Monday, 1 October 2007

Faith in democracy versus political expediancy

I must admit to being rather concerned about reports of impending ballot chaos in the event of a snap election. Tartan Hero doesn't seem to be concerned. He believes the contingency plans in place should avert disaster. I hope so. I agree that actually producing the ballot papers, polling day arrangements and counting the votes shouldn't be too much of an issue if an election is called quickly. But there are issues about the accuracy of the electoral register, and a snap election would also deny so many the chance to organise a postal vote.

If we were to see any level of disenfranchisement due to a snap election, after the chaos of the Scottish Parliament elections in May, that would be inexcusable. A growing number of people are already cynical about politics, which slowly undermines confidence in the democratic process. Apathy is not just frustrating for political parties trying to motivate people to cast their vote, it is also potentially very dangerous.

Government is the product of a contract between the citizen and the state. The fewer citizen signatories there are to the contract that is the foundation of our society, the poorer and more fragmented our society becomes.

I'm not going to rake over all the apparent reasons for the rise in apathy, or at least apathy with the conventional political processes - many have analysed this trend more coherently than I could here.

I am acutely aware, though, of the responsibility I have as somebody active in politics to help restore faith in political parties and the political process. Now that I am a candidate, I feel even more responsibility in this respect.

I do hope that when Gordon Brown is considering the timing of the Westminster election, he will weigh up any perceived party advantage of a snap 3 or 4 week election against the need to instill confidence in the democratic process. If he does call a November election, when it is so obvious that he is doing so to give the Labour party an advantage over the Tories, he may win the UK election but he may lose so much more in the long run.

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