Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Democracy - use it or lose it?

Anything less than 150 years in this country is not really very old. It was only in 1918 that the ability to vote for all men in the United Kingdom became a reality, and only in 1928 that women got the right to vote. Our democracy in its current form is therefore quite young.

Churchill famously said that democracy was the worst system of government in the world, apart from all the others, and it is very difficult to argue with that.

And yet well within 100 years of universal suffrage being introduced here, voter fatigue appears to have set in. I am writing this before the turnout for Thursday's county council elections are known, but if we get a 35% turnout we will have done well. In elections which decide who runs our social services, education, highway maintenance and many more services, two thirds will not bother to vote! At a general election the turnout is higher, but we have had recent lows of 65%, meaning over a third did not cast a vote on who should run Britain.

Some of you will blame politicians for this, that: we are all the same, all in it for the money, all a bunch of crooks, why bother to vote.  It is true that we are human beings, which means we make mistakes and there will always be the odd bad apple, as in any sector of society, but most people in all parties at local and national level are in it to serve, working hard and doing their best.

The real problem is that in less than a hundred years we have taken our democracy for granted. We assume that it will always be there and we can get on with our busy lives. But that is very dangerous. We are already seeing the rise of extremist parties in European countries that are struggling with financial calamity.  Let's not forget that this is exactly how Hitler started.

Some of my colleagues think that democracy in its current form has run its course and that with technology, people do not need elected representatives; that we are heading for an era where all decisions on a daily basis will be made by pushing the red button on our computer.

I am not so sure. But I am certain that if more of us do not exercise the hard-won right to vote in elections, our children will live to regret it.

posted by Gary @ 09:07