Apathy

I’m finding it very difficult to get any enthusiasm for the election. Every day there’s another campaign leaflet to add to the pile…

…often more than one, but they just aren’t helping. (Two more arrived as soon as I took that photo!)

Going by the number of leaflets, you would think that the Lib Dems are the most keen for my vote with around 18 so far. Sadly most of them just put me off voting Lib Dem, and I’m still waiting for a reply to my letter to Chris Huhne.

If I was voting based on quality of campaign leaflet content, the Conservatives would be ahead by a nose. Only five from them but on the whole they are much more positive and go in to more detail. Entertainingly, their major negative streak is about the dire consequences of a hung parliament, which includes a claim that financial experts predict a fall in house prices. Excellent, a hung parliament is sounding better than ever, sign me up for some of that!

Labour have managed to deliver a grand total of zero leaflets. Well, saves me the effort of moving them from the letter box to the recycling bin. Have enough to fill that up already.

UKIP and the National Liberal Party (that name just reminds me of a scene from the Life of Brian!) are tied on one leaflet each. Plus we also got a random leaflet campaigning against a hung parliament. I had been planning to add leaflets to TheStraightChoice.org but with my new found apathy I haven’t got very far. I did add one scanned by a colleague after he got a leaflet from the only independent candidate standing in Eastleigh.

Perhaps all the campaign posters are supposed to get me more excited about voting. They tell me a huge amount about what the parties stand for don’t they? Still, there is some entertainment from the, ‘who moved my sign’ squabbles. I had thought that the Lib Dems were going to win the prize for most signs, with the Conservatives taking gold for largest surface area, but after the Lib Dem banner appeared on the M27, there’s still everything to play for. (I’d love to know what the local council would have to say if residents stuck up random signs the rest of the year. Perhaps we could all declare our favourite supermarkets to find out!)

All of this old style electioneering should be consigned to the history books by now with the dawn of the digital age. Elections 2.0 should enable candidates to really engage with voters. Early signs were promising, with four of my candidates having twitter accounts: @ChrisHuhne, @MariaHutchings, @LeoBarraclough and @raymondfinch. Sadly I wouldn’t recommend following any of them. Broadcast media seems to be more their cup of tea. (There is one local candidate who deserves an honourable mention for his Election 2.0 posters, not that I can vote for him unfortunately.)

In the past I have always been very keen that everyone should vote, but given the quality of the choices available I’m coming round to the idea that not voting may actually be the best option. (I do like the Nobody poster!) Some lucky people even get to vote for no candidate. In the end though, even if I don’t vote, I’ll be doing it in person; it’s not actually apathy, it’s lack of choice.

Is blindly sticking a cross on a bit of paper once every few years just an illusion of democracy? What do you think the chances of any real change are after Thursday? Whatever happens, the politicians are going to win.

Update: a couple of links that might help when deciding who to vote for: (5 May 2010)

  • Hedge End People have a General Election group and some of the candidates have responded to questions on local issues.
  • Unlikely to help the apathy, but this article has an interesting graphic view of where the parties stand, and how the three main parties have shifted over recent years.
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5 thoughts on “Apathy

  1. If you choose not to vote, please spoil your ballot paper. A sit at home not vote doesn’t say anything, a spoilt ballot does.

  2. I’ll be going to the polling station on Thursday, but if someone really doesn’t want to vote for any of the candidates, how does spoiling a ballot paper actually help? I have always been of the opinion that you should go and vote, but I struggle to back the vague feeling that it’s the right thing to do with any concrete reason.
    Makes you feel slightly less lazy? Not especially compelling. Gives you the right to complain? That’s a terrible argument. Does that mean you can’t complain if you vote for the winning MP/party as well? You register your dissatisfaction? Not in the slightest bit true. A spoilt ballot paper doesn’t register anything other than your inability to vote properly. They also account for a tiny proportion of the vote; there are far more non-voters so they get much more attention. Not voting can at least be attributed to not being enthused enough by any of the candidates to go and vote.
    The other problem is that voting when none of the candidates are good enough implicitly supports a flawed system. Luckily we have the right not to vote in this county. Is there any really good reason why they shouldn’t exercise that right?
    There’s an interesting discussion about all this which includes a link to some of the spoilt ballot paper stats from a previous election.

  3. The twitter response to the question, “Is there actually any point to spoiling a ballot paper?” was inconclusive as well…

    planetf1 @jtonline I saw comment on that. Semed a waste of time. For ** sake be decisive or do something about it ppl #comment

    gavinwillingham @jtonline absolutely none whatsoever; just a waste of time and money

    wideawakewesley @jtonline I disagree, if every non-voter spoilt their ballot, it would send a much bigger signal than all of them staying home.

    jtonline @wideawakewesley unless you have a ‘none of the above’ candidate there’s currently no way to send that signal. Just makes you feel better :)

    wideawakewesley @jtonline All spoilt votes are counted. If the majority spoilt their vote, it’s definitely a message and not one of voter incompetence

    So as clear as the election results then. I did spoil one of my ballot papers but that won’t be counted as a protest in any of the results, and from previous elections spoilt ballot papers are not reported in every constituency anyway. Not voting seems to me to be an equally valid way to register your feelings on the candidates on offer.

  4. In a narrow fight (rare I know), or where a party stands to lose a deposit, a well spoilt vote can cause much discussion and angst at the count as the various parties’ agents argue over whether a spoilt ballot is actually a vote for the candidate about to lose their deposit (or not). Given that they may therefore be examining the papers, you can then write your own opinion of each party/candidate against their name.

    I do wish there were more spoilt ballots. If we could get them close to (or even exceeding) the final majority, that would start sending a message of active disenchantment – even if we had to use FOI requests to flush out the numbers.

  5. Pingback: Anyone can win here! | Notes from a small field

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