We've all heard it said... "If you don't vote, you have no right to complain when those in power do something you dont like" and "If you don't vote, you don't have a voice in how this country is run". But is this always the case? Is it even the case at all? Is it possible for a member of the public's choice not to vote to be their damning judgement on a system that has not only become counterproductive to its original intentions, but become a choice between parties which often espouse surprisingly similar values, often contrary to what each traditionally advocated.
Picture the scene. It is a scene being witnessed by many today- June the 4th, polling day for Members of the European Parliament (MEPs)- you step up to your ballot paper and read the list of candidates. You'll see the Conservative nominations- a party vying with UKIP for the far right vote, which shows how far to the right Cameron's party has drifted, Labour and the Lib Dems drifting aimlessly into the centrist/centre-right slot that the Conservatives can still sometimes appeal to, the BNP, English Democrats, and Libertas filling a crowded far right, and Scargills Socialist Labour Party, The Socialist Party of Great Britain and No2Eu representing the far left, on top of countless independents and small parties. This is a mark of how much the three 'major' parties have drifted away from their core support, especially Labour. This has left a massive vacuum in the centre left, a spot Labour used to fill, but that New Labour began to dismantle from 1997 wth privatisation and alienation of core support.
So you are looking down your ballot paper and there is no candidates which properly reflect your own values. What best to do? To vote for the least of all the evils? Or to make a statement against all the candidates by defacing your ballot paper or not voting. Some may say that makes a mockery of the system. But is a system which encourages people to vote for someone simply because they disagree with them the least worth keeping and protecting? If there is noone you agree with, there is noone you should vote for, which is why, back in Tony Blair's Premiership, it was so important that John Prescott's plans to make voting compulsory were rebuffed- which of course they were.
These weren't the only of Prescott's plans that, had they gone through, would have made a mockery of Labour's traditional values and this party's claim to represent the working classes and underprivalaged in society. Under Tony Blair, Prescott also drew up schemes to outlaw striking, which would have been the final step of New Labour alienating the Unions. A positive can come out of Labour's expected hefty defeat at these European and local elections- it may force the Labour Party to take up a more traditional position on the centre-left of the political spectrum, thus appealing more to its core support and preventing Cameron's Conservatives from getting a sustained spell in charge of the country- something that would be a disaster from the entire world.
A poor voter turnout may not be a bad thing at forthcoming elections. It could represent people's distrust and dissatisfaction with the current system, forcing politicans to change. Here's hoping...
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: One of the most prominant features of the replies I got to this was a misinterpretation, based on an idea the article accidentally conveyed. It is true that a much better idea, and therefore what I am advocating, is spoiling the ballot paper, not simply not turning up to vote. If a large majority of the population fail to even submit a ballot, that makes it look like they are apathetic to who is in charge. If, however, you are, as many of us are, unhappy at all the choices given to us, perceiving them as being so similar to each other that it is barely worth choosing between them, then the best course of action is to submit a spoiled ballot paper. This avoids giving the false impression that the electorate is apathetic to politics, and conveys the true image that they feel none of the candidates truly represents them.