I used to be a hardcore member of the ‘if you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain about the outcome’ gang. It’s one of the few matters I think I’ve completely switched my position over. I mean, I’ve changed my mind over various matters of policy upon learning more about them, and my overall views have drifted, and interests broadened, but in the most part I’m not that far from where I was at 18.
To be fair, the world has changed a lot since I first voted in 1997. Maybe I and my friends were naive and lacking in political education, but everyone seemed a lot more optimistic (not least because of the state of the economy and the end of the Cold War and all of its knock-on effects), and the major parties actually looked a little different from each other. It actually felt like things were changing for the better and, notwithstanding Tony Blair’s later exploits, I think they were. This is not to look back through rose-tinted spectacles, as there was a lot still wrong at the time, but it does feel that various matters have been moving backwards in the last few years, for the first time in my life.
It’s just a shame that the whole idea of not-voting has become so dominated of late by the figure of Russell Brand. Not that I’m entirely opposed to the guy – it’s good that he seems to have engaged younger people in politics, and I agree with him on a good number of matters. But then he doesn’t exactly have the best record in other areas – particularly in his treatment of women. And more dangerously, his rather silly public persona can undermine causes he associates with – it can be presented to show that *serious people* vote,and only foppish comedy millionaires would think otherwise.
Anyway, I’m not going to be voting in the 2015 general election, due to the whole living in another country thing. But I’m not bothered about that. I can still participate in UK politics in a whole raft of other ways, and intend to do more when I return to London. I still think that everybody should be political, and I’m happy for people to vote as part of that. But marking a ballot paper shouldn’t be the end of anybody’s engagement.