Monday, 6 October 2014
While the Tories have given up on Clacton, with Douglas Carswell almost certain to become Ukip’s first MP, their activists gather ready to descend en masse on Mark Reckless’s constituency of Rochester and Strood just as soon as a date is set. If Labour thought they had a ghost of a chance in either ward they would be there too, knocking on doors, canvassing opinion and promulgating their own brand of lies and deceit in pursuit of the precious vote. We needn’t worry too much about the Lib Dems…
But here’s the thing; the vote – your vote, my vote, anybody’s vote – belongs to us, not to them. There is a presumption that our votes are the spoils of electoral war, won by wearing down the voters and ‘persuading’ them into casting their ballot in the correct direction. By a combination of cajoling, pleading, promising and downright bullying, you WILL see reason and vote for them. Them. Not us, but them. Politicians are always them, aren’t they? They rarely appear to be on our side yet come election time they think we want to hear their hollow promises all over again.
The party mobsters will tell the people of Rochester and Strood that a vote for Ukip is a wasted vote, that a vote for Ukip is a vote for Labour, that a vote for Ukip is stupid, infantile, and yes, reckless. In fact a vote for Ukip makes you, the voter, all of those things – a waste, stupid, infantile, reckless… and very likely racist, for good measure. Is it any wonder that ordinary citizens find this barracking insulting and patronising and the very reason many have turned to Ukip in the first place?
And still the message is not Tory-positive but Ukip-negative, Mark Reckless being variously branded a traitor, a liar and an insignificant fool. Even the most bone-headed, politically illiterate, working voter who just wants a home and a job and as little government interference as necessary can see that the only time Westminster gives a flying fuck about them is when an election is due and even then all the politicos want to do is to browbeat you into voting their way.
Where are all these activists when the residents – the voters, remember? – need help? They want some potholes filled, or some traffic calming, or help with school crossing patrols, or fighting planning issues, or jobs or healthcare or, heaven forfend, fighting off muslim grooming gangs and culturally embedded local authority corruption. Where are they when something needs actually doing and not just talking about?
You can’t say you trust the electorate and then treat them like children, unable to form reliable opinions and cast their ballot accordingly. You can’t just flood a place with rosettes and badger and scaremonger its residents into submission. Treating the vote as not within the purview of the voter is a gross disregard for personal and public opinion and flies in the face of the principles of democracy.
Meanwhile, in Westminster
I’m not a big fan of democracy, by the way; I believe few of us, including myself, are reliably well informed enough to contribute to governance in a balanced and sensible way, but it’s what we purport to have. So, I hope Ukip take both seats and many more come the general election. I hope that they also take enough Labour seats to ensure another hung parliament and I sit and wait patiently for the day the penny drops in those hallowed halls. Ukip holding the balance of power is a bit mental and there are sure to be all sorts of fuckwitted attempts to integrate grass roots naïveté with the sophisticated Westminster machine. There will certainly be blood, but there will also be great entertainment and there is just a tiny chance that the voice of the electorate may be heard, faintly, for the first time in years. If you support democracy then this – however bizarre it promises to be – is what you should secretly wish for too.