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Voting for Change: YES to AV! May 5, 2011

Posted by Phil Groom in Campaigns, Current Affairs, Life, Watching and Waiting.
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YES to Fairer Votes

YES to Fairer Votes

TODAY’S THE DAY when we, the British people, get a chance to make a difference to British politics.

The YES campaign tell us it’s now or never, and in that they’re as guilty as the NO campaign in laying things on a bit thick. If we say no to change now, it doesn’t mean that the opportunity will never come around again: it may or may not; but I’m sure of this much — if we say no now, the chance for change is unlikely to come around again in my lifetime.

This year I turn 50. Just over three decades since I was given my first opportunity to vote — and in all that time my votes have been ignored, despite that fact that I’ve always voted with the majority against the party that’s ended up in power.

Yes, you read that right: I’ve always voted with the majority; and every time, a minority party, a party that most citizens in the UK didn’t want in power, has ended up in power. Because we’ve got a twisted, fundamentally unfair voting system called ‘First Past the Post’ that treats the majority of the British electorate as if we were, quite literally, runners in a race; and as a result of that, most of us get left behind. Our votes simply don’t count. Sure, they’re counted: but we’re the losers: goodbye. Imagine the ‘Weakest Link’ with only one round, where everyone except the first-round winner gets sent off first: we are the weakest link. Wouldn’t make much of a show, would it? So why do we allow it in politics?

TODAY we get the chance to ditch that system for ever … well, for as long as we don’t have another referendum and turn it all upside down again, but hopefully between us we’ve got enough sense not to do that. Today, we get a chance to bring in a fair voting system in which the losers lose but instead of having their votes swept away like writing in the sand when the tide comes in, their votes are picked up and recycled.

I like that: recycling. No wasted votes: everyone’s voice heard until, at last, a genuine winner emerges with more than 50% of the vote.

So today, I’m voting YES to AV … and hoping and praying that you will too, in this two-horse race, the only context where first past the post actually does make sense…

To opt out of politics is to opt out of life April 13, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Current Affairs.
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In fact, I’ll go further than that: opting out of politics is not an option, it’s capitulation. To opt out is to cop out, to surrender, to abdicate responsibility, to give in.

But don’t worry: this isn’t going to degenerate into one of those terminally boring posts that tries to emotionally blackmail you into voting. I myself may or may not vote in the forthcoming election, but either way I most certainly won’t be signing up to Premier Christian Radio’s ‘Promise to Vote‘ campaign or supporting any of the other coercive voting campaigns. Because politics is about far more than voting: voting is merely the tip of the iceberg — a tip that can, of course, become a tipping point, but which can also become a tripping point, a point at which people can say, “That’s it, job done, duty completed.” Cast your vote and walk away — and that, I think, is more of an abdication than taking a principled stand by refusing to vote when there is no candidate worthy of the vote.

And that’s part — only part, please note — of the problem I’m up against: I’ve yet to see anything from any of the parties that makes me want to vote for them — especially when I know full well that whoever I vote for, the party that finally gains control of our supposedly democratic country will do so not with a majority but with the biggest minority. That’s not democracy, it’s certainly not a mandate from the people when most of us didn’t want that party in power, and I have no desire to support such an anti-democratic system. Suppose that I do vote and that the party I vote for wins against the wishes of the majority: what does that make me if not a co-dictator along with the party?

To me, a far more important principle than voting is freedom. That, I think, is what true democracy and politics are about: freedom; and that freedom must necessarily include the right to withhold your vote as much as to bestow it. Then afterwards, after the fuss has died down, to get back to business by standing up to whichever bunch of clowns gain this country’s inglorious crown.

Don’t be fooled: there’s more to politics and democracy than the ballot box. It’s not how we vote or who we vote for that counts: it’s how we live in between times. Don’t vote with the ballot box: vote with your life.

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