Trying to explain politics and democracy to young children is tough and I often fall back on comparisons they understand like the X-Factor or Strictly Come Dancing. Like politics to my children I’m aware such things exist while not paying them much heed but they do provide a reference point to help explain electoralism – the most talented or their favourite isn’t assured of winning and sometimes won’t make it to the final stage.
They now kind of get to grips with the idea that in politics the most deserving candidate may not win, often won’t have a chance and sometimes doesn’t appear at the vote.
Explaining spoiling a vote is more difficult; you have to explain how the vote is fixed, the show isn’t worth watching and everyone should demand a better programme.
As I brought my children with me to the polling station on Thursday and their interest was mildly raised by the process I couldn’t explain that engaging in a democratic process and rejecting both that process and those presenting themselves was a sensible idea.
They were both convinced if I wasn’t interested I should have just stayed at home, as I do with X-Factor etc., take my leave and let those interested get on with something they care about.
I’d never consider trying to place a protest/spoiled vote in a Simon Cowell competition so understand them questioning me.
But just like I was drawn to protest many people supported ‘Jedward’ in a recent X-factor and/or put Rage Against the Machine at No.1. So I tried to explain a protest/spoiled vote is just a tiny step further – you don’t like the X-Factor so you vote for someone they don’t like to win in the hope it annoys them, Jedward. If Jedward aren’t in the running you ignore the competition and buy ‘Rage against the Machine’
My kids didn’t buy it.
(For a number years, before I realised I should never have been in SF, I suggested to friends/comrades that a true demonstration of ‘republican’ confidence would be dropping abstentionism and actually abstaining fully from the whole Westminster process. Maybe that would be the active abstentionism Gerry Adams was talking about recently?)
However, I still find myself drawn towards the polling booth to actively show my disengagement and lack of interest in the system, not just the candidates. I have no interest in a tactical vote that puts a crap Unionist in ahead of a shite one, or a vote that endorses constitutional nationalism over slightly angry constitutional nationalism. There was no protest option when I turned up last Thursday and no choice to make on the not worst of a bad bunch.
I arrived, made a mark and left having made no point other than one that gave a slight feeling of smug self-satisfaction for 20 seconds.
No alternative to vote for, not even a RSF ‘Jedward’. A ‘vote’ that would never count because nobody ever put themselves forward to ask for it. If it was politcal X-Factor, my option didn’t even turn up to be laughed off the stage but at least it wasn’t 50p plus my normal call charge and the bill payers permission.
*(title change to amuse me)