My degree was in Economics and Politics, and I found that the more I learned about politics, the more jaded with the system I became. Conversations with other people have suggested that I am far from alone in experiencing this. Indeed, it has been one of the central points of the previous discussions here, with James O’Malley offering a contribution that backs the theory up:
I think your experiences of becoming more apathetic with age – essentially more apathetic as you became better informed – are pretty similar for a lot of people. I’ve just finished a degree in International Relations, and as a consequence of learning what a horrible bleak mess the world is, I think we all became cynical about almost anything political.
Events since then have only made me more likely to become apathetic. The credit crunch underlined that what goes on in politics does not matter an iota as much as what happens in the real world of business. Politicians don’t have as much power over the economy as they like to make out, and any influence they do have is probably a negative one.
Now we have the expenses scandal, which in fairness is only surprising in terms of the scale of the problem, not the fact that it existed at all — most people took that as a given. It adds to the impression that the system is inherently rigged against individual voters.
Increasingly, when people ask me how I would vote if there were an election tomorrow, I say that I wouldn’t vote. Making a conscious decision not to vote is not the same as apathy. I still have opinions on issues just as much as I have ever done. But my stance does reflect a more jaded view of party politics.
Next week we will be asked to vote in the elections which people are almost certainly the most apathetic about — European Parliament elections. This will put to the test the idea that I wouldn’t vote. If I were to abstain on Thursday, it would be the first time I have ever turned down the opportunity to vote in a major election. Mind you, I have only had the vote for five years so I haven’t had that many opportunities to turn my nose up (although voters my age are the most likely to).
In the background of recent events, the political elites are now becoming aware of how intense the distrust of political types is among the wider public. As such, there are a number of ideas for how to reform the system floating around just now. As someone who takes an interest in constitutional issues, electoral reform and the like, I think it will be worth investigating them.
I find this an interesting situation. In the wake of a barrage of apathy-inducing news, and in the face of the most stupefyingly boring elections on the face of the planet, can I bring myself to vote? Or, more to the point, can I bring myself not to vote? Will feelings of civic duty trump the temptation to rationally abstain?
Increasingly, as Question Time is broadcast, I find that the conversation on Twitter is dominated by discussions about “#bbcqt“. I have not been able to bring myself to watch that programme for a couple of years. That was another thing that has got me thinking. I wrote:
Can’t work out if I want to totally give up on politics, or if now is a good time to get stuck in again. Everyone on Twitter talking [about] #bbcqt
So, is it time to get stuck back in? For the next week or so I am going to go on a voyage of discovery. Okay, that’s just a grand way of saying I’m going to write some posts about politics over the next few days. I will start over the weekend by writing some thoughts on the state of democracy, and looking into some of the ideas for reform.
Later on into next week I will write about the upcoming European elections, taking a look at each of the parties standing in Scotland. There will be an election literature review, and I will be asking questions such as, “Who on earth is this Duncan Robertson fellow and why is he suspiciously invisible on Google?”
Most importantly of all, I hope to find an answer to the big question: Will I vote, and if so who for?
The plans are vague because I haven’t written the posts yet, and I genuinely don’t know what the conclusions will be. My post about the democratic system is something I’ve been meaning to get off my chest for over a year now, but I’ve never managed to bring myself to actually write it. Now seems like a good time to do it.
By way of a taster, here is another of the catalysts to this series of posts. It’s a post by The Devil’s Kitchen: Democracy is not a given good. It comes pretty close to summing up my feelings, but you will learn more about that when I publish the next post.