My #GE2015 Rallying Call

Who Represents You?For decades now the turnout of voters at the General Elections, let alone any of the local authority and by-elections, has been in serious decline (see here).

People no longer value the democratic process, either for apathetic reasons or simply the fact, they no longer trust the politicians, people who don’t represent the electorate.

I believe it’s probably a combination of all three however; I for one still value and believe in that democratic process… Failure to engage in it simply shouldn’t be an option.

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried…(Winston Churchill)

Many of us sit and complain about the state of our Nation and berate the politicians who are leading us. The ones who, despite crowing “we’re all in this together”, always appear to be doing – “very nicely thank you” – out of everyone else’s difficulties and misery… I was discussing the very same issues whilst getting my hair cut the other day. Whilst sat in the chair I was reminded of the ‘Barber Shop’ story, a succinct tale which has been doing the rounds on social media recently….

The Barber Shop Story: One day a florist went to a barber for a haircut. After the cut, he asked about his bill, and the barber replied, ‘I cannot accept money from you, I’m doing community service this week.’ The florist was pleased and left the shop.

When the barber went to open his shop the next morning, there was a ‘thank you’ card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door. Later, a cop comes in for a haircut, and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replied, ‘I cannot accept money from you , I’m doing community service this week.’

The cop was happy and left the shop. The next morning when the barber went to open up, there was a ‘thank you’ card and a dozen donuts waiting for him at his door. Then a politician came in for a haircut, and when he went to pay his bill, the barber again replied, ‘I cannot accept money from you. I’m doing community service this week.’

The politician was very happy and left the shop. The next morning, when the barber went to open up, there were a dozen politicians lined up waiting for a free haircut.

Churchill - Democracy

Despite the fact we should all value our democracy, it never ceases to amaze me how little people know about politics or our political system, let alone understand anything about how our government works (or often sadly doesn’t). It’s hardly a wonder that our politicians get away with their self-interest, with their junkets and their spurious expenses claims. They’re only questioned when the topic (contrived or otherwise) appears in tabloid print next to the latest “benefits scrounger” or “sponging immigrant” story. A factor that also often results from political and/or commercial financial considerations.

The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter…(Sir Winston Churchill)

(c) NY TribuneBut our politicians are merely the tip of a public sector iceberg, one that is set to sink our society’s cruise ship. Or, at the very least, bring its crew to their knees trying to serve the passenger’s. Yes they might shout that all is ok and we need to ignore all the short-term temporary difficulties however; how much longer can we actually remain afloat is the big worry?

Most of our public services are buckling under the strain of austerity cuts, declining public support and the almost constant barrage of media abuse and condemnation. Our front line public services, in particular (but not exclusively) the emergency services are, in many cases, no longer delivering the levels of service we require… let alone the ones we once accepted as normal.

Tony Benn MP, that renowned social commentator, elder statesman and Labour party stalwart, once summed up many of the problems with his now famous NHS ‘Boat Race’ story. Yes it is departmental specific but it’s also indicative of the negative issues that are endemic right across our public sector.

The NHS Boat Race: There was a boat race between a Japanese crew and a crew from the National Health Service (UK). Both sides practised long and hard and the Japanese team won by a mile. So the NHS …faced with this problem setup a working party which reported that the Japanese had eight people rowing and one steering and the NHS had eight people steering and one rowing.

So they brought in management consultants and the management consultants confirmed the diagnosis, suggested the NHS team be completely restructured to make it more efficient, more cohesive, streamlining and all-round better performance. A strategy document was drawn up and the recommendations encouraged restructuring for the entire organisation.

As part of the restructuring, a number of appointments were made including three Assistant Steering Managers, three Deputy Steering Managers, a Director of Steering Services and the rower was given an incentive to row harder. They had another race, this time the NHS team lost by two miles, so management laid off the rower for poor performance, sold the boat and gave the Director of steering services a large payout for making the ‘hard decisions’ and concluded they had too many management consultants and not enough managers!”

Tony Benn Quote

I’m as disolusioned with our society and the way it is governed as the next man/woman however; how can you question and/or argue against something you take no interest in? It doesn’t really matter which political party ideology you subscribe to or indeed, whether or not you believe in any/all/none of what your constituency candidates espouse. Like many, I think it’s highly unlikely we will return to single party governments any time soon, if ever? But none of this impacts upon the specific importance of the democratic process. 

It’s all about exercising your right to have a say in (hopefully) direct/influence the future quality of our society. If you feel unable/unwilling to do it for you… do it in memory of all those who have sacrificed their lives in the past, simply to give you that opportunity!