The case for voting - in spite of political apathy

22 Nov 2019

It is understandable that people don’t want another election, but now is not the time for disengagement. 

 

Since 2016, the UK has faced one referendum, one general election, one European Parliament election, several local council elections and a constant stream of politico chat in each and every crevice of the media. As yet another election rolls round many are understandably sick of politics. Unfortunately, now is not the time for disengagement – in fact it is anything but.

 

For many, Britain is not the pleasant, prosperous metropolis it claims to be. Over 14 million people are living in poverty. In the past year, one in 50 households have been forced to rely on a food bank. Last winter, 24,000 people slept rough. This week, a man dropped dead in a job centre queue after being declared fit to work. Add to that the environmental crisis and the severely strained NHS, the picture is bleak. Put simply: Britain is not fit for purpose. For that reason, this election really is a once in a generation opportunity.

 

Old arguments about why we should vote have lost their shine in the modern day. Neither principle nor the struggles of Emily Davison are enough to convince the vast majority to go to the polling station. 

 

Brexit, political U-turns and a general distrust for the political class and the system within which they operate are to blame for that. If we take the start of this election campaign as snapshot, it isn't hard to see why. Just this week, the Conservative Press Office attempted to masquerade party propaganda as independent fact-checking. This is, of course, completely unacceptable. 

 

There are also plenty of other ways to engage politically. Over the past three years many hundreds of thousands, even millions, have taken to the streets to voice political anger. This is inspiring and it should continue. But, right now, it is also important to vote. 

 

Abstaining due to frustration may feel significant, but it will not break the system, nor will it go down in history as a grand stance against this political chaos. To put it bluntly, it will only allow for a perpetuation of the current situation. For the many that bear the brunt of existing struggles, this isn't simply frustrating, it is life altering, even life threatening. This may not be you or anyone close to you right now, but privilege is not a justification to abstain either. A lack of political consciousness is partly the reason this country is where it is. So don’t not vote because the system doesn't touch you, because it does.

 

This isn't to suggest that the British political system is perfect, far from it. There are many issues. In fact, it is basically broken. It needs to be rebuilt and reformed. But at such a critical time for society and even more so the planet, we can’t afford to abandon it entirely. 

 

As the Independent reported this week, one in three 18-20 year-olds are not registered to vote. Neither are 32% of 20-24 year-olds or 26% of 25-34 year-olds. A further 1 in 4 Black and Asian people are not registered. This is exactly what the establishment and its supporters want. Take for example Rod Liddle, associate editor of the Spectator who implored parents to prevent their offspring from voting and suggested that the election be held on a day that would forbid Muslims from voting. 

 

Recognise your right, and use your vote. Not because people in some parts of the world don't have it. Not because of the suffragettes. Not even because people died for the preservation of democracy. But because Britain is so beyond needing a change it is frightening. Because people are quite literally dying on the streets. Because working families cannot afford to eat and hospitals cannot cope. 

 

You may think Brexit will make Britain ‘great again’, but severe poverty and starvation is not becoming of a 21st century power. So, try to move beyond Brexit-induced apathy and make use of this electoral opportunity.

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