I’ve never assembled a CV nor registered for an online dating agency. If I had I’d no doubt have been asked about my interests. In the ‘what I like to do’ box you’d find, off the top of my head; science, music, festival going, history documentaries, Tottenham Hotspur, online scrabble, the environment and politics.
I doubt the last item would feature on most respondents lists and that feeling of disconnection from the political system is hardly a modern phenomenon. Most of us inhabitants of the planets longest surviving democracy would claim to have got more important things to worry about.
The day to day machinery of administration, be it local, nation or international, tends to be as uninspiring as it is impenetrable. We only bother with it if it gets personal, like the reducing frequency of refuse collection down our street or a VAT is increase on something we buy a lot of.
When talking about the interface between government and the governed, you’d expect elections to be central. Voting is our handle on the way we want the World to work and who we think should be running it, right? Government of the people by the people. Let the people decide. All that stuff.
If only it were that simple.
Having stood as a Green candidate for my district council in May this year I can vouch for the rigour of the electoral process. The verification of candidates; the integrity of electoral officers; the scrupulous honesty of the count. Unfortunately the excellence of the process disguises the overall inadequacies of the system.
Even the staunchest of Conservative devotee would have difficulty arguing that this government’s acquisition of power, having attracted less than thirty percent of the registered electorate to their cause, is truly representative. But they have acquired it and as much as electoral reform might help rectify this it’s not going to happen any time soon. The Tories introducing a proportional system would be like the proverbial turkeys voting for Christmas. Electoral reform bods such as I are seen as guilty of sour grapes for merel suggesting that first past the post isn’t up to scratch.
The Conservative body politic isn’t daft. They’ve also noticed that they could swing election results further in their favour if they tighten up on voter registration. They’re saying that the current electoral role, compiled around the number of members of a household, should be abandoned. As from the beginning of December you will now have to register to vote personally. This is a significant change. It’s likely to mean many will slip from the role. Those most at risk of joining the electorally disappeared will be the young and mobile, such as students, and those in rented accommodation. It will come as no surprise that these groups tend not to vote Conservative. To drive home this anti-democratic body blow constituency boundaries will be manipulated (sorry, redrawn) based on the newly tidied up electoral register, nudging the electoral process even further along the road to safer Conservative majorities.
Supporters of these changes rightly argue that electoral registration and constituency boundaries need adjustment. But if this governments intentions were honest then every single citizen likely to be affected would have been bombarded across all media platforms with notices imploring them to re-register and the boundary changes would not have been brought forward, as they have been, by a full year.
This is a time when we pay homage to the sacrifices made to defend democracy. Let’s all do our own little bit in its defence by making sure we don’t let The Cameronites cheat us out of it. Spread the word.