A vote less travelled…
Why I’m thinking about voting for the “new UKIP” in the general elections…
Those that know me may read the above and wonder if I have lost my mind. Whether all the stress and worry of everyday life have taken their toll and finally resulted in my mental break down. Well… I haven’t. In fact I have reached a state of unfathomable clarity in a world of murky politics and bleary eyed cynicism.
The country I live in now is not the one that I grew up in, it is not the one I imagined living in, nor is it the one that I want my children to live in. I don’t know how or when it changed. In fact maybe it didn’t. Maybe I was merely too young and too naive to take in the madness around me. I had Pogs then WWF then Football followed the pubescent lure of Nuts magazine and ultimately booze to keep me entertained (a word I now associate with distraction). All of which I enjoyed a touch more than its predecessor. I continued along the path so diligently laid before me from primary school, to secondary to uni and into a well respected career. Who was I to question it. Obviously formal education followed by mind numbing soft labour was what I was made for. The Great British dream, or western dream if you will. Just educated enough to work and fulfil a purpose but not driven enough to push the boundaries and revolutionise.
So when it came to voting, like everything else in my life I followed the path of least resistance. I voted for who I felt I should be voting for. Coming from a working class background having earnt an assisted place to a private school there was only really one party I could vote for in good conscience. And so when my first opportunity to exercise my democratic right to vote arose, I proudly steered my hand over to the correct box and left my mark. For that moment it was merely there to be admired and enjoyed as a personal moment of glory. There are many ways in which to measure the transition from boy to man, but for me this was it. I had voted. And I continued to vote there after. Local, general it really didn’t matter the significance as long as I voted.
This all changed though. I would love to say there was one big epiphany moment but there wasn’t. Instead my iron clad faith in the system and my beliefs were slowly eroded by disappointment, outrage and indignation. I realised that the people I had voted for were not running things in the manner that I had hoped. Worst still when their rivals came to power things seemed (although briefly) to have improved! Maybe I had got it all wrong. I had followed the received wisdom of voting into a hopeless cul-de-sac. I realised that I had no idea what the party I had voted for really stood for. I didn’t know their policies, I didn’t know how their actions would affect me but more importantly I had no idea how they would affect the thing that we all hold dear to our hearts. The British culture. The arts, grassroots sports, the NHS, Everything. What I had been doing was the political version of buying a car based on the brand but not bothering to find out about the specs and added extras that you might want.
Why go to the trouble of doing your research when the masses have clearly indicated you only have a few real choices? You might say ” Life is hard enough as it is without having to really think hard about that sort of thing.” And you know it would be hard to argue with you over that one. But politics? Is this something frivolous or a waste of your time? I’d argue not. It reaches and touches ever facet of your life at every available opportunity. Buying a house, inheriting money, raising a child, turning the heating on, buying a pint, starting a business. The list is endless. So why do we give it so little care and attention. By this I do not mean merely moaning about the bits that you don’t like I mean an active and engaged role in the things that are going on around us. I can only guess that the palpable apathy that surround politics is born out of the belief that one man or one vote will not make a difference and yet out of the political cluster fuck that has been the coalition we have seen that a small but politically active group really can make its mark on the political landscape given the right conditions. The rise of UKIP has been as impressive as it has been depressing. A party praying on the fears of the impressionable and uninformed, have created seemingly a four party political system. The airtime that they receive on national TV seems to far outweigh that given to the traditional parties and as a result their numbers appear to be growing regardless of the scandals or questionable beliefs of their party members.
Politics is moving in a similar direction to that seen in reality TV shows. Those given the most airtime become the most popular and those not seen are assumed to be boring or useless. I’ll refrain from comparing UKIP to a specific Big Brother contestant for fear of offending Big Brother fans but I’m sure you can all come up with your own comparison. The question that is born from this trend is, if airtime is king then where does knowledge come into it? When was the last time you read a manifesto before voting? If you are like me, most of your voting will have been based on soundbites, gut feelings and political loyalty. Is that really how we should be voting? Something that can effect us so strongly it has the potential to take people from working long hours and over time but ultimately living a reasonably content life to living on the breadline and relying on food banks to be able to feed their families.
Now although the Green Party may be the party for me, it may not be the right choice for you. But if you are going to go to the trouble of voting then at least know what you are voting for. You might be UKIP, you might be Lib-Dem, you might be Labour. But whatever you are, be it because you believe it. Be informed and be active, not a passive political by-stander.