“If you don’t vote, don’t complain.” That was the motto of this years pre-match General Election team talk, and it seems like a lot of us took it to heart, coming out in hoards to whine about the result.
Twitter feeds up and down the country are chock full of it. Hardly surprising since only 36.9% of us voted for the party who won by majority.
So, is the UK spiralling democratically towards a grim Armageddon? Many seem to think so, but we’ve neglected a lot of the positives from this election. Whatever species of political enigma you are, there are (believe it or not) a few good things to take from it all. Time for a crack at some semi-serious journalism – here’s the silver lining from this years vote.
Student turnout was up – by more than just a smidgen. If you’re wondering why pensioners get free TV licenses and bus passes whilst university fees show no signs of falling from a crippling nine grand a year it’s because, unlike us, they actually turn up to vote.
In 2010, 76% of over-65s voted compared with only 44% of 18-24s, which meant it was more likely our politicians would promise to spend on them than on us. According to the British Election Study, the young’uns closed the gap this time round, with almost 60% rocking up at the ballot box last Saturday.
Now that students are beginning to chirp more, politicians will have to do more to attract their vote, and with a bit of luck we’ll start reaping the benefits.
The youngest MP for centuries. If most of us were asked what we’d achieved this week it would probably be somewhere between ‘mildly productive’ and ‘not quite enough.’ Not so for Mhairi Black, the youngest elected member of parliament who managed to lay claim to her seat at only twenty years old.
She ousted the former Shadow Foreign Secretary in her constituency to bring a fresh young face to British Politics. What does this prove? That young voices are important and that people are prepared to get behind us.
It’s also a reminder that, even though our democracy is far from perfect, it’s come on leaps and bounds from the old Athenian crack, where pretty much everyone could get involved as long as they were a full grown bloke and done their military training.
The real message we should take from Mhairi stealing the limelight is that in our democracy your voice can be heard, regardless of age or gender – which is more than can be said for a lot of places.
First past the post took a bludgeoning. With the rise of smaller parties like the Greens and UKIP, who shared 12.6% and 3.8% of votes respectively, both people and parties have begun to stand up and demand to be represented more fairly.
Previously, most people have voted mainly either Labour or Conservative, which means although the losers are left disappointed, there hasn’t been an army of people who have voted only to grab a seat between them. On the flip-side, the SNP managed to seduce 56 seats in parliament, despite the fact only 4.7% voted for them – they actually got less than half as many votes as UKIP.
Although the Conservatives aren’t likely to be pro-active about it, there is a growing feeling of a need to move towards a system with better representation, and many think this election could have been the nail in the coffin for FPTP.
Its not just students – more people are getting involved. In the General Election of 2001, voter turnout slumped to a dismal 59.4%, the lowest in over fifty years. This meant that near to half the country didn’t care or didn’t know enough about our government to trot down the road and cross a bit of paper.
Considering we are lucky enough to live in a liberal democracy with a chance to have our say, that, quite frankly, sucks.
It’s not perfect news on the voter turnout front – the overall figure for the UK was still only 66.1%. What does bode well is that this was the third consecutive increase in General Elections, so even though plenty of people still aren’t keen it seems like slowly but surely people are getting more interested.
So there ya have it. I’d shy well away from saying this election was fair or positive overall- whatever your persuasion, it would be hard to admit there aren’t some serious flaws in the system.
But top your glass up half-full and hopefully there’ll be a few things that might reinforce a bit of your faith in good ol’ democracy.
Whether it’s because the voices of young people will (with a touch of luck) get turned up a notch, or because the flaws in our system have undoubtedly been noticed and can hopefully begin to be reformed, hopefully a few good things will come of it. Let’s hope so hey!
Disagree? Think I’m downright wrong? Excess spam to offload? Get into the comments below.