Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Argument (n.): Persuasive discourse.

WHEN I was a youngster we used to visit my grandparents for Sunday lunch.

We'd have a nice bit of roast lamb, Gran would dish up seconds of her steamed treacle sponge with custard, and then the adults would argue about politics.

They could go for hours. Grandad used to switch sides just to wind up the others, Mum was pretty conservative and Dad fairly liberal, and Gran was like Barbara Castle on a particularly sparky day.

As I got older I joined in, and the net result is that not only can I argue the hind leg off a donkey but I can do it from several different directions at once. Those arguments weren't rows but reasoned and heartfelt debate. A proper argument - using logic to defend or decry, to persuade and convince - is a wonderful thing and it's best fuelled by people who are impassioned.

Perhaps that's why there's no passion in politics any more; the debate has died. As a result we're left deciding who to vote for on the basis of their personalities, and not every politician has one.


Despite televised discussions we care less than ever before and election turnouts are lower than they have ever been. Three quarters of the electorate have historically voted for governments - but by 2001 it was just over half. Around a third of people eligible have bothered to stir themselves on the subject of the London Mayor since the job was introduced 12 years ago.
UK General Election turnout, 1945 - 2010
These days, rather than taking sides, we see politicians of all the main parties as similar beasts who think they know best without actually being able to convincingly argue the fact.

Harriet Harperson is as jarring and absolutist as Nadine Dorries, and seem to be equally disliked despite politically being poles apart. The same goes for Tom Watson and Eric Pickles, who even when doing things that are arguably good and worth doing just seem like overblown, self-aggrandising windbags who enjoy having a huff and a puff.

Dishface seems to get het up only when he's embarrassed by something, rather than by any convictions he has. Miliminor does get angry about his beliefs but it happens so rarely it's like waiting for a mouse to stick its nose out of its nest. Clegg sold his principles for a semblance of power, and they all seem to be the kind of people who get a kick out of bossing everyone else around, rather than people who've won the right to do so by convincing us with their argument. Worse, that is what we have come to expect.

This week politicians have, variously, issued instructions to parents on how to raise their children, awarded themselves free iPads, taken 56 days off work out of a possible 75 and then told an international media mogul that he "isn't fit" to run the company he built up almost from scratch.

Not one of them has shown themselves 'fit' to tell us what to do, much less get paid £65,738 a year mainly for expelling hot air. Most of them, I'm afraid, weren't voted in because of what they stand for.

In the London Mayoral elections, for example, I've got a choice of seven candidates. Siobhan Benita is independent (interesting) but an ex civil servant (hmm) and said at the start of the campaign she wants to obliterate all foxes (SHE SAID WHAT?). She's not getting my X.

Then there's Uruguayan former BBC man Carlos Cortiglia, who may or may not have policies I'd agree with but isn't getting my vote purely on the basis he's BNP and I'm not going to do anything that means more Nick Griffin.

There's UKIP's Lawrence Webb, whose party's attitude to immigration is enough to deny him my vote even if he does want to slash tax on booze to five per cent.

We've got green Jenny Jones who wants to increase the congestion charge (no thanks, love) and then the three main candidates. I don't want an I'm A Celebrity contestant as mayor so Brian Paddick's out and that leaves me choosing between Red Ken and Bonkers Boris.

I don't like either of them. The personal lives of both leave a nasty whiff in the air and as for their political arguments I'm afraid it's just so much whiny bickering. The act of voting for one or the other fills me with gloom.

How many people today are going to feel the same? Are you sitting there thinking 'shall I vote? Oh, who cares' and then won't bother because none of the candidates have stirred you to go to the polling station?

The reason those political debates at my grandparents' house had such a powerful effect on me was because the arguers cared. Gran was born at a time when women weren't allowed to vote, Grandad landed at D-Day and fought his way through Europe to defend our democracy, and my parents were both raised in severe post-war poverty. They all knew, from personal experience, that politics mattered on both minor and grand scales, and that it could change lives. They put fire in my belly so that I feel the same.

Because of those arguments, and that passion they passed on to me, I vote every time I get the chance. Nothing short of death could stop me putting an X in the box, not just because I know that I ought to but because I am aware how extraordinarily lucky I am to be able to, and that I won't have the right to argue about it if I don't take part.

But I do not vote because a politician has convinced me to; I vote in spite of them.

There are millions of people who won't bother to vote today, but if we've any hope of changing their windbaggyness, their hypocrisy, their expenses and their egos we have to show them that we care, that they need to raise their game and start arguing like grown-ups.

The worst possible thing would be to stop paying attention to them. Now GO and VOTE.

It came down, in the end, to bloody bendy buses.




28 comments:

Jeremy Jacobs said...

How could you?

Anonymous said...

"The worst possible thing would be to stop paying attention to them." Couldn't disagree more.

Enjoy reading your stuff though.

Anonymous said...

Great piece, thanks Foxy. I'll be voting today on my 22nd wedding anniversary: 22 years ago I voted between getting married and having the lunchtime party.

Anonymous said...

But... you've wasted your 2nd option because it will never be counted. Vote first preference with your heart, and 2nd preference with your head.

Vivien said...

We had mock elections at my school in 60s, I wanted to be a 'candidate.' It was a 'nice' girls grammar school, nobody wanted to be the labour candidate. I didn't mind, just wanted to take part. My tory parents embraced this and helped me write my speech. This is how I discovered the joy of debating and how I became a lifelong socialist. Parents rued the day, but made for great Sunday dinnertime political discussions all my life.

Anonymous said...

There's nothing wrong with bendy buses, used in other parts of the country and in small towns with narrow and twisting roads.

@rider45

Anonymous said...

Great article Foxy.

They may not care about us but we have to show them that WE care about us.

If we don't vote, they will think we haven't even heard them and they will care less!!

Foxy said...

I barely know where to begin... they explode, they cannot be used in a city with a medieval street plan, they're expensive, there was nothing wrong with Routemasters, they're environmentally WORSE than Routemasters... *administers smelling salts*

Anonymous said...

I voted Labour in our local elections, I'm a local reporter and the Labour councillors I've come across are far less odious than the Tory ones.

I'm no political expert but I prefer a party which gives people things rather than takes them away.

eoin said...

But they were fun to ride ... *reminisces* ...

Anonymous said...

Nobody cares, love...

PeeT said...

I have voted ever since reaching an age when I was entitled to. I see it as a duty as well as a right, and get cross when people waste the opportunity.

Anonymous said...

Voted ooop north in Sunderland council elections.Sunderland has had 40 years of mismanagement by Labour but because a majority of voters dislike/distrust/hate Conservatives there is never going to be any other party in power other than Labour.The average turn out will approx 30-35% in most wards.This is the stark choice.There is a smattering of Independants,Conservatives,BNP but never enough are voted for to make any sort of dent in the Labour dominated city.That is our choice which is no choice.

Anonymous said...

There is of course the old classic of spoiling your ballot paper, at least that is accurately reflecting your opinion of the candidates.

Anonymous said...

Oh Foxy...great article... Ken's corrupt way of running things last time put me off and who wants to go backwards? Boris? He's part of the Dishface gang...so you voted for the status quo?

*sighs* At least you voted.

Anonymous said...

Well I've Voted all my lfe. But know more the goverments are corrupt and there is no longer democracy in the UK. Most of the MP's have vested intresses in private companys that the MP's are selling public service contract to. Sorry but a capatalist goverment is a fashist goverment.

Anonymous said...

Even if you don't care about the Boris and Ken show, please go down and vote for the London Assembly. There are at least 2 varieties of bigot on there that need keeping out

Infuriated of West Mids said...

I thing you seriously misunderstand the term "fascist".

Kurt said...

I voted based on what I know the prospective councillor has done for the local community, not the one who says what he's going to do.

Very simple really.

Maggie said...

We have the bendy buses in Liverpool now, bought cheap from London - thank you very much! :-)

I voted, I think I've voted every time I had a chance, might have missed one when kids were tiny and life very complicated. As a woman I think it's very important to vote, to belatedly support those who fought for our right to vote. Suspect my Grandmother was a supporter of the Suffragettes from one of the pieces of her jewellery I found in with my Mother's stuff when she died (I'm talking my paternal Grandmother here, doubt my Mother knew anything about the Suffragettes, she was Tory through and through and just didn't get why she was a bit odd to be that way given her background as a baker's daughter).

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that if we don't elect "them" then eventually they will elect themselves...........and then what! And who's fault will it be?

davemcwish said...

I don't know how young you are Foxy but I suspect that in your grandparents and patents generation and indeed right throught until the 90's there was a real choice that the electorate had. At the time of my first election I recall in the 80's I was taken into the booth my my mother who educated me in the whole process in the hope that I would in my future continue and make informed decisions.

Nowadays the decision we have is between the same cohort of big-state, self-centered, theiving, drunken professional politicians separated by having a different rosette.

Unfortunately in spite of your arguments there are more than enough that still turnout and vote purely on tribal allegiances rather that who best represents their interests; as an obvious example just look at the comments from the Labour election coordinator to his party supporters that they should 'hold their noses' and vote Ken just because he's Labour candidate.

There are of course the occasional upsets in the odd constituency but in reality nothing really changes other than swapping sides within the HoC chamber now and again.

My own Parliamentary constituency, other than at the Labour landslide in 1997, has voted Tory consistently since 1974; we currently have a majority of > 10,000. There wasn't any leafelet drop through my door at either the last General Election or for the current Mayoral one (I'm also in a London ward); I still voted this time but I'm very disollusioned and can't really see the point, aside from 'duty' or as you say in your post 'spite'.

As for those that advocate a 'None Of The Above' option, what good would that do ? Even if NOTA was available, our 'political masters' would manage to engineer their way around it and we'd pay for the re-runs anyway. In effect unless there was a nationwide repeat of Bradford West it will be a case of plus ├ža change and we'll end up going towards what exists in the US - two parties and vast some of money just to get anywhere.

For the record I didn't vote for either of the leading candidates in any of the three options I have in London and no I don't feel smug either as the result is a foregone conclusion.

Anonymous said...

Anyone notice the voting form copy above is a sample?

Foxy said...

Ha, I voted on the genuine form by post a week ago!

Nick said...

The more contentious one for me was the GLA member election - in Barnet & Camden it was a toss-up between Brian Coleman (the man responsible for Barnet Council's attempt to kill of high street traders, currently being vailantly opposed by these guys: http://barnetcpz.blogspot.co.uk/) and Andrew Dismore (who in 13 years of being an MP set the record for the longest filibuster of the 21st century, campaigned AGAINST parliamentary transparency and threw a hissy fit when he lost by just 103 votes in 2010). I spoilt my ballot paper.

Anonymous said...

The independent woman would probably have made a good choice but doesn't she have connections with the Labour party?.

I don't know or care much about who Boris is shagging or not but if I had to get stuck in a lift with one of them or go for a pint with one, it would be Boris.

Richard Campo said...

Great article but I'm afraid I disagree with you. I believe you should only vote if that person has inspired you to do so. Voter apathy is understandable with such sub-standard 'leaders'.

theflashingblade said...

Ooh dear love, someone's pissed on your strawberries haven't they. Veritable little ray of sunshine, move along.....

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