It seems so long since the last General Election in the UK back in 2005. On a personal level so much water has passed under so many bridges that even looking back at everything that has transpired for me since 2005, seems like five hundred years have passed instead of just five years. An extreme exaggeration but I think you get the point.
So it is our General Election, so called because more than six hundred elections will all be happening on the same day, the 6th of May. We have a parliamentary system of Government so on Thursday everyone throughout the United Kingdom (if they so choose to exercise their democratic right and duty,) will vote for their parliamentary representative or to use the correct phrase, their Member of Parliament (or MP for short).
Now given the televised debates that have occurred each Thursday evening (during prime time television, not that I consider the fare of British Television to be termed ‘Prime Time’,) one would be forgiven for thinking that there was a presidential style election here in the UK. To my knowledge most people don’t seem to realise that the British (and those eligible to vote in a British General Election,) don’t have a vote for who will become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. We never have! Historically or otherwise to my knowledge. We elect a Member of Parliament who will represent the district or ‘Constituency’. Now depending on who polls the most votes in a constituency or a by-election (which is a parliamentary election called outside of a General Election for a particular area,) that person will be the elected MP (or Member of Parliament,) for that area (or Constituency). This process happens in more than six hundred constituencies (I forget the exact number,) on the same day, hence the reason we have a ‘General Election’. However that is not the way people think when they vote. They tend to vote for the leader of one of the main political parties.
The Prime Ministerial Debates were a historical first in the General Election of 2010. Over a three week period, the leaders of the three main political parties, each week took part in a televised debate where questions were put to them and they put forward their policies and what they would do if they were elected (or re-elected,)to the office of Prime Minister. This debate hailed as ‘Good for Democracy’, which it is, fails on a number of points. The first I have already exposed: We don’t have a vote for who will become Prime Minister. The person who will eventually become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, is the leader of the parliamentary party who has the highest number of MPs in the House of Commons (the UK elected chamber of the Houses of Parliament). The second point is the make-up of the House of Commons, may not reflect the true popular vote polled throughout the country as each MP elected to the House, will be the candidate (irrespective of their political colours,) who gets the highest number of votes in the constituency election. In other words, the candidate who is ‘first past the post’ gets to become the MP for that particular area (or constituency if you like). The third point where the televised debates fails (a lot more in the last debate televised by the BBC,) is that the three leaders were not grilled by the invited audience or the facilitator on their policies. I am sure Alistair Stewart (for ITV), Adam Boulton (for Sky,) and David Dimbleby (for the BBC,) would have loved to have done their jobs properly as they have always done and asked the most awkward of questions. So on those points, the televised debates failed (in my opinion). Another area where they failed totally for me was that so much was not discussed, given each debate lasted ninety minutes. Not to mention it came across as a beauty contest and British Politics and General Elections in particular are not about being pretty. It is about those seeking public office or re-election to public office, getting off their backsides and campaigning. Fighting for the right to hold the office of Prime Minister in this case. The Policies, the Manifesto, debate, debate, debate! This brings me to another point.
Parliamentary candidates (and I am not too sure about those who aspire and hold public office at a local level,) have become an increasingly lazy bunch. Not once during the past month when there was supposed to be an election going on, I have not seen one candidate knock on my door, not heard mention of any hustings or public meetings. To all intends and purposes, all I am aware of is that Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg are the only people campaigning to be the Prime Minister of the next Parliament. In my area of Islington, Central/North London, I have not heard a word from Emily Thornberry (the current MP), Bridget Fox or any other candidate standing for election to be the next MP of this area. In fact the closest one I came to was Bridget Fox and that was a television interview/debate she was taking part in. And was not there in the studio, I was at home watching it.
The politicians have gotten lazy and the people they are supposed to represent have gotten even more degenerate and lazy, hence the current wave of voter apathy that has been rampant for many years now. Despite reasons I have pointed out as to why the televised debates failed, one area where they succeeded to a certain extent was to re-engage people in talking about politics and the election. It somehow managed to wrest control away from the national daily newspapers (especially those owned by Rupert Murdoch who attempt (and in many ways have succeeded,) in brainwashing us all to vote for a particularly party, irrespective of whether it is in our own individual interest to do so. A good example of this was during the 1980s where Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party, managed to win four consecutive General Elections in a row despite the UK being in a long and damaging recession during most of that decade. It also worth noting that in the 1987 General Election, the Conservative Party gained a massive one hundred majority or more in the House of Commons, despite gaining between thirty to forty percent of the vote. So our voting system is not perfect and maybe that needs to be redressed but there doesn’t seem to be the will among the political classes to change it and the voting classes (i.e. You and I,) have become far too lazy and degenerate to actually get off our backsides and campaign for change. We are far more interested in dreaming about winning the National or Euro Lottery next week or voting for a particular wannabee on ‘Britain’s Got Talent or the X-Factor (or American Idol for my American readers but don’t worry X-Factor is coming to the U.S. very soon).
I have voted in every General Election since 1983 with the exception of the 1997 General Election, as I had only recently moved to London and could not get back up to my hometown to vote, due to work commitments. And without any doubt, I will be casting my vote on Thursday 6th May. It is not for me to tell people who they should vote for. All I will say is that it is important to vote. One is exercising their democratic right and duty. A right and duty that is denied to other people in many other parts of the world. It should be noted that the working class people of this Country have had the right to vote for less than a hundred years. Woman in particular had to fight for the vote. The Suffragette Movement and the Pankhurst’s (a family of women,) fought long and hard to get women the vote. How irritated I get when I hear some empty-headed young woman say ‘I don’t know who to vote for’. How I used to cringe on hearing this air-headed nonsense. But all is not lost. Women are actually on the move. They have noted how they have been left out of the televised debates. ‘What about us?’ I have heard. And this is true. There are so many issues that have always affected women. Margaret Thatcher in her eleven and half years as Prime Minister did women no favours. In fact Tony Blair during his time as Prime Minister did far more for women, socially as well as politically. The Sure Start initiative provided more day care facilities thus enabling women to pursue other interests and initiatives in getting back into the workplace. There are other initiatives of course but the important thing is that something was started, women have seen it and recognised it and are not willing accept anything less. And that has got to be a good thing. The start of many good things I like to think. Should that happen then despite its many shortcomings in my view, the televised debates may well be the catalyst that sparks some kind of revolution and if it does, then the General Election of 2010 will be defined as the Election which saw the end of voter apathy and one in which the British people re-engaged with the political process and took back their Election from the large media organisations and corporate interests, who have dictated terms for so long.