BBC Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman talks to Russell Brand about voting.
A little influence is still better than none.
Giving up the only power you have goes against every rule of strategy. That’s why we should vote. Not voting may be a fashionable idea, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a stupid one. Spoiling your ballot or staying away from the polling place won’t send a message to politicians, won’t expose media bias or avenge those who are dead due to welfare reform. Sending a message is only a good use of your time if the intended recipient both receives and understands it.
Spoiling a ballot won’t tell Nick Clegg that Jeanie Smith the Glasgow lawyer thinks he betrayed his voters. Ian Duncan Smith won’t know that student Billy Riley from Essex didn’t vote because his disabled dad killed himself because of DWP harassment. It’s as pointless as tweeting against an unfair policy; the relevant department will never see them and even if a staff member happens to be one of your followers, they aren’t going to change the policy just for you.
Not voting isn’t going to change anything. Refusing to vote is the foot-stamp of a whiny toddler who breaks her toys because she wants all — leaving herself with nothing.
The Chartists, the Suffragettes, Suffragists and innumerable others fought hard to give us all the right to vote. They were jailed, force fed and vilified. All around the world today people are tortured, jailed and exiled for campaigning for the right to vote. We are lucky to live in a democracy ready-made for us, instead of having to build one. Throwing away our votes and acting like that’s something to be proud of is an insult to all of these people. That’s another reason why we should vote.
Yes the system is corrupt and no, I don’t hold out much hope either. I’m voting Labour because they won’t be as bad as the Tories, not because I believe Ed Miliband will be good for this country; even mere competence is too much to hope for from any top politician, especially the Westminster crowd.
But if voting is pointless, isn’t not voting more pointless? Not voting is unconditional surrender. Not voting is accepting an unfair system and the rule of an elite chosen by those who did vote and those wealthy enough to influence the voters.
It’s not the refusing to vote that’s harmful in itself — voter apathy is nothing new. Everyone is entitled not to bother and I didn’t vote last time either; I’m not from a family that cared about politics so, at age 19, it didn’t seem that important.
No, what’s harmful is this new idea that not voting isn’t simple laziness or disillusionment — that it’s a political act in itself. Russell Brand has created the idea that not voting is sending a message and taking a stand.
It’s not. I was never proud of not voting in the last election. I saw it for what it was — not being bothered.
So if you’re planning to not vote, please don’t delude yourself into believing you’re taking a stand and serving the interests of the public. And please don’t persuade others that they are making a statement by not voting.
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