Wednesday, 14 November 2012

[Gallery Post] Use it or Lose It; Get Out and Vote

With less than 24 hours to go till Bristol (and others in the UK) will be voting for this city's first ever Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner I feel the need to get this out in open. I might incite some anger from those I know and there may be some falling out but I feel it needs to be said. If you don't care about these elections (or any further upcoming ones for that matter) and are choosing not to vote at all then shame on you.

I cannot stress this enough; voting is a fundamental right and tremendous privilege that we enjoy in this country. It enables us to empower those parties or individuals we feel will best serve our needs and that of the country (which I like to think are one and the same). There are people out in the world who would and do in fact die for this right to put a mark on a piece of paper that gives power and takes it away so easily. Frankly allowing apathy to throw away this right when others are desperately in need of it is akin to wasting food when there are people starving in the world. Yet each year more people spoil their ballot papers or stay away from the polls either because they don't care or feel it changes nothing. To be fair though I can understand why the sentence "I don't give a shit" is frequently uttered whenever it's election time. 

Time after time some seriously droll individuals mostly with privilege backgrounds hog the news or have leaflets with their bile inducing smiles plastered over them grace our doorsteps asking us to put society's well being in their hands. They want us to know they are qualified and trustworthy, that they understand our despondency and offer themselves as the ultimate cure to our life's woes. They all just seem largely the same to the point where political party branding becomes a rainbow of colours that look different but essentially represent the same idea of grabbing keys to the seat of power for one's own ends. After all why should we trust people who seek out such responsibility with the  gusto of a lion stalking a zebra? One just has to look at the poverty levels, crime rates, not to mention the current financial crisis to be distrustful of politicians and world leaders. It does make you ask "why bother?"

During his "Audience with.....", Billy Connolly urged us not to vote for politicians because it only encourages them. He might have been right but surely the alternative, i.e not  to vote is far worse. Political apathy is running rife in the UK because we feel that change is not possible that at the end of the day all politicians at their core are as bad as each other. Perhaps, but thinking that change isn't possible is a poor excuse not to go to the polls, because voting can get you the elected officials into office who will represent your interests. If you don't believe me ask any devout Tory voter, Obama supporter or those Arab Spring nations who recently entered into the democracy game. All it takes is a trip to your nearest polling station, stand in a rickety booth and put an X to the arse licking *ahem* I mean candidate you feel is the best one for the job at hand. 

Again rushing to your defence the politics game has changed over the years especially with the advent of the Internet. Gone are the days when vote grabbers knock at your door, smile and ask if they can count on your vote. Today websites, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts etc are awash with cyber door to door campaigners laying out their agenda, making promises, calling voters to action. Yet not everybody is Internet savvy enough to find these people, learn what they're all about and make an informed decision. That needs to change. Yes mayoral and PCC candidates should do more to entice our interest, something which is sorely lacking in politics but also shouldn't we take more responsibility to learn all we can about these historic and potentially life changing elections and get our voices heard? Politicians are not perfect and the game requires us more to settle rather than support someone  truly inspirational and makes us believe in real change. This is better than doing nothing.

In May we were asked to vote on whether or not Bristol should have a mayor. It incensed me that only 25% of the voting public actually bothered to vote. The Yes campaign won with barely 50% of the vote which means around a measly 13% of registered voters changed the political face of our city. I find that galling and it's about time we stopped making the same tired excuses and accept that elections affect our lives at every level. At least by voting you have the say and if your chosen candidate isn't elected you can sleep soundly in the knowledge that you tried, and the next day moan to your heart's content. If you don't participate you lose the right to complain. I must confess I am sorely disappointed with many aspects of the candidates up for Mayor, and know little about the PCC. Yet I will be voting because I have that right unlike others in the world, it's one I don't intend to lose and who knows I might be pleasantly surprised. I just hope the future of this city will not be determined by a small percentage of its voting population. If so then how can we decry dictatorships and call ourselves a democracy when we don't even value the very fundamental right that people around the world fight and die for, a right that our leaders will take away from us if they see it isn't being used. So get out and vote; use it or lose it.

To learn more about the tomorrow's elections visit the Bristol 24/7 website by clicking here.

Image Credit; FutUndBiedl, Daz Smith

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