What is a voter? A welder welds, a Baker bakes and a Brick-layer lays bricks; but not for long – if they are no good at it! What skills and expertise does a typical voter bring to a general election? A voter comprises just about anyone in the country above voting age and not excluded by virtue of mental state or sundry other things. Voters bring very little to the polling booth in the way of actual voting competence. Their understanding of issues, and their access to data with which to judge matters of governance, both come to them through mainstream media who are now ‘very selective’ in what they deliver. A typical voter has had no training, but has undergone statutory schooling; the same schooling that fills our prisons, supplies our TV audiences, creates customers for un-needed goods and delivers those who go on to be addicted to gambling, alcohol, tobacco products, and drugs of every kind. In short: the typical voter is far from suited to the business of voting. Notwithstanding the foregoing, Universal Suffrage makes voting their right, and they are never excluded from further voting even though government failure follows their voting error.
Why do voters vote? In recent times voters make their mark increasingly to specifically approve a party leader (who is usually behaving, quite improperly, in a presidential manner). To this end, they vote exclusively for the rosette worn by candidate, and not for the candidate himself. Alternatively, they will vote ‘tactically’ to thwart a candidate, or party, or leader. They might vote to protest against the recent government, or against governance as a whole. Yet again, they can vote to show support for a favoured no-hoper candidate and yes, even vote simply to install a viable candidate or party of their choice! But all too often they vote a certain way because a dodgy-money-fuelled campaign, by a scurrilous party, has swayed their mind (see; ‘What is a voter’) usually with carefully crafted and timed schemes, devised by highly paid ‘fixers’. In short: voters very rarely vote because they know what they are about, let alone out of any certainty that their choice will be for the good of the country in the future.
What is a candidate? In simple terms, a candidate must be someone who wants to be an MP. I make the assumption that, to have that ambition, they must have some idea what an MP is and does. Here I have a problem. Everyone I know watches MPs on television and listens to them on radio, and they are in no doubt that it is the stock-in-trade of MPs to dodge questions, to lie, and to be generally underhand. You see my problem!
The few candidates I have heard being questioned, or have questioned myself, never speak in those terms. They speak of ‘wanting to make a difference’ which of course can be altruistic – or megalomaniac, but what it isn’t, is an overt wish to behave appallingly! The preferred qualities of a candidate, were it not for the intrusion of parties who preselect the candidates for whom ordinary folk then get to vote, would be those qualities that the said ordinary folk find agreeable. But preselection means that candidates are, unavoidably, party-creatures (indeed, they have chosen a party as their only route to Westminster). Since all parties primarily seek power, it follows that all candidates have a great deal in common across the parties. Sadly, the voter tends to vote in terms of the rosette the candidate carries, and ‘gets whatever he gets’ in the person underneath. It is abundantly clear we do not achieve a Westminster comprising local representatives chosen their innate appeal from the best of ordinary society.
What is a party? That question ranks with: “What is Scotch Mist?” British political parties may, quite reasonably, be called ‘notional’. Their highest claim to real existence is a name and an emblem registered with the Electoral Commission. But nothing accrues from that registration; indeed the commission makes plain that a political party may take ‘any form that it chooses’. In Britain, commercial Limited Companies are structured according to law, and have a Company Secretary who is culpable if the company indulges in wrongdoing. Nothing like this applies to a political party. How telling then, that eager wannabes sign-up to these parties as bespoke MPs! They revere the leader as fervently as religious cultists, and toe the party line with a dedication approaching zealotry. The ephemeral party is, of course, a vehicle for its panjandrum leader, and it supplies the group whom he may address (to rapturous response) whenever his desperate, needy, little-boy-ego requires re-inflating.
What is a General Election? In Britain, a general election is the ultimate pretence at democracy. All those people who believe in the voting system or feel they have some obligation to someone to vote, put their cross on a voting paper either at a polling station or more and more frequently today, as a postal ballot. An elaborate charade called “the count” then takes place, with a big display of comedic security and pomp, leading to an announcement of the winner for that constituency. It is presented as British democracy (the finest in the world) at its most impressive. But in truth the disparity of votes per seat across the country is unconscionable, and the number of people who do not vote at all is telling. When the local count is completed, the candidate with most votes goes forward to be made-up to MP by the Queen, the party with the most seats forms the government, again with the Queen’s blessing.
What is Westminster governance? It isn’t democracy. It has a shocking record of failure. It is corrupt. It has ‘thrown up’ a string of delusional Prime Ministers (proxy Queens). Westminster is a self-serving citadel, its ramparts facing the people. Although a crumbling, anachronistic royal palace, its most effective defences are not of stone, but comprise rules, protocols, codes of practice, obfuscation, deceit etc; all configured to defeat enquiry and challenge from the people. Inside Westminster, the ephemeral parties make great play of their differences – especially the Official Opposition v the governing party. In short: they play party games. But the recent hung parliament showed how readily they combine to preserve power – the power of Westminster The Enemy.
What is the outcome? Britain today is floundering in the mud left behind when the tide of imaginary money went out. The banking crash on top of decades of general mismanagement of the nation, has brought a shambles of housing/immigration/health/welfare and terrorist threat (real or state-sponsored) that impinges obscenely on those least able to cope. Meanwhile, the Creatures of Westminster – our MPs – continue to play facile party-games with the profound business of governance. In time, Buggins’ turn comes round, out go the discredited incumbents and in come the ‘usual suspects’ with the usual suspect answers to every woe. Will they last one or two terms before their inevitable incompetence blunders them to the terminus?
Will Westminster ever call halt to this unspeakable charade? Will fine minds convene to devise a form of national stewardship that actually functions? We shall see. . .