should you vote?
- a new writer for Hackcwriters.com steps up to the plate for the first
Exactly, why should
I vote? All those other nagging questions loom from the past, such as
Why should I tidy my room, do my homework, or finish my dinner?
Then, as now, you ask yourself Well, what is the point, what difference
will it make? If you grew up in the Sixties you knew why should
eat up your food, because you should think of the Starving Millions.
Even at six years old you realised this argument was as thin as the
skin on your Granddads bald patch. Where was the connection? Whether
the last sprout went in the bin or down your gullet had nothing to do
with whether you cared or not about starving people. It wouldnt
make any difference to the child with huge eyes and even larger belly
staring at you from the Oxfam advert. It preyed on your conscience.
Maybe if you also forced yourself to watch Blue Peter or Newsround on
a weekly basis, there was the possibility that you might become a better
person. Conforming was part of being a grown-up.
And now, here we are, being asked to cast our vote once again. People
have died fighting for their right to vote. Women have only been able
to put their cross in that box for less than a hundred years. We pride
ourselves on living in a democratic nation. My conscience is pricked.
Yet voting ranks up there with eating the last of your greens or the
congealed mass of boiled fish on Friday. It is about as appealing and
appears to have as much significance. What difference will it make if
I vote or not? How much choice or control do we really have? Someone
else has stepped into the Dinner Ladys shoes. You may vote but
is it really going to make the slightest sodding difference to the way
things are. It may be the government or Starbucks that rules. It all
beg to disagree, they say that making your vote can count, especially
if your mission in life is to expunge all Tory councillors from the
land. Nothing wrong with that, many of you might say. Worse things could
happen. Tactical voter tells us that The 1997 election showed
that tactical voting works. Lib Dem and Labour voters rallied behind
the local challenger who could topple a Tory MP. There was a Labour
landslide and the most Lib Dem MPs since 1918. We want to make sure
2001 is another win-win election for the centre-left. Another
one down, another one bites the dust, huh. Go to the site and check
if changing your vote from Lab to Lib or vice versa really will make
Doubters amongst you may ask, Blair or Hague, margarine or butter, can
you spot the difference? Labour traditionally the Champion of the lower
income households has increasingly turned itself into some sort of middle-class
designer spread, so now you really cant tell what youre
getting. Perhaps they are equally bad for you and Labour is no longer
the healthy alternative. Your head begins to hurt as ideas and nightmarish
images bang their way around your brain. Blair or Hague. Their faces
loom larger, you wake up sweating. Oh my God, it wasnt just a
However, for anyone entering or in Higher Education the government policies
on education might bear thinking about and coax you into making that
vote. As the voting season approaches, examinations also draw closer.
Thousands of students this year face the threat of expulsion for non-payment
of tuition fees. No fee. No degree. There are no official figures for
the numbers of students involved, a fact the NUS berate, but anecdotal
evidence indicates that some universities have individually excluded
as many as 200 - 300 students. It appears that it is mostly the newer,
poorer, universities that are adopting these harsh measures. We live
in hard times.
Just when the government is supposed to be making education more widely
available for all, the number of students dropping out is also on the
increase. The NUS believe that debt is a major factor in causing one
in five students to leave HE every year. With the abolition of maintenance
grants and the introduction of student loans, it is difficult to see
how this situation will improve. How tragic that Tony Blair, defender
of Higher Education for the majority, may be experiencing a significant
snarl up in reaching his target of half the people under 30 benefiting
from HE by 2010.
The Lib Dems have pledged to abolish university tuition fees and to
reintroduce maintenance grants and benefits for poorer students. They
have already secured the abolition of tuition fees in Scotland. What
a pity they stand no chance of ever being elected here and the opportunity
to put their money where their mouth is. Why waste your time? So we
are back to the original question; if you are going to be poked in the
eye with a pointy stick, does it matter who is holding it?
Sometimes we did our homework, sometimes we tidied our room, and sometimes
we vote. In the US only 55% of the voting age public actually took part
in the elections and where the US leads, unfortunately, we tend to follow.
Do we want to descend into a pit of apathy where we stop bothering to
vote at all? By not voting we allow the suppression of democracy. Well,
if we dont care enough to vote, why take our views into account
at all? Of course, it may be that people are not apathetic, but looking
at more effective ways to bring about change. If we lose faith in government
and democracy, then we seek out alternatives, but that is a whole other
© Catherine Stepney 2001