Appealing to the forgetful, the disengaged, the disenfranchised, the mindful, the creative, the forlorn, the furious, the parochial, the geographically isolated… the human.
There is a current, constant drawl of political canvassers knocking on the doors of the United Kingdom or posting generic and/or hateful drivel through them at a desperate rate. In my district they’re mostly of the Conservative/UKIP persuasion — let’s face it, cigarette papers are hard to slide between the two. I’m happy to try and connect with them, should they knock, and that means questions. They (I can say this collectively as it applies to every last one of them) do themselves few favours. None have been able, nor prepared, to engage in intelligent conversation about why they stand by their particular party. Each overwhelmingly defensive, ignorant of actual party stance and unwilling to dialogue. In response to me saying I lacked party political allegiance — I am more interested in developing an awareness of the broader issues and understanding the variables which politics impacts — one Tory woman stomped away, suggesting that I ‘had no basis for a political opinion’. Can there be so little room for meaningful discourse between us, irrelevant of any ideologies or deferences, simply as humans? Is there no stomach for the dialectic? Or should we simply align with narrow definitions over and above our humanity?
Only when ideological constraints and cozenage are removed do constructive dialogues on these crucial elements of life in the modern world become possible
Are we expected to suspend critical thought, disbelief and willingness to connect with our fellow human beings, whilst maintaining a selective amnesia about previous elections, our political systems and the individual, and Party, track record?
There are some seriously flawed, damaging and divisive ideas and rhetorics being bandied and bantered around, insidiously casual buying in to the soundbite du jour, and possibly more knee-jerk parochial grunts. Plus there’s the nonsense that we’re supposed to swallow from those that have held government for the past five years, reliant upon dubiously plied statistics and the short memories of a largely polarised or disengaged population. Zero-hour contracts, trebling of Higher Education fees, privatisation of schools and the NHS, selling off of national assets, loss of funding for public services and investment, clamps on personal freedoms, fit for work tests not fit for purpose, immigration scaremongering… Cameron, Osborne, May, Clegg et al have much to answer for, not to mention their predecessors.
The discontent is tangible and it’s being used to manipulate people from taking a broader view of the things that affect and impact us all, things that we can change for the better. In no particular order and to name but a few — education, healthcare, culture, food prices and sources, energy prices and sources, regulation of large organisations operating within the UK, use of government spending (the tax payer’s money) on national concerns (and use of national money for government concerns!), generation of income to invest in infrastructure, ability of individuals not born in the UK to reside here, transparency of national concerns, freedom of the individual, dealing with climate change, managing our resources in society most prosperously, access to legal representation, upholding of basic human rights and a decent quality of life for all. Only when ideological constraints and cozenage are removed do constructive dialogues on these crucial elements of life in the modern world become possible.
There is far more at stake than the securing of a majority vote in this celebrated, but often tragic, pantomime-popularity contest. Mainstream media offers little but a populist and polarised view, encouraging little engagement, dialogue or understanding. The irony is lost when, on the English-Scottish border, one international news corporation does what it can to further polarise the population of a nation against itself and, in its turn, limit its ability to find mutual ground, work together, or dialogue to develop strategies to best run the country. To wit, the Sun in England gets behind the Tories, whilst the Sun in Scotland advocates for SNP, as both pit one against the other in a blatant oppositional contrivance. Our disconnect is played upon — stay blinkered and repeat this week’s pitch.
It is in the electorate’s interest to question the interests politicians and political parties actually represent, always, but particularly at election time
Who is given airtime/net-space? What language is being used? How is the audience of that medium being appealed to? Who’s connecting the dots? What have you been asked to believe? Who’s funding these, our supposed national mouthpieces? Whose interests are being represented?
Can we acknowledge, address and change the limited and limiting language currently used to frame the dialogues, arguments and proposed and enacted policies which impact our lives? Left / Right / Communist / Capitalist / Marxist / Fascist / Libertarian / Green… ? Terms often co-opted and allowed to limit the breadth and creativity we consider when talking politics. There is middle ground, undefined and potential, through working together, with a clear vision of equality and quality being possible for all. Our creativity can solve our ‘problems’ and be our resilience and resourcefulness, if we allow ourselves to find that way forward. Change for the better is within arms’ reach and our creative capacity.
Another coalition government is a certainty, so who are we prepared to vote into that messy melding of political ideologies and special interests? Perhaps you have a rare and worthy candidate in your locale? Vote for them!
Why should you vote at all? Well, apart from being the strongest political tool granted us (hard fought for but increasingly neglected), we have some potentially devastating coalitions of parties each baying for their place at the table. Some far more offensive and potentially harmful than others.
Does then voting become strategic? Making your mark against the most offensive candidates, for varying degrees of misrepresentation. It would seem fitting, having such mass disengagement with the UK voting system, for a ‘None of the above’ box to be added to the ballot papers. Many in the UK have advocated for it and it is not uncommon in other parts of the democratic world. Far from being a wasted vote, this technically termed ‘rejected’ vote is indeed counted and can be considered a valid way to make your voice heard. In lieu of its appearance on any electoral list you’re likely to see, there is always the option to spoil your ballot paper. A few creative options come to mind, but keep it legal. And hygienic.
Levity aside, there is as much to be lost from certain coalition options as there is to be gained from others. Are we willing to engage with dialogues about the broader issues affecting us as a nation? Will the hoodwinkers’ veracity remain unquestioned with their soundbites of party political squabbling, sensationalism and electioneering? Who’s promoting dialogue and what’s detracting and distracting from what’s actually going on? It is in the electorate’s interest to question the interests politicians and political parties actually represent, always, but particularly during an election.
Our system and strategies are failing which makes this the ideal time to stop neglecting how we can positively change them.