Not-voting isn’t wrong in itself
Back in 2013 a friend of mine received their local election postal ballot but found that the only two candidates were a Tory (part of the coalition government they despised) and a Lib-Dem (part of the coalition government that they despised). I think their choice to tear the ballot paper into little pieces and send them off in the return envelope was perfectly justifiable.
The problem I have is with people who utter sub-Brandian platitudes like “if only everyone stopped voting then …” because the huge glaring fault with this kind of assertion is that it’s an exercise in extremely juvenile wishful thinking.
It’s profoundly annoying that so many people keep repeating this kind of ludicrous appeal for everyone to “stop voting” based on the idea that revolutionary political change can be achieved through a vague hope that the powers that be will suddenly take notice if we all begin protesting against them by … err … doing nothing.
The PCC elections
A look at the results of the utterly farcical 2012 PCC elections in England demonstrate why this idle wish for mass non-participation doesn’t have a hope of succeeding.
The average turnout for these ludicrous elections across the whole of England was just 15%, yet not a single one of the “winning” candidates refused to take up their cushy £65-£95,000 per year salaries because of their appalling lack of a democratic mandate. Several of the PCCs actually took up their positions with the backing of less than 5% of the eligible electorate in their constituencies!
The 2012 PCC elections were absolute proof that a lack of mandate from over 95% of the electorate still wasn’t enough to prevent politicians from taking up their jobs. This leaves us with the question of how anyone thinks that wishfully appealing for everyone to just stop voting could ever result in revolutionary social change?
Even in the extraordinarily unlikely scenario that 99% of people refused to vote, it’s still certain that the politicians themselves and their inner-circles of supporters would just cast a few dozen votes to “win” the election for themselves.
Not-voting is not revolutionary
There’s nothing clever, or contrarian, or heroic about telling other people not to vote as if it’s a revolutionary thing to do. It’s a stupid stance that is literally indistinguishable from outright apathy when the voting statistics are compiled.
Revolutionary social change certainly doesn’t come about by taking the exact same non-action as the hopelessly apathetic. It comes about through direct action.
Social progress has always been achieved when people have come together in solidarity to demand change from the powerful, when people educate themselves and educate each other, and when they cause enough economic disruption to cause the powerful and wealthy to give in to some of their demands (one of the best ways to frighten the wealthy and powerful is by threatening to hit them in the pocket).
A look at the demographics from the 2017 General Election reveals a lot of interesting information about those who did and didn’t vote. Old people are an awful lot more likely to vote Tory than young people, and they’re also a lot more likely to actually vote too. The very wealthy are a lot more likely to vote than the very poor, and a lot more likely to actually vote Tory too.
Given these demographic trends is it any wonder that we ended up getting stuck with Tory governments that endlessly panders to the very wealthy and shield pensioners from the most brutal of their austerity measures, while they deliberately load the burden of their economic attacks on the poor, the young and the disabled?
If just a small fraction of the 31.2% of people who didn’t bother to vote at all (either through apathy or disillusionment with the system) had’ve voted for anyone but the Tories, this extremely malicious and desperately incompetent government wouldn’t have even been able to cling onto power by bribing the DUP bigots with £1 billion in taxpayers’ cash for the support of their 10 MPs. They would have been unable to continue their long-term project of tearing up long-standing British values and turning the UK into one of the most right-wing authoritarian state in the developed world. And they would have been unable to continue imposing their ruinous hard-right austerity fanaticism or their policy of deliberately repressing workers’ wages.
I’m sceptical that revolutionary political change can be achieved through voting alone. Politics is about far more than scrawling a mark on a piece of paper every few years and then sitting back and waiting for the next paper scrawling exercise. The best way to effect political change is undoubtedly to demand it outside of the ballot box.
The system is a mess, but not-voting won’t fix it
Under the ludicrously unrepresentative Westminster voting system we suffer from, the sheer number of non-voters meant that the Tory party only needed 24% of the registered electorate to vote for them in order to gain a majority government in 2015!
Sticking a bit of paper in a box every few years is extremely unlikely to lead to revolutionary change, but it can help to ensure that things aren’t quite as bad as they could be while we build solidarity and take the direct action that is needed to promote the actual changes that we want to see.
If anyone thinks I’m wrong about not-voting doing nothing more than transferring more political power to those who do vote, I’d really like to see someone attempt to explain the exact mechanism by which an individual not-voting supposedly achieves revolutionary political change.
Wait for the news cycle to pass, then keep whipping your followers into hatred at the leader of the opposition. James Cleverly is an awful MP.
Isn’t it amazing how short some people’s memories seem to be?
Of Course the Labour MP Jared O’Mara’s bigoted comments about female celebrities and gays back in the early 2000s were unacceptable, and he’s done the right thing by apologising for making them, explaining that his views have changed and then resigning from the Equalities Committee in shame.
However it’s impossible not to notice the opportunism of point-scoring Tories like Sarah Wollaston who was literally dripping with hypocrisy when she decided to tweet “Hard to see how anyone with his views was selected and retains the Labour whip. Sheffield Hallam deserves a By-election”.
Is it remotely possible that Wollaston has completely forgotten about the furore over the candidate the Tory party fielded in Darlington in the election just four months ago?
Has she really forgotten how it was revealed that the Tory candidate Peter Cuthbertson had written a load of quite extraordinary blog posts attacking the women’s movement, LGBT activists and ethnic minorities, praising bigots and homophobes, criticising gay public figures, and whipping up outrage about gay couples adopting children?
Does she seriously expect anyone to believe that she’s completely forgotten how Theresa May (who had even made personal visits to Tory target seat of Darlington in order to support Cuthbertson) leapt immediately to his defence by insisting that “Peter has made it clear that his views have changed”?
How, other than rank partisan hypocrisy, is it possible for points-scoring Tories like Sarah Wollaston to think it fine for Cuthbertson to remain their candidate in Darlington because his views from the early 2000s have changed, but bitterly attack O’Mara for his comments in the early 2000s, despite the fact he’s apologised and explained how his views have changed?
If Wollaston is serious in calling for O’Mara to be punished by the Labour Party for what he wrote 15 years ago on a Morrisey fan page, surely she should have immediately demanded Cuthbertson’s resignation as the Tory parliamentary candidate for the numerous displays of much more calculated bigotry he had posted on his blog “Conservative Commentary”?
Of course Wollaston would never have called for a fellow Tory party candidate to resign in the middle of a general election because it would have harmed the Tories’ election campaign by drawing much more attention to a dirty little scandal the Tories were busy trying to bury.
It shouldn’t really matter whether you think politicians should be harshly punished for the things they wrote on the Internet long before they became parliamentary candidates, or whether you think they should be given the benefit of the doubt when they express regret and state that their views have changed.
What matters is consistency. If you’re going to howl outrage over the issue, then be consistent. Howl just as much outrage even when it’s a member of your own political party. And if you’re going to give your political allies the benefit of the doubt, then you absolutely must give the benefit of the doubt to your political foes too.
Anything else is just the worst kind of cheap partisan point-scoring. And worse too; it’s an example of hypocritically piggybacking your personal political biases onto important issues like women’s rights and the LGBT equality movement that affect the lives of millions of actual people.
In my view this kind of grotesquely hypocritical grandstanding from the likes of Sarah Wollaston is actually much more sickening than the fact that a couple of politicians said bigoted things years before they decided to stand for parliament, but now claim to have grown up and moved on from their bigotry.
This kind of point-scoring hypocrisy is worse because it exists in the present moment, not in the early 2000s like Cuthbertson and O’Mara’s bigoted comments, and because this kind of integrity-deficient and highly partisan party political point scoring is one of the ugliest and most apathy inducing things about the current state of British politics.
Another issue to consider is why nobody in the mainstream media has bothered to draw parallels between these two remarkably similar cases. It’s almost as if there’s a deliberate agenda to create a narrative of Labour Party bigotry, which means a remarkably similar story of Tory party bigotry from just four months ago needs to be flushed down the collective memory hole, because noting the similarities would obviously destabilise the intended narrative.
Aside from clocking the repulsive hypocrisy of opportunistic Tories cashing in on this O’Mara scandal when their own party leader was making excuses just four months ago when one of their own Tory colleagues got busted for posting much more calculated examples of bigotry, and the remarkably suspicious forgetfulness of the mainstream media, there’s also an important lesson for all of us.
Be careful what you post on the Internet kids. Because who knows what direction your life might have taken in a decade or two, and who knows who might consider it beneficial to go trawling through your Internet history to find damning comments you’d all but forgotten about making.
Whether it’s a future political opponent, a disgusting muck-raker like Guido Fawkes, a potential employer digging around in your past, or someone with an interest in forcing you out of your job or wrecking your personal relationships. It should be pretty damned obvious that any careless/tasteless/bigoted/intolerant/extreme-right comments you make today could always come back to bite you in the arse in the future, because the Internet doesn’t forget.
I’m going to start off by saying that Labour’s Clive Lewis did something really stupid. It doesn’t matter that he said the word “bitch” to a man, any elected politician should be aware that gender specific insults are not fine.
It’s important to note that Lewis has admitted his mistake, issued an unequivocal public apology and he certainly won’t be making the same error of judgement again.
Now we get to some of the people kicking up a stink about Clive Lewis’ use of the word “bitch”.
I’m certainly not the first to point out that the right-wing slobs at the Guido Fawkes blog have built a castle on quicksand when it comes to manufacturing outrage about the use of the word “bitch”. The Guido Twitter feed is absolutely littered with uses of that word, and they have a sickening track record of dishing out misogynistic abuse against women, including Paul Staines posting a picture of himself in bed with a cardboard cutout of Diane Abbott, attempts to ruin the lives of two very young female Labour Party activists (1 & 2), and an absolute tide of misogynistic abuse hurled at Dawn Foster by Guido acolytes just because she was sitting next to Clive Lewis at the time.
The synthetic outrage from the Tory benches is even more sickening than that of the hypocritical Guido Fawkes shit-slingers.
Tories don’t actually give a damn about women and feminist issues, if they did they wouldn’t have imposed 86% of the burden of their hard-right austerity dogma onto women. They wouldn’t have introduced the vile “rape clause”, and they certainly wouldn’t be championing a misogynistic throwback who believes in forced pregnancy for the victims of rape and incest as one of their frontrunners to replace Theresa May when they finally decide to stop using her as a human bullet shield.
All the Tories care about is weaponising feminist language in order to smear their political opponents.
If they really care so much about use of the word “bitch” that they want an urgent debate on Clive Lewis for using the word at a man, where were all the calls from Tory MPs for an urgent debate on misogynistic language when the Scottish Tory MP David Mundell was filmed calling Yvette Cooper a bitch last year? Where were the calls for an urgent debate on misogyny when Theresa May decided to quote a vile misogynistic extreme-right Twitter troll in parliament in order to score cheap political points against Jeremy Corbyn?
Of course these opportunistic Tories don’t care that one of their colleagues was filmed calling a woman a bitch, or that their leader thought it fine to quote a depraved extreme-right misogynist in parliament. Because to them countering misogyny isn’t the point.
Of course the Tories don’t care that Clive Lewis has already apologised. Because to them a man learning a lesson about the continued pervasiveness of sexism and sexist language in the 21st Century and apologising about it isn’t the point.
Of course the Tories don’t care that Clive Lewis has done more to try to actually improve women’s lives than they ever have (or ever will) by consistently opposing their ideological obsession with misogynistic austerity dogma. Because to them actively working to improve the lives of ordinary women isn’t the point.
They don’t care because literally the only value feminist issues actually have to them is as an excuse to launch opportunistic political attacks on one of their opponents before they immediately get back to their day job of actively and consciously impoverishing millions of ordinary women through their obsession with austerity dogma, and forcing rape victims to recount their trauma or face financial punishment.
Hopefully this desperately cynical opportunism backfires on them. Firstly because feminism is the kind of “social justice warrior” stuff that sickens the regressive tabloid-reading hard-right Blue-kipper demographic (which makes up a significant proportion of their voter base these days). And secondly because any remotely sensible feminist knows that a Labour politician using the word “bitch” at a man and then apologising for it is absolutely outweighed by the disgraceful Tory track record of spending seven punishing years actively discriminating against millions of ordinary women with their sexist austerity policies.
Actual Tory Party Conference schedule