keep-calm-and-democracy-died

Following the local election results last week you begin to ask the question whether democracy is now dead in Britain? In my local area barely a third of people voted and in some cases the turnout was as low as 20%! This is pretty shocking when you consider that we are in the middle of one of the worst economic crises in our history and these County Elections in England were to decide who would provide those essential services that everybody screams they need.

There was a distinct lack of interest on social media sites from my friends, the news of Alex Ferguson’s departure garnering much more passion. Usually if dark clouds pass overhead you can read the updates before a drop had fallen. Yet many of my peers seem to care very little about the people who hold power over them.

Perhaps people no longer see politicians as the arbiters of their happiness. The electorate are so fed up with hearing (what they claim is) the same old crap from all the main parties that they simply can’t be bothered with democracy. It is not as though it is difficult to vote. Critics say that by making it easier to vote more people will, but it is patently clear that is not the issue. With postal voting you can pretty much vote whenever you like and there are proxy votes. In fact it seems that the easier we have made voting the less likely people have become at actually doing it!

One of my overriding memories is watching the television images from South Africa in 1994. To see people queuing for days so they could cast their ballot was an amazing, powerful message of what democracy is all about. Yet today in Britain even those who depend on the state can’t even be bothered to get off their backsides and vote. In the area where there was a 20% turnout I would say that probably that number of the population receive some sort of benefit from the state (whether it be housing benefit, tax credits, JSA, etc). Yet I would suggest that the majority of that 20% who voted don’t even receive any benefit.

Perhaps Britons are just ahead of the curve. Democracy was only a 20th century blip and that normal order will be resumed of the rich & powerful telling us what to do. For decades now governments of different colours have been telling us that they aren’t very good at the job of running our services and now perhaps we have just woken up and agreed with them. All this democracy malarkey is so overrated and quite frankly too much for our tiny pleb brains to concern ourselves with.

You could argue that as we have a monarch and an un-elected House of Lords we have never truly had a democracy in the UK. And if every level of government was elected then it would only mean more lying, cheating, good-for-nothings milking us for all they can get. The only problem with that is I have met a lot of politicians. On the whole most are pretty solid, decent people who want to help their communities and stand up for people that can’t speak for themselves. They are passionate about the social good no matter what colour ribbon they wear.

A large number of those people who did vote put their cross alongside UKIP. Now UKIP has a very charismatic leader in Nigel Farage, but not much else. Quite a few people I know voted UKIP simply because they say that something has to be done. They are fed up with what appears to be endless immigration that is changing their country too fast. They know no more about UKIP then they do the other parties (in fact probably a lot less). They moan that politicians don’t want to meet them but in fact it is the electorate who aren’t putting the effort in to get to know their candidates. With various social networking sites, regular meetings, media articles, the politicians are everywhere. But the people just don’t believe them when they say it. At least now that UKIP have many elected members the other parties can stop fighting a ghost. They can now fight against them on issues and their record.

But I fear that this will not be enough to rescue our democracy from the slumber it is in. Perhaps our politicians should be more inspiring and seek to build a positive vision for our country. Our may be it is time for my fellow citizens to get off their backsides and build this country up. Stop moaning about what is wrong and actively engage in the process of building our nation. If not then we might as well just give up on democracy. Let the developers build where they want, let big business dictate our political system. Democracy is not just about putting a cross in a box once every year. There is a society, we are that society and we have to believe that we can change it.