They say never open on a graph but I’m feeling rebellious today. This is from Statgeek and it’s a pie chart showing the voter turnout for the last General Election in the UK. You’ll notice the largest percentage there is marked DNV. That means Did Not Vote.
You’ll also notice DNV is significantly larger than all three of the primary political parties. Two of which have been in power for the last five years.
There is nothing about that which is good. But a lot that’s understandable.
British politics is a polite Gallifreyan nightmare, a dusty grandfather clock of privilege, institutionalized corruption and tradition that moves further away from any connection with the vast majority of the people whose lives it dominates day by day. The last government was not one that was elected on a majority but rather one cobbled together from the votes of those who did show up.
Worse still, the choice faced by voters in 2015 is even worse than it was in 2010. The Conservatives have doubled down on being the nasty party, braying about how we’re all in this together while ensuring their friends get massive payouts from privatizing the Post Office. The Liberal Democrats have sold their soul, not even for power, but for a badly drawn stick figure on a throne marked ‘King Nick’. Labour have fared a little better, buoyed by a party leader so socially awkward he seems to be a moderately genuine human being and the overwhelming belief that they might just be a better alternative than the PushMe/PullYou of the current government. The Greens have done good work, a good chunk of which has been undone by a glacially slow PR response to an astonishingly badly explained take on copyright. UKIP remain the party for racist uncles the country over.
Those are your choices; an upper class party who either actively hate everyone outside London or are doing a really good job of pretending to, a well meaning bunch of hippies burning in the fires of their own hypocrisy, a party struggling to find it’s feet, another well meaning bunch of hippies or Captain Bigot and the ‘I’m Not A Racist But’ Patrol.
This is a horrifyingly broken system and it’s one that’s been damaged even further by the campaign being dragged repeatedly onto immigration, a hot button topic pressed so many times by the far right it’s amazing, and disappointing, that the casing hasn’t cracked. As the fiance of an immigrant and someone who was not born on this landmass myself there have been few things more depressing, or frightening, than seeing that issue continually brought to the fore and facts steamrollered in the face of rhetoric so overused even the people saying it seem bored by the shapes their faces are making.
But there’s another issue, hidden in that one, that’s even more depressing. The fear of The Other is also the fear of engagement. We, as a species let alone a culture, grow by experiencing new things and interacting with new people. That process is vital, often painful, annoying and, on occasion, delicious. Trust me, I tried hot sauce for the first time this year and my tastebuds are both thanking me and demanding an apology for the 37 hot sauce-less years that have finally come to an end.
My point is this; the moment we look at The Other with fear is the moment we give up. The moment we stop engaging.
The moment we don’t vote.
The moment we do that, we abdicate responsibility for our lives for five years. Look at how well that turned out in 2010.
So, I have a favour to ask. If you’ve registered to vote, then tomorrow, please vote. I know the choices are awful, I know you’re setting yourself up for disappointment but I also know that near inevitable disappointment can’t take away the small, vital victory of showing up and participating. So, tomorrow, please vote. Because if enough of us choose that small victory, then maybe our next government will be chosen by something other than apathy and, maybe, will do better than this one.