Friday, 22 May 2009

Ester, Martin and Joanna

We all keep plodding away, knocking on doors and canvassing votes this week – but I’m finding it very disheartening that so many people don’t seem to want to turn out and vote on June 4th. I’ve stood on the doorstep and debated the issue at length and pointed out that as someone will get elected for each seat it’s better to have your say now than complain about it later. Some are swayed – others are not. It’s hard to miss the irony that we have people falling over themselves to stand as politicians in the next general election (and good luck to Esther Rantzen, Martin Bell and Joanna Lumley if they decide to stand), whilst in Burma Aung San Suu Kyi is put on trial, yet again, just as she’s coming to the end of her latest house arrest and about to stand for election.

I’ll confess I almost chocked on my coffee this morning listening to the MP on Radio 4 explaining that they were positively encouraged to maximise their claims to boost their salary. I can't help but have this warped view of some middle aged people sitting in a club, smoking cigars and gently warming a tumbler of amber liquid in the palm of their hands, whilst discussing their claims in a school boy one-upmanship fashion - does a moat trump a garden folly or a swimming pool? But it's sad to think that our hard won democracy is something we now take for granted and no longer value. The suffragettes and others must be turning in their graves right now.

It takes people to stand up and be counted to change things, but in Britain we have a habit of voting with our feet. No mass revolution for us – not even in the days of rotten boroughs and the Enclosure Acts. We do things differently – through the ballot box. All it takes for Evil to prevail in this world is for enough good men to do nothing. Doing nothing can take many forms. It happened in Parliament because many good MPs saw the rotten practises, kept within the rules, and made no embarrassing claims. But they did nothing to change it. Did nothing to make it public. Did nothing to make a difference. The ballot box is both our shield and our sword and I hope we can persuade people to use it on June 4th!

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