for the consumer. If you only have option A or B, it is often a case of the ‘lesser of two evils’, and it needn't be. If we had a system of Proportional Representation, we could have a more diverse political arena, and thus better engagement.

I'm not saying I have the answers, and whoever does, answers on a postcard please, but I can tell you that real change is needed if we want to have the effective democracy that this country deserves. 

So, yes, I am naïve and pretentious in relation to the fact that I expect people to listen to me, and blinded, but that doesn't mean that I will stop fighting for what I believe in; and neither should anyone else. A campaigner’s plight is not a pointless one, but we need to be helped by the system, otherwise we risk the perpetuation of political apathy and even more withdrawn hands and closed doors.

By Ronan Valentine

 

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