The general election has been one of the main topics of conversation over the last few months and, as it finally arrives this Thursday, there is concern over the outcome. However, I think the problem is that there isn’t enough concern. Despite this election being branded 'the closest for generations’, not enough people are showing an interest in the process and consequently aren’t voting. People seem to believe that their vote won’t make a difference, or simply (according to a girl I walked past today) 'can’t be arsed', or, worst of all, some people won’t vote so that they can make a point. This is something that I just cannot understand. According to the polls there is currently a one point difference between the Conservatives and the Labour party. In this instance, how could someone’s vote not make a difference?
While it is the voters’ choice to engage politically, is it not the obvious choice to do so? During the build up to these elections I have heard a variety of excuses for not voting; the most common being, simply, 'It wouldn’t make any difference.' While one vote may only make a small difference in the outcome of the elections, imagine if 40% of Britons held this view; how could there ever be a decisive outcome? Based on what happened in 2010 there wouldn’t be. In the last general election 34.9% of Britons didn’t vote and a coalition government was formed. While this isn’t the only reason for the formation of the coalition is it really as likely that there would be a hung parliament if 90% of Britons voted? It wouldn’t guarantee a decisive vote but the odds would be in favour of an overall majority for a single party.
One excuse I feel is ever so slightly inadequate is that people choose not to vote because they simply 'can’t be bothered' or 'don’t know enough about the parties.' I don’t see this as a reason to not engage politically, I see this as an opportunity to go and learn about what each party stands for. I’m not suggesting going and reading every manifesto but having a basic understanding of what the parties are campaigning for is not a complicated task, and isn’t it worth the effort to make an informed decision? I mean it only contributes to how the country is run for the next five years. People may begin to ask how a lot of it affects them, or what the point is. Well it can affect most elements of a Briton’s life; how much they are taxed, how many hours they can work under a contract, where their taxes are spent. Wouldn’t you, the voting taxpayer, want to know?
But at the end of all of this, some people choose not to vote. They actively decide they are going to take a stand against the British political system by not saying a thing. In 1980 the Canadian band Rush released the song ‘Freewill', during which the chorus repeats the phrase: 'if you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.' This is a perfectly valid statement. If a voter doesn’t like any of the parties and doesn’t want to vote for them that is also understandable, but there are two ways to go about it. The first is to stay at home in a silent protest. The second involves speaking out like the somewhat repellent Russell Brand about why he isn’t engaging with our current class of politician.
While I think anybody is better off voting, we are hardly paying any significant attention to the silent protesters. There are some people who engage in heated political debate and then fall at the last hurdle by not voting. I believe this makes their arguments completely invalid; if they choose to speak when nobody is listening then to stay silent when the country is then what is the point in saying anything? If people do choose not to decide go and speak out, go down to the polling station and write on the ballot that they don’t want any of the candidates in power. At least this way they won’t be sacrificing their voice.