Today is an election day in the UK, and across the EU. In England and Wales, both local council and European Parliament seats are up for grabs, and yet events at the Westminster Parliament will have the strongest influence on voters. Indeed, low turnout is expected across the board, with expenses scandals, weak leadership and a perceived lack of real choice encouraging politcal apathy. The electorate seems to shrug its shoulders; these politicians, they’re all the same.
I’m a longstanding vote nazi, rather liking, in my own undemocratic way, the idea of mandatory participation. Call me an Athenian, but it seems to me a simple thing to do, a small price to pay for citizenship. Undoubtedly, though, the majority of voters will refuse to bear the responsibility they hold in return for the rights they enjoy. Social contracts, problematic as they can be, are becoming out-moded, but at the very least we must still have an agreement of the people: the low turnout apathy produces can only benefit fringe parties such as the BNP; apathy rots society. In 1649, Gerrard Winstanley, the leader of the ‘True Levellers’ or ‘Diggers’ , built upon the various versions of the suffrage-expanding Agreement of the People drawn up by his erstwhile Leveller brethren in his pamphlet The True Levellers’ Standard Advanced. The tract’s was a colourful, lurid, dramatic and allegorical take on society, but no less penetrating for its at times almost hysterical tone.
And this appears clear, for when any trustee or state officer is to be chosen, the freeholders or landlords must be the choosers, who are the Norman common soldiers spread abroad in the land; and who must be chosen but some very rich man, who is the successor of the Norman colonels or high officers? And to what end have they been thus chosen, but to establish that Norman power the more forcibly over the enslaved English, and to beat them down again when as they gather heart to seek for Liberty?
It seems impossible we must still emphasise it, but of course the vote cannot be taken for granted. We should all use it today, or surrender the choice of who governs us to someone, not necessarily acting in our interests, who will.
That is all.