And that’s another year of trudging to the poll booths done with. And another demonstration of how as a nation we are truly pathetic. That is the only way to do justice to the apathy that demeans the local election process.
In Birmingham for example, alongside the traditional voting for local councillors, was a referendum to decide whether the city should be run by an elected mayor. It was one of 10 English cities holding such a ballot.
So when the populace gets its chance to vote for local representatives or use it as an opportunity to voice discontent at the national government, and at the same time is presented with an historic opportunity to change local governance, what happens?
Less than a third of those eligible can be bothered putting an x or a tick on a piece of paper. In secrecy. Without the need to tell anyone what you’ve done, who you’ve chosen as the anointed one.
It’s probably far more strenuous changing the channel on the TV remote but apparently we just don’t have or just cannot be bothered expending any energy choosing someone who could – if they do the job properly – have a substantial impact on deciding what goes on around us, ergo our own lives.
In Birmingham, the turnout was estimated at 29%. Being a pessimist and a pragmatist, I’d predicted around 36% (a prediction with no basis on fact or science). Apparently I was too optimistic.
Nationally, the turnout’s estimated at about 32%. So more than two-thirds decided to abstain from the democratic process. Or, it could be argued, fully engaged in it by exercising their right not to vote.
So why, after seeing this scenario repeatedly over the decades, do we not make it easier for the public to engage and make use of this most basic of rights of living in a democracy?
Are we that disillusioned with our politicians or/and the system that the majority of have simply disengaged? Or our masters-in-charge content with the status quo and only feel a need for action when it’s General Election time and their tenure might be in jeopardy?
In the 21st century when your fridge can automatically place an order over the internet to replenish its shelves, why do we still not have an online system (with safeguards as best as can be achieved) for polling?
Why not have the polls on a weekend. Saturday or Sunday? Too much to pay the counters and staff? In the grand scheme of things, it’d be peanuts.
Or go the other route. Make it compulsory to vote. Set up an ‘election police’ to make sure everybody supposed to take part took part. Send them round to people’s homes and issue fixed penalty notices if they haven’t. Well, if speed cameras are disappearing, the authorities could compensate for the loss of that income stream.
And it would give a seasonal jobs boost as thousands of 18-24 year olds were issued official ‘hoody’ uniforms, trained to knock on doors and taught to snarl “Have you voted? No. In that case, give us your money.”
Or provide the electorate with an incentive to vote. A free £10 token for Boots, M&S or your local high street store or pub for everyone who knows what a cross is and where to put it (and that’s not intended as a religious pun in any way, shape or form). What a boost for local economies everywhere.
Alternatively, let’s just carry on as we are. Those who can, will and have. Those who can’t, carry on whinging and repeating the mantra “Well I didn’t vote for them.”