Ever since I turned 18, I made a point of making it to the ballot box every single election.
In the last eight years of voting, I’ve voted against electoral reform (we wanted PR, but we were offered AV), and I’ve voted to leave the European Union. But in most general and local elections, I’ve actually just spoiled my ballot paper.
In general and council elections, I have only ever voted for a party once – and that was the Conservative Party last year. The 2017 General Election was pretty unique; it was the Brexit election. I can’t stand the Tories. They’re not real conservatives, but I wanted Brexit to at least have a shot of passing through Parliament. Sure, Theresa May could soon betray us on the Customs Union, but can you imagine the chaos if we had a Labour/SNP/Green/Lib Dem coalition in charge right now?
But most of the time, I use the ballot paper to make my feelings known to the candidates – not by putting a cross in a box, but by writing something. Interestingly, I find that a lot of people don’t really know you can do this.
But what’s the point? Well, the power of spoiling a ballot paper was made clear to me, when, during the count for an election I stood in, I was called to the front of the room to review the spoiled ballots with all of the other candidates. I recall standing there politely while a blushing returning officer had to read off a myriad of linguistically creative insults written on ballot papers.
We all had to just stand there and listen while voters let rip on what they thought about us. And it felt kind of good… Because I knew they weren’t talking about me. They were talking about the big parties and politicians who have let down the average voter across successive governments.
Today though, I’m not even doing that. I’m not even writing a snarky comment on my ballot. The local candidates simply aren’t worth my time. Admittedly, my decision was partly made by the fact that I’ve just moved house and couldn’t really be bothered to go through the process of registering – but it’s not just that. I’m getting tired of going through the motions – turning up to the ballot box, ticking a box for a lesser-of-two evils, or spoiling my paper, heading home and then watching as the horrors unfold on the overnight election coverage.
We live in a pretty dire political landscape. There is currently no national political alternative that will truly make change. I don’t believe Jacob Rees Mogg offers much hope, and I want to talk about this more soon (and I will). I’d be surprised if UKIP can turn its fortunes around. There are passionate people like Anne Marie Waters on the scene building a political alternative, which in time can grow – but right now, Britain’s political landscape is essentially a house of cards. It’s waiting to be knocked down, but for now, it’s still there. And it’s big.
It’s a shaky tower propped up by top-down lies, and reluctant electoral support from increasingly despondent voters. And I don’t want to be a part of that.
So for now, I won’t.
Today, I’m not voting.