Saturday, 9 May 2015

At democracy’s wake…

Discounting the utter decimation of any political sector and party where people who are not rich and “hardworking” are cared for (or even thought of – except in terms of scrounging idleness): today, I rudely discovered that, in this supposed democracy of ours, any remaining suspicion you may cling to that you have a rôle to play as a member of the electorate is probably a figment of a warped, idealist (and probably therefore socialist) imagination; or can be quashed in a moment by some officious jobsworth, implementing archaic, élitist (and inflexible, invisible or even imaginary) rules (and obviously relishing his sadistic control of the weak and powerless).

Let me explain. Having watched my votes at district and national level count for little, I thought I would go and witness localism in its purest form: i.e. the tallying of votes for our Parish Council, on Saturday, in the company of some of our esteemed contenders. I could then cheer (or boo) in the appropriate places; as well as feel satisfaction that what I see as my electoral duty had been fulfilled and rewarded.

But, as I have often suspected, here in Stratfascist-upon-Avon (sorry), unless you are part of the political establishment, you are not allowed to watch democracy in all its colourful and flawed action. Nor, it turns out, are you allowed to drink the coffee served to you by a kind volunteer (taking pity on a deaf and disabled idiot: who still believes that government is for, of, and by the people). Having committed such a heinous crime (although not yet been chastised for it), I then overstepped the mark by attempting to make a similar beverage for one of our candidates.

Three strikes (I had already had a moan for being denied entry to the count), and I was out on my ear: and, having disrupted the last Parish Council meeting with my emotional pleas, left Levi Fox Hall (part of KES) shouting that “This is not democracy!” with all the suddenly-emerging vehemence of my long-past but active, political, CND-demonstration-attending youth… – putting the ‘mental’ back into ‘governmental’, perhaps…. (At least I wasn’t dragged and kicked by the local constabulary; and then shoved unceremoniously in the back of an unmarked van.)

If supposed democracy (not only the selection of candidates at all levels) is carried out behind closed doors, is it no surprise that so many people do not vote, or register to vote – or even then spoil their ballot papers? (And when you later discover that even one of our now Parish Councillors was treated similarly shoddily at the vote verification on Thursday night, it is hard not to feel that you need the correct-coloured rosette, weird handshake, or to belong to some sort of secretive sect of Tory cronyism, to partake of any portion of power – especially in a town where even the stones, trees and swans bleed blue.)

You can watch the counts (where available) on television; you can even dress up as Elmo, and stand against (and behind) David Cameron in his constituency; but, as a member of the voting proles, you cannot trace your mark from Village Hall to counting hall; your ballot from dropping it in the box to declaration.

Only two-thirds of the electorate voted on Thursday – and it is no surprise. The whole process is flawed: from the lack of proportional representation (PR) to the many governmental processes which take place behind closed doors. I (and my preferred candidate for the PC) had tried our best to establish who could attend the count – but we should not have needed to. Ideally, us hoi polloi could be installed in a public gallery; or allowed to appear (or be corralled) in some form or other – any rules governing (ahem) their attendance made available publicly (or even provided in a leaflet with your ballot card).

The word ‘vote’ stems from the same root as ‘voice’ – but mine was silenced in no uncertain terms today. It seems that, having scrawled your cross (difficult enough for someone like me, with my shaky mitts), you are then supposed to walk away, and place trust in people you would not want to share a planet with (never mind a room).

But this is wrong. As I shouted: “This is not democracy!” If we are to encourage people to exercise their democratic right, fulfil their democratic duty, then the process must also be democratic – from start to finish. Yes, I believe that voting should be compulsory; but how much better would it be (and I accept that any plea made in the spirit of common sense is doomed to failure) if people felt compelled to make their ‘voices’ heard simply through the whole process becoming open, transparent, flexible, and involving?

This is therefore a plea to politicians and civil servants to rectify the dismal experience that the majority of the country has experienced over the last few weeks (unless an SNP supporter, Tory twonk, or Daily Mail-reading gullible fool). Introduce PR. Reduce the voting age to 16. Let everyone experience the excitement that politics can bring: from vote to count to declaration. Don’t just call our system a democracy; make it one. Make every vote count; and make the trade you ply meaningful and believable to everyone.

Breaking news!
Our new Parish Council will consist of the following: Steve Allen, Graham Collier, Beverley Cressman, Stephanie Howells, Malcolm Littlewood, Colin Locke, Keith Risk, and Jacqui Sinclair. Congratulations, thanks, and best wishes to them all!

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