The 85% turnout of voters in Scotland yesterday is something to be really proud of, but it is also proof that there is no such thing as ‘voter apathy’.
Whenever we have an election, local or general there is masses of discussion about getting the voters out to vote. Such talk about people taking their right to vote for granted. Talk of how hard it was to get the right, reminders of how many countries don’t have a free vote, and the voters here are in danger of being guilt-tripped into making their way to a polling station to put a cross in a square that they have no belief in, and commitment to.
On ‘Question Time’ there has been endless comment about how people can’t choose between the parties because they can’t see enough distance between the parties on offer, they are all the same, or the voters have lost faith in the system, fully expecting the government of the day to back track on its manifesto within a year of getting into power.
Although these reasons may all be true, I do not believe this is the main reason people do not leave their homes, or pop into a polling station on the way back from work, or the gym, or the supermarket. As Scotland has shown us, when there is something of importance, when there is something that fires the blood, people will go and vote. But in England in these times what do we have to gain, what do we have to lose. Our standard of living has improved dramatically in the last 50 years. I believe the reason for the so called apathy, is really our level of contentment. Rather than ‘what’s the point’ I think people think their lives are kind of ok. Now don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying there are not a million and one issues to be considered, and I am not saying we do not have people who are in desperate need of help and the governments attention. But really we are like the frog in the saucepan of water. As the water goes from freezing to boiling there is a time when the water matches the temperature of the frog and he cannot feel the water at all. For the majority of us life is truly bearable and so we are not motivated to act, since the second world war our standard of living has improved year on year, and the number that remember how uncomfortable the water felt when it was really cold are thinning out. Those amongst us who do suffer feel disenfranchised but are the minority, the majority of us are in the tepid water.
What we have to be careful of is that we don’t wait until the water is so hot we can no longer jump out of the pan to save our lives.