Friday, 23 May 2014

Voting and not-voting, for 5-year-olds

I came back from the Polling Station yesterday evening to be interrogated by my bright, questioning 5-year-old son, who was in the middle of bathtime. "Daddy, who did you vote for?"

I explained to Rafi that I'd thought long and hard, and had decided to write "None of the above" across my ballot paper.

"So if you didn't vote for anybody, what happens then?" he asked, sensibly. I took a deep breath, and tried to find an answer that made sense to me, let alone him.

I explained that, of the four 'choices' I was given, the UKIP candidate represents a party who think many - or most - of his friends and classmates shouldn't be allowed to live in this country (in fact, to extend the logic to its conclusion, shouldn't exist at all). I explained that the Conservative and LibDem candidates are part of the parties who are in charge of the country at the moment, whose economic priorities have made the majority of our neighbours poorer, and who have enacted brutal, degrading and destructive policies on people that I have come to call friends, forcing them to go hungry or cold, causing them huge stress, distress and physical illness, and making them think they are worthless 'human waste' from the social machine.

And I said to him, with deep sadness, that the only other candidate, for the party of Ed Milliband who once came to visit us and on whose knee a rather smaller Rafi sat, represents a party that lacks the courage and imagination to present a credible alternative. She also lives on the other side of the city, which is interesting, for her knowledge of, and relationship with, the people she has now (we know this morning) been elected to represent. Rafi asked if she was going to move here now. I said we should ask her.

I also explained that Uncle Tim, our friend, neighbour and retiring Labour councillor, has spent 3 years being passionately committed to using his position to help his neighbours when they've been in need, to help us make our neighbourhood a better place, and to campaign for issues of justice, local and wider. But just because he's done a fantastic job, that doesn't tell us much about his successor.

I explained that feeling that you have to choose between 4 unsatisfactory candidates/parties is not a 'free choice', and that choosing not to choose is also a choice. It potentially increases, marginally, the risk of a 'more worse' outcome rather than a 'less worse' outcome - but just think what would happen if we all decided to make this particular choice...!

And finally, and most importantly, I explained (the bath water was getting a little cold by this point), that politics has very little to do with voting. The important stuff happens after election day. Some of that is about what the elected representative then does with the position they find themselves in. But so much more - the really crucial political work - is what each of us does, day to day, with the little bits of power and connection and influence we have, on the streets of our neighbourhood, and in how we engage with those in decision-making positions, and how they engage with us.

I don't think Rafi's likely to become a politician any time soon. But I'm very, very glad he's getting political.

No comments:

Post a Comment