Whatever you think about Iraq, and the reasons it’s in a mess, you surely can’t help but admire the courage of the Iraqis who risked their lives to vote for an interim government. At one polling station, a suicide bomber killed himself and a policeman, and badly injured a number of voters. Despite this, they cleaned up the body parts and carried on queuing. Can you imagine anyone doing the same in this country?
Hearing the news, I remembered the election in South Africa in 1994, when people queued for hours. Everyone was desperate to make their vote count.
Turnout in our elections over the last few years has sometimes been very poor. It’s apathy or a shower of rain that puts people off, not bomb threats. Why is it that so many can’t be bothered? Some might say that they feel it’ll make no difference if they vote; that the politicians are only interested in what they think at election-time. Others may feel that the ya-boo-sucks style of politics we see at Prime Minister’s Question Time in the House of Commons is off-putting. They’ll ask, why should we vote for people who can’t even behave like grown-ups? I think most women feel this way. We can’t be doing with all those silly goings-on.
I have some sympathy with those who don’t exercise their right to vote, but we ought to be asking why, and one of the answers might involve taking a long hard look at how government works. There have been some changes, it’s true, like more sensible working hours for MPs, but there are many more ways we could change the system for the better, and encourage, even inspire people to vote.
One might be to tell the main political parties that some issues are too important to be left to party politics, like the environment. There’s no shortage of evidence from environmental experts that our small planet is in serious need of attention. So why waste time with political point-scoring, when they could just be getting on with it? Why not start the General Election campaign by saying that some issues are so important that we’re going to agree that we’ll all work together to sort them out, whoever wins. Then we could just vote for whoever makes the most sense about everything else – or is that too much to ask?