Tuesday 15 May 2007

Political Animal

Some of you will have heard this one already in real life, but even if you have I think it is import enough to be heard again.

How do you define your peer group, look round at them, are they all tall people, do they share an accent, a political affiliation, is it simply due to socio-economic status? I find it difficult to answer that question, the best i can say is that the various groups I hang around with tend, as a general rule, to consist of intelligent people more than capable of thinking for themselves. Not necessarily highly educated, but a number of them are, not always working in highly skilled occupations, however there are those whose mums are rightly proud. All in all if this country was a meritocracy we would at least be being listened too, maybe even represented at the top table.[1]
But, and this is a huge but, this country isn't even close to being a meritocracy, what it is closer to approximating is a democracy (I'll leave for another day the merits and pitfalls of the implementation of democracy in this country). This entry is about my surprise, and on occasion anger, about the appallingly low level of knowledge and engagement that my peer group, these thinking women and men, have with the electoral procedures that they are expected to deal with every year. This viewpoint came about, or at least was reinforced, during the council elections and some could argue that people feel it is less important than politics on the national stage. I am going to dismiss that argument out of hand as horse-shit, local issues are important, ask anyone whose children go to Myers Grove or Wisewood School, who works or runs a business in Shalesmoor, or has seen the field near their house turned into a housing estate.[2]
So why was I having to explain the concepts of 'election by thirds' and cabinet run councils, feeling dirty when confronted with people that had refused to vote because they hadn't been canvassed or couldn't see the point of voting in the council elections because their parliamentary constituency was a safe seat? The only problem is all the solutions I can see for this are a bit nannystateish, including forcing councils to provide more information on elections, including the candidate list when the polling cards go out, publicly funded hustings and even compulsory voting. If that last one ever came to referendum, I would support it in a heartbeat. Mind you that would probably annoy the large sections of my peer group that tend towards libertarianism and I shudder to think what the neo-plutocracists would say...

[1]Ok this may be a bit of a flight of fancy, but I'm trying to make a point.
[2]Apologies for being a bit Sheffield-centric

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