I vote for politics
This year I shall be voting in my first general election since Mrs. Thatcher and her Conservative government were returned to power in the UK in June 1983. Yep, it’s been over 30 years since I licked my pen and after due consideration put a cross in the appropriate box. If I’m going to be strictly honest, that is the only time I have voted in a general election – ever.
But I remember that June evening very well. As I returned home with some gal pals, my mother uncharacteristically blocked the doorway and demanded assurance that we had all been and dropped our ballot paper in the box. We had.
‘How you voted is your business,’ she said, when we started to tell her for whom we had voted. ‘I just want to know that you did vote. It’s important!’
And she is right.
Setting aside the not inconsiderate aspect of gender equality and the knowledge that some women fought and died for our now given right to vote, any elected government needs a strong opposition to maintain ego balance and keep a country moving forward on a reasonably even keel. So every vote does indeed count. To wit every politician’s endeavour to woo every voter.
Now I have always been keenly interested in politics. Even flirted with the idea of joining the diplomatic corps before realising that flitting from embassy to embassy every few years would not be my cup of tea. But nevertheless, I enjoy nothing more than a humdinger of a good political discussion.
Never discuss religion, politics and money is the old maxim. But I don’t hold with that. In a civilised society, how are we ever going to form, affirm or reconsider our own opinions without a healthy dialogue among friends and colleagues? Alright, we can read election manifestos and follow the political rallies, debates and discussions in the media, but I suspect many uninformed voters simply opt out of finding out by voting for the party their parents’ always voted for, or, worse?, don’t vote at all.
Political freedom is a gift we’ve fought for.
And in a society that openly encourages us to air our political beliefs – think Speakers’ Corner in London, for example, or television debates with audiences asking questions – with potential ribbing being the only downside, why on earth should we all avoid discussing politics among ourselves? Dive in, I say. Particularly if you are a floating voter and undecided. It doesn’t have to get ugly. Some of my best discussions have been with a close colleague who’s on the opposite side of the political fence. He’s been defending ‘his lot’ and I’ve been defending ‘my lot’ for the best part of 25 years. We’re still the best of friends. And let’s face it, the only subject any randomly selected group of people are guaranteed to agree upon is that we collectively distrust politicians to keep their election promises.
So, why haven’t I voted in a general election for 30 years?
Because I believe the privilege of voting in a free and democratic election belongs to the citizens residing in that country.
As an ex-pat living in Sweden, what right do I have to meddle in British politics? I do not have to live with the consequence of my vote. Britain is a truly democratic country so the British electorate will get the government it deserves. In other words, if voters are daft enough to vote in the – in my opinion – wrong party, then they just have to live with it. There are, of course, strong bones of contention regarding the fairness of the actual voting system in Britain. Why do Scottish MPs get to meddle in strictly English affairs, for example, and is the first-past-the-post* system fundamentally unfair? But as Churchill rightfully pointed out; Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.
By the same rule, I would be pretty peeved if people living permanently in other countries voted in the Swedish general election and thereby impacted my life from afar.
But now that I qualify by my own definition to vote – a residing citizen – I shall follow the run up to the Swedish general election in September with even keener interest. Knowing that regardless of which party I ultimately decide to vote for, my vote will either help form the government I desire or at the very least put a little healthy opposition in the way of the other parties. Which must be a win-win scenario.
Because either way, I shall be voting for politics.
PS: Have you seen the new page called Bookshelf in the top menu? I shall be adding regular reviews of books I recommend. If you would like to contribute, please do! Next book to be reviewed: Born Guilty by Peter Sichrovsky
*First-past-the-post voting system means each constituency sends one Member of Parliament to Westminster. So, an extreme scenario would be a 51% win for the oranges and a 49% win for the apples in each constituency. The outcome would then be 100% oranges in government although 49% of the electorate voted for the apples.