I have just become aware of 38 Degrees, a campaigning organisation based in the UK. This organisation polls people on the internet as to what campaigns it should run, runs those campaigns, and obtains content and then feedback from its members relating to these campaigns.
Well done them.
Now, in the UK, voting turnouts are extremely low, historically speaking. My guess, personally, is that this state of affairs does not really worry those who hold power in the UK. In fact, the voting turnout has little or no effect on their ability to retain their current power under the current electoral system.
However, they know that some people are concerned about the low voter turnouts. Therefore, in time-honoured fashion, a parliamentary committee has been “looking into” the issue. Rofl.
Yesterday (the 20th of March 2014), a representative of 38 Degrees, a Mr David Babbs, addressed the parliamentary committee in question. True to form, 38 Degrees polled its members on what Mr Babbs should say during the committee meeting in the days running up to the meeting.
My view is that Mr Babbs did a really good job on behalf of his members. Naturally the politicians in the committee- even those who were relatively progressive and/or relatively sympathetic to 38 Degrees’ statements- simply couldn’t or wouldn’t grasp the implications of what Mr Babbs was relaying to the committee.
In short, from what Mr Babbs was saying, it was clear that 38 Degrees members stated that they did not feel listened to, respected or engaged by the politicians who were supposed to be representing them. They felt that these Members of Parliament were not, in fact, working for them, but were working for someone else, be that someone else their political party, corporate donors, etcetera. They also felt that voting was a waste of time… even those who stated that they intend to vote in the next election.
In short, Mr Babbs relayed what most people on the street, in your workplace or in your family unit will tell you about politics. Nothing very revolutionary about that… It’s also the truth:
In the UK we live in a Schumpeterian “Representative Democracy”… in other words, a fake democracy. A frankly unconvincing parody of a democracy. Every few years, a slice of the UK populace- those who can be bothered- go to their local polling stations and- predominantly- tick either the red, blue or yellow box (Labour, Tory or LibDem) on the ballot sheet. They usually know nothing about the people they’re voting for, much less know what these candidates stand for as individuals.
Even if they know the prospective Member of Parliament personally and know them to be a moral person, the candidate’s political party affiliation will usually define what they vote for when it comes down to it. Labour candidates will end up voting for policies determined by the Labour Party leadership, etcetera. So knowledge about the candidate is actually irrelevant anyway.
All three major political parties have proved themselves to be wayyyy to the right of the general population of the UK on issues like war, healthcare and finance. Both Labour and Tory governments have dragged us into unpopular and perpetual wars. All three parties are in favour of cuts to healthcare, welfare and national financial austerity. The majority of the population of the UK isn’t in favour of any of these things. So whatever candidate you elect with your vote is likely to end up supporting things you don’t want and don’t agree with.
The majority of the politicians who live in these parties are middle aged white men, usually ex professionals e.g: lawyers, journalists, corporate executives, etcetera. Totally unrepresentative of the majority of the denizens of the UK, and unfamiliar with- and uninterested in- the views of the common person. So whatever candidate you elect is unlikely to think the same way as you, understand your problems or care about solutions to your problems.
So who will you vote for? Why should you vote for them? Perhaps Labour is the lesser of two evils… but it’s not much less evil really, is it? Oh sure, you could make a protest vote and waste your pencil mark on the Green Party (as much as I’m sympathetic to the Green Party’s policies, mind you), or you could be a crypto-racist tosser and vote for UKIP, aka BNP-Lite… but it will make little difference in the long run. A sad state of affairs indeed.
Here’s Noam Chomsky talking about pseudo-democracies vs real democracies:
In fact, a real democracy would consist of a system in which the population DECIDE the policies, and then a set of administrators implement those policies. Not “leaders”. Merely facilitators.
The questions that the members of this parliamentary committee asked Mr David Babbs were suitably foolish and self-centred. They variously asked things like:
– How can 38 Degrees ask better questions of its members?
– How can 38 Degrees work better with us, the politicians?
– How can 38 Degrees make its members stop bothering us?
– And the disgusting fatuous Tories on the committee of course just resorted to slinging insults and disparaging those that filled out the questionnaires that 38 Degrees sent to them, and haranguing Mr Babbs in a most childish fashion.
They did not ask “what can we do to make our constituents feel more engaged”? because the answer would have been “engage them.” They did not ask “what can we do to make our constituents feel more represented?” because the answer would have been “Represent them.”
To his credit, Mr Babbs told them these answers anyway, even though they didn’t ask. Well done to him, my hat is off to him. Purely on the basis of this performance he seems intelligent, polite, well-meaning and seriously committed to representing those who donate content to 38 Degrees. And more importantly, he faced off well against these privileged politicos, on their home ground.
Now I’m off to sign up to 38 Degrees. If their campaigns result in fun like this, that alone makes them worth participating in.