28 Mar 2015

Don’t care about your vote? Beware the alternative

There is a UK election and it begins in earnest now.

At which news, once more, I feel a little bit like the outsider looking in.

For much of my working life I suppose I have been a war correspondent. But here I am bound for Scotland: rosettes, doorsteps, grip ‘n grin and suits. Lots of suits.

But if, if my outside experience can lend one thing as the campaign begins then please let it be this: a rage against the grey cynicism of indifference.

Because I’ve been and seen what fills the void when politics fails.

Because of the memory of the woman dragged lifeless to a stretcher in Bosnia after the shellburst, across the tarmac.


Because of the stoned kid in west Africa who giggled, red eyes dilated, waving his red-stained machete in a hum of flies.

Because of the smell of burned meat in that shed in Libya, where 30 or more had been burned to death.

Because of the baby girl on the living room carpet in Croatia, her right hand still gripping the small, bloodstained wool teddy.

Because of them.

Because of this.

Please pause and take another look at what we have. Cherish it, respect it, even if you can’t love or even like it.

Remind yourself in the coming weeks that there are other ways of conducting power and politics – even though you may have been lucky enough not to have seen them.

And go to vote on 7 May.

Because there are other ways.

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25 reader comments

  1. Alan says:

    The selective, dramatic narrative shows little understanding of anything other than the narrow world of corporate journalism. Very poor.

  2. Nicholas Ennos says:

    This is just nonsense.

    The reason people don’t vote is that all the parties are controlled by the 1% elite. Voting just gives away power to this elite.

    1. Andrew Dundas says:

      Pensioners vote. In huge numbers. At every election too.

      Pensioners get big hand-outs from politicians.

      Young and low income folks don’t vote. Young and low income folks get hit with low wages and other penalties.

      Why’s that?

      1. jacqueline says:

        Because young folk don’t vote and think it doesn’t matter. It does. Get out there. Get rid of those that are useless and keep an eye on your representative

  3. Philip says:

    Well said, Alex. We may not have the most appetising group of politicians and media, some of which uses distorting mirrors much of the time, but, as you say, it could be worse.
    My hope for the election is that there will be some examination by the media of causes as well as symptoms, of the substance of the issues rather than the froth, the policies rather than the personalities. I expect to be disappointed.

  4. James Alton says:

    Methinks he doth protest too much.
    “Because I’ve been and seen what fills the void when politics fails.”. Politics never fails – it always gets what that abstract noun wants. What fails is your particular brand of politics, and from the litany of wailing that he denotes, he has often seen his brand of politics fail.
    This astonishing piece is a tacky attempt to rouse, in Scotland and possibly elsewhere, people who might think of Russell Brand as a demigod and follow his belief that voting is not worth the effort. I think we can infer the politics of the author as being with those who he is clearly trying to persuade – and that isn’t the politics of the majority of the granddads and grandmas in the UK.

  5. Jon Lisle-Summers says:

    I do cherish my vote but FPTP too often wastes it. We must have a more sophisticated system which represents our actual political beliefs. At the 2010 GE it took 30-40k votes to elect either one Tory or Labour MP but over 100k to elect one Libdem. LD record aside, Parliament doesn’t represent us.

  6. W B Thomson says:

    Very powerful Alex. Every UK voter should read this to remind them how lucky they are to have a democratic voice and the duty they have to use their vote.

  7. oliver s says:

    Well said Alex but what is driving indifference is the lack of representation by people who have led some kind of ordinary life or at least have life experiences. Michael Sheen is a marvellous example. He would make a great Labour MP but when asked about whether he would stand by Andrew Marr recently he essentially said that the media made that almost impossible. Why would anyone “normal” stand these days? And for people that have a decent job, why throw it all in for all the hassle of an ok salary which will be used up on expenses which are no longer chargeable?

  8. Mark Rowantree says:

    Spot on Alex!, Scotland seems to be bucking the trend for anomie and disengagement- why because Scot’s actually feel their vote might lead to change. Happy as I am with present events in Scotland, I am not a believer in Scottish exceptionalism.
    Therefore there is no need for the rest of the UK to be totally cynical and disengaged. Sure it takes a tiny bit of effort and means having a bit of a hard think about why things are what they are.
    Like Alex says defeatism and resignation are just steps down the road to tyranny and hate. Yes we can!

  9. Jackie Burke says:

    I agree, no matter how disinterested we may feel about politics and politicians it is important to use our vote. This article brings home just how many don’t have that choice.

  10. John says:

    @ Alan – quote – “The selective, dramatic narrative shows very little understanding of anything other than the narrow world of corporate journalism. Very poor”.

    And what an amazing input you’ve put into the narrative there Alan, with your barely two line response.
    Please do feel free to elaborate further, not only on your outstanding input – but how the indifference and cynicism relating to voting in the upcoming General Election (and those beyond), can be changed for the better.

    Alex has seen first-hand the effects of Political turmoil in all its forms over many years, all over the World – including that relating to Elections / Democracy (or lack of it in some Countries), been in War-Zones reporting on these topics – at risk to his life in a number of cases…

    And yourself?
    We’re all ears for some more ‘in-depth’ conclusions re: Voter Apathy etc from yourself.

  11. Andrew Bulbeck says:

    The media are a big part of the problem as well as the politicians as the discourse about policies, the state of the nation, etc is incresingly polarised and hyperbolic without much report on substance.

    I’m not surprised or vexed by what most of the newspapers report as I know that the proprietors are people with vested interests. However the supposedly more enlightened or unbiased outlets (such as Radio 4) are not much better as I still don’t get much information about important areas that govern our lives such as: Laws passed in parlaiment that come from Europe, was the UK deficit caused by the 2008 bank crash or Labour spending, etc, etc.

    Lots of heat but not much light becuase journalists want to big-up a story.

  12. Ryan Evans says:

    Sadly elections in this country and elsewhere have become television beauty contests. The choices of candidate for leader has been decided already by the rich and powerful. Any decently motivated outsider will be assassinated or discredited (Salvador Allende and Michael Foot spring to mind). In USA Bush and Clinton dynasties continue, as the preselected so called democratic choices. In power, promises evaporate (think Obama) and the democratic process produces the very leaders who then go on to wage war, murder innocents and destroy humanity and the VOTERS can do nothing at all. Voting in the traditional way has become less relevant now than ever, as we have now got attacks by the state on all freedoms and privacy via computer technology. Soon we will all know we are slaves, controlled and dehumanised by the oligarchs and corporations that have no interest in our votes or in so called democracy.

  13. John Matthews says:

    “The universe is ours ” ” Our thoughts determine our future” Don’t let others think for you get out and vote.

  14. James Fox says:

    It’s difficult to be passionate about my vote. Not only are the main players in the political parties only interested in their own careers and securing power, but according to http://www.voterpower.org my constituency is an ‘ultra-safe’ labour seat, meaning my vote only has the equivalent 0.044 of a vote. The average voter in the UK has over 5x more voting power than voters in my area. That is unbelievably demoralising.So contrary to some of the comments, above, it doesn’t seem terribly important to use my vote. And as for Mark Rowntree, above, the only reason Scotland is “bucking the trend” is because they hate the English so much.

    1. Ed Parr says:

      My constituency shows as “marginal” but this an artefact of the 2010 anti-Labour surge.

      In reality, no real campaigning is taking place here as it’s been a Labour seat since 1935 and no one realistically expects that to change this time. My vote is therefore irrelevant whoever I put my cross against and, even then, it’s only the usual suspects plus UKIP.

      I’ll vote because I always have (except in once in a Council election when I was away), but it’s merely a token gesture on my part as it will make no difference whatsoever.

  15. Neil says:

    These are terrible things to have witnessed, but it is a truth that our ‘democratic country’ has been behind much of the suffering in other countries. To take just Libya as an example, the 2011 UK/France/US bombing campaign (aka No Fly Zone) that was used to support the removal of Gaddafi has resulted in a country still in chaos with tens of thousands dead. Which major party currently standing for election would have refused to support that?

    We currently have a US-backed fascist government in Ukraine, and the UK is in full support, sending advisors and equipment, and sleepwalking us into a war with Russia. The media is in complete demonisation mode with Putin, echoing the rhetoric of the party leaders. There seems to be no space for reasoned debate.

    I’m not indifferent, but I can’t see how we’ll ever have peace in the world while our current political system is in place.

  16. H Statton says:


    People whether in their kitchenettes, favourite sheds, palatial mansions, council-houses etc., should always be able to point out the political failings of their country – and do something about it. The Electoral Vote: That piece of paper that many died trying to get which ultimately saw democracy established in our country.

    They should be able to ask for reassurances on promises, press MPs for the numbers, and timetables that they may/may not have for bolstering e.g. permanent working hours.

    Remind politicians about the things forgotten in a previous manifesto and of their mid-term U-turns, and under-costings. And remind them that they are in a privileged position.

    Expect examples. Demand promises and timelines.

    DO be bothered to get off your backside and go and #Vote2015. We need the put the ‘General’ back into General Election.

    This is the most contentious General Election I have witnessed in my lifetime. It’s a tantalizing and curious trial, and with no small something bearing resilience this time. Ed Miliband has won the first round. But, what will the others now have to say about it all?

    @rustyrockets : I will definitely be at the ballot box for #WeNeedChange2015. Sit on your arse if you like.

    “The secret to change
    Is to focus
    All of your energy,
    Not on fighting the
    Old, but on building
    The new.”

    ~ Socrates

  17. Gill says:

    Someone needed to say this; well done Alex. Many of our politicans may be power hungry charlatans, but not voting changes nothing. As a woman I recall the sacrifce made by a previous generation of women just so I have the right to vote, and that I cherish. Vote for change; the chance to see and hear the minor parties during the debate was inspiring, and demonstrated that not all politicians are cynical and without hope for a better world.

  18. Woodrow Landfair says:

    Equal rights for all

  19. Joe Sikora says:

    A bit of a false dichotomy here. Also, withholding a vote is as much a right of the democratic process as giving it. You have to question who is showing lack of respect for the democratic process; the voters who have become disillusioned because they believe in all sincerity that ther vote no longer makes a difference; or the political organisations who follow the same worn out script every time an election comes around. If you want to get people to vote, convince them that their vote might just make a difference. It seemed to work in the Scottish Independence referendum.

  20. fearty guts says:

    I will most definitely NOT be voting. There isn’t a party standing in my constituency (in England) that has done anything to earn my trust or respect. Why should I vote someone I don’t respect into a taxpayer funded sinecure? Can anyone give me a single good reason. As for the tragedy in Libya, well that’s what you get when you vote for the current parties and let them stir the pot in far off countries. A great advert for voting- I don’t think.

  21. Craig Hall says:

    The narrative of our current crop of wannabe MP’s is too narrow and all heading in the wrong direction. Unfortunately the media ignore the alternatives so there is little discussion out there.
    I’ll draw your attention to the fact that no one talks about who we actually owe the money to !
    No point in voting if there isn’t anyone to vote for

  22. Andrew Dundas says:

    Hello Craig,
    Perhaps I can help you?
    Like all the large economies, almost all of our government, corporate and household debts are provided from savings within our country. But there’s enough international swapping of debts to ensure that our main interest rates – the Bond Market – follow international markets. Fortunately there’s been a very large worldwide surplus of savings since the ‘millenium’, which has kept interest rates unreasonably low, thereby encouraging much more borrowing by folks who were likely to default – such as Greece.
    Greece is both a small economy AND was thought to be immune from default because Greece is in the Eurozone. That proved to be an obvious error of judgement within that single currency area. [A large proportion of Greek debt is with other EU institutions. Which may explain why the EU is so keen to force Greece to pay off those debts in full].
    Bonds are bought primarily by an huge number and range of institutional investors such as banks, re-insurers and pension funds. That diverse market means no-one controls the Bond markets or the interest rates that prevail. All of this is common knowledge within the financial markets and specialist media.
    It is essential that you at least get your name ticked off as having ‘voted’ even if you don’t put any voting paper in the box. All political parties examine and take notes from the ‘marked register’ and take account of those who vote. And ignore the needs of those who don’t. Which reflects MPs’ understandable desire to get re-elected.
    As for the choice of MP, consider this. Whenever Conservatives or SNP are in government, inequalities always widen and public services are reduced. Whenever Labour is in office, inequalities diminish both in net income and through the provision of public services and the taxes that pay for them. Which of those choices you favour is up to you. There’s your choice.

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