18 May 2009
To vote or not to vote
The MPs expenses scandal rumbles on. While I am (like everyone else) angry at the complete contempt of parliamentarians for the public’s money, I am actually not that surprised by it. We have not apparently moved that far since the Reform Act of 1867 and the end of rotten boroughs, or perhaps we did move forward only to fall backwards as politics became professionalised and MPs stopped thinking for themselves, sticking to the party line in the hope of benevolent patronage from their party leadership.
In the real world, claiming false expenses usually results in summary dismissal without any rights, i.e. it falls outside of the normal disciplinary procedures, and the potential of getting the Police involved. Repaying falsely claimed expenses does not remove the original crime, otherwise every burglar and fraudster would simply repay the value of the items stolen and escape a jail sentence. Maybe even worse for the House of Commons is that Radio 5 is today running a feature on what outrageous joke expenses claims can be made; this means that MPs are now being seen as a bad joke rather than people to respect.
Strangely however, it’s not the ethical vacuum within Westminster that exercises me, but rather the fact that as we come into another round of elections in June this year and a General Election next year, I feel completely disenfranchised. For some time, none of the political parties has spoken out to me with political ideas that are in line with my own political, social and economic views. This includes the fringe parties even more so than the mainstream political parties.
I will vote because that’s what I do; I don’t believe in wasting a vote. However, if there are more people like me who vote in an apathetic way - even though I have political views and am interested in economics and social issues - then the disinterested vote is higher than the 65% who don’t even bother to vote in local council elections. Yet councils control a budget of about £60 billion every year.
There has to be something wrong with a system where 40% of electors in the UK don’t bother to vote in general elections, where a large proportion of those who do vote don’t care that much about it and yet are completely relaxed about giving politicians (European, national and local) power over our lives. This power comes in the form of law, regulations, social engineering, health, education, going to war, planning, taxation etc, together with a vast budget of our money.
Something needs to be done to give the political system back to the people, or perhaps even open it up to the electorate for the first time.
Note: in General Elections, 60% cast and vote and 40% do not, whereas in local council elections 35% vote and 65% don’t.