Friday, November 16, 2012


The results for the elections of Police and Crime Commissioners are trickling in and so far turnout has been very low. This isn't a surprise, however this outcome has resulted in some amusement for me in terms of talking heads trying to encourage people to vote.

The first inevitable point is due to the closeness of Remembrance Sunday - people fought and died so you would have the freedom to vote and you should honour their sacrifice. How often does this get thrown down as a challenge at every low-turnout? It's a bad point.

Firstly it's something that happened outside the memory of the majority of those voting; so it's not something they can personally relate to. To them it's just history; something their elders have been beating around their heads so often it becomes white noise.

Secondly it's an oblique call to patriotism - vote for your country's sake. That's simply not going to work our nation has a stubborn independent streak and really doesn't like being told to what is and isn't patriotic.

By themselves those would be enough to make it useless but a third point is the last nail in the coffin- it's not a reason. Those who say this are stating that the ability to vote is in itself the reason to vote - you should vote because you can. However we've been educating out children in myriad different ways that simply having the ability to do something doesn't mean you should. Just because you're bigger than that other child doesn't mean you can push them down and steal their toys. Yet for some strange reason those who propose this argument think that they can counter years of conditioning simply because this is different.

The second argument that normally appears is that if you don't vote you don't have a right to complain about the result.

On the face of it this seems fair - no-one would complain about never winning the lottery if they'd never entered it. However this point rests on the simple assumption that voting makes a difference. If I wanted to go out for fish and chips and the vote was between Indian and Chinese what's the point in me voting? I'm not going to get the result I want; does that mean I shouldn't be able to complain? To so many people the results of a vote does not seem to make the slightest bit of difference to their lives.

I think they're wrong, but it's something that can't be proven unless we ever gain access to alternative universes where the vote went a different way. To them it doesn't matter who wins because generally speaking they don't see any measurable affect on their lives. Changes do occur but often in the background and it's only when some major policy from the government sticks its oar into their lives do they notice; except there's still nothing they can do about it. The election's been and gone and their won't be another for several years. The inability to take action becomes accepted and perpetuates itself when it comes to vote "What's the point?" they ask and no-one can answer them in specific terms they'll recognise, but only in generalisations.

People don't vote because they see no reason to and simply telling them they should or writing them off isn't a solution.