This is my mid-year attempt to start a conversation about politics.
At this point, most people will scroll on and miss something important, but isn’t that just the way of the world now?
Every election report I have ever posted on Facebook has been followed by people who proudly claim that they didn’t vote because:
1) Voting makes no difference,
2) You lot are all the same,
3) I don’t think any of you should be saying negative things about one another.
I want to examine whether any of these three statements are valid.
It is a bit hard to prove voting makes a difference. However, we live in a democracy.
Almost everything we do is determined by decisions that politicians make. They plainly aren’t all the same.
Polticians go to a lot of trouble campaigning about different things.
It doesn’t seem a very big ask to expect voters to make a choice once every four or years so.
I have noticed that people who tell me that didn’t vote, usually haven’t voted for years, or ever.
So, how do they know it doesn’t make a difference?
One thing that people who aren’t inclined to vote should realise is that that their participation is far more influential than everyone else’s.
Take your average council election. About 75% of the population don’t vote.
This leaves just 25% of votes for polticians to compete over.
Let’s say, it’s a close run election, with this 25% of voters split between one candidate and another.
The winner of the contest has to get just slightly more than 12.5% of the voting population to be the victor!
Now, let’s deal with the “You lot are all the same” argument.
Most politicians I know come from a wide variety of backgrounds.
This is especially true of councillors, many of whom have jobs that range from builders, to nurses, accountants, health care workers.
They aren’t quite the same as MP’s, many of whom go into politics straight from University or are lawyers.
But even here, they are a varied bunch with different degrees of life experience behind them.
This is before you think about their party political affiliations.
Finally, the line that goes “ I am turned off by the negative stuff. I would vote if only you would concentrate on positive messages about your own candidate and policies”.
I can superficial merit in such an argument. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone just set out their policies and let people choose?
The problem here is that party politics is (and always will be) a competitive business that means politicians want you to understand the weaknesses in the opposition’s claims as well as the strengths of their own side.
If one of the candidates claimed to live locally and didn’t, that is something that voters should know isn’t it?
How would they know, if the opposition didn’t try to put the record straight?
Similarly, if one party claimed that your weekly waste collection was under threat by voting Lib Dem, it’s surely only right and proper that the Lib Dems should “rubbish” (excuse the pun) the fake news claims.
At a recent by-election in Fawley, things became politically heated when the past behaviour of one of the candidates became known.
It’s what can happen when you become a candidate and your public profile is raised.
For one political party to ensure the voters know about such things isn’t a smear campaign, or “playing dirty”, it’s entirely legitimate, just so long as the facts aren’t being invented.
At different times and in different places, all political parties have serving politicians and election candidates who turn out not to be the shining knight in armour that you see in glossy leaflets shaking hands with the MP.
It’s thanks to our party political system and a free press that the covers are lifted and voters get a chance to see the reality behind the spin.
I think that most party political literature and social media output is positive in nature, but the negative aspect will also be a key feature.
Any political party that doesn’t participate in it will find it impossible to thrive.
Outrageous claims about them need to be re-butted, just as the way parties seek to portray the alleged successes they have had in office. Voters should never accept things at face value.
Read both sets of literature and try checking facts. Simply saying, “I won’t vote because you are all nasty, is an easy and irresponsible cop-out”.
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It was a most remarkable day at Hampshire County Council today. As Leader of the Liberal Democrat Opposition group, I led the charge against the proposed closure of the Orchard Close Care Home, in Hayling Island.