First of all, I want to begin with a cautionary warning. The following opinion comes from a person whose political knowledge stretches as far as a half-hearted A-Level and the brightly-coloured manifestos piling up in her hallway. I’m not going to try and persuade you to vote a certain way. Like a lot of people I’ve spoken to, I haven’t even decided who I dislike the most, let alone who I want to run the country.
And that, right there, is the fundamental issue with the electorate. Who. I would confidently argue that the majority of us vote for people, not parties. I mean I love watching the political bickering of election season as much as the next procrastinating student, but actually, this year, it’s really started to bore me. Farage is apparently an alcoholic for having a few beers and Lucas is branded as dull because she likes wearing grey suits. As for the favourites – you can’t deny that if you wanted something (anything) doing, you’d probably rather have Cameron on the job than the bumbling but endearing Labour leader. Anyway, what I’m saying is, policy is totally obscured by personality.
Until quite recently I was starting, much to my own surprise, to sympathise with the Russell Brand dissenters, who have somehow justified a complete rejection of their freedom of opinion. Anybody who values the sacrifices made for the franchise has the decency to take fifteen minutes out of their day to express their own opinion, and that’s a fact.
The obvious flaw with the public involvement with the election is, in my opinion, a gross lack of knowledge which leads to votes spent on whoever happens to be wearing the crispest shirts. And I don’t blame the voters, actually.
On my way through the train station yesterday, I saw the most disappointing front page I have ever seen plastered across the front of everyone’s favourite Tory tabloid, the Sun. It was a revisiting of the very well-known picture of Ed Miliband attacking a bacon sandwich in what I can only describe as vampiric fashion. The text reads, “This is the pig’s ear Ed made of a helpless sarnie. In 48 hours, he could be doing the same to Britain.”
I mean, no wonder people are confused about which party to pick, if any at all, when the media think two pieces of bread are more important than actually comparing policy. No wonder general apathy has been a growing factor in recent years. I suppose it’s what’s to be expected though. I mean, how many people are excited by the word ‘politics?’ It’s not exactly fun sifting through manifestos and attempting to fit yourself into a single, little, square box. A rather awful photo of Miliband murdering a staple breakfast favourite is undeniably more interesting.
So, with a vastly unhelpful media documenting a giant popularity contest, should we take the aforementioned Brand approach and not bother to vote, despite the hundreds of sacrifices made for the franchise? Absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, not.
This is where I stop ranting and remind you (and myself) that actually there is another option. It’s the ‘None of the Above’ vote, or ‘NOTA’, and I think it’s worth considering. If you don’t know who to vote for, but your conscience and common sense is intact enough that you feel an obligation to make that most treacherous journey to the polling station, don’t feel like you have to choose. Because you don’t. You can vote and abstain at the same time.
What I’m suggesting is this: don’t waste your vote. If you don’t know who you would be least unhappy with waving at the door of No. 10, use your balloting paper to send a message. A largely politically confused nation probably shouldn’t be backing people based on how they look eating their breakfast. It’s so important to use your right to vote, but don’t sign yourself off to an uninformed exercise of eeny-meeny-mo.You can check for your local polling station on the York County Council website. Voting closes at 10pm today.