Thursday, May 03, 2007

Doing my duty

I've always taken voting very seriously. Since I was first able to vote, which I guess would have been about 13 years ago, I have, as far as I recall, voted in every election whether local or national bar one. Today there are local council elections in England, and elections to the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament. As always, the media seems largely disinterested in the local votes until of course the votes are counted and then the results will be analysed endlessly for the referendum they will be interpreted as on the present government. For me local elections are not about parties or political personalities on the national stage. I vote on the basis of who I feel will provide the best deal for me locally, irrespective of party colour or affiliation. My feelings are different when I am voting in a General Election, when I am naturally guided by the party dimension and who I want to be in power.

I take voting seriously because I feel it is my democratic right as well as my duty to make my choice of candidate at election. It could be argued endlessly whether the choice of candidates is broad enough or representative of my views or aspirations. Politics like everything else in life is about compromise. There will never be one candidate or one party whose views and policies I will entirely agree with. Then there is the apathy factor. I have to admit I was feeling this on my way home, considering whether I could be bothered to go and vote even though the Polling Station is just across the road. I got angry with myself for thinking that. Of course I should vote. My vote is important; it matters. Whether it really matters or has any actual influence of course is an open question but it matters to me, it counts that I have expressed my choice. If any account is taken of that choice or not is perhaps in my view of the process not critically important, it is the fact that I have expressed that choice. I have exercised my rights and I have participated in the democratic process, flawed as it is. Then there is the counter argument I have to that prevailing thought of why should I bother, it will make no difference and it is this: if we all felt like that democracy wouldn't work, we would have anarchy. Besides, it is not about what everyone else does, its about what I do. My actions are important. My choices matter.

An example of how choices matter is demonstrated in this profile on the BBC News web site of Blair's cabinet of 1997. It shows how the choice of a Labour government in 1997 has profoundly shaped our country and all our lives. Those votes that were made by the electorate, myself included, were important. They mattered because they changed the way our country is governed and have led to one of the most intense periods of constitutional reform in modern times. Not least, amongst these changes, devolved power to Scotland and Wales and reform, albeit piecemeal to the House of Lords. The changes spearheaded by Blair's cabinet of 1997 will leave their mark on the UK long after this government is voted out of office. Although the current trend is to judge the Blair government on the disastrous intervention in Iraq I think history will cast a different light. There is much more that Blair's tenure in Downing Street has achieved, as the article reveals.

In short politics matters. We cannot exist in an apolitical environment; no matter how disinterested people claim to be in politics, it shapes and influences their lives. We are all subject to politics and we all do politics because society cannot exist without it. By extension voting matters. It is important, it is our duty and our responsibility to ensure that we make it count.

1 comment:

jamie said...

we didn't vote.