Value Your Vote Says Westminster Alliance Candidate Martyn Todd

As we now approach the general election, many people are wondering whether or not to exercise their right to vote writes Martyn Todd. 

unnamedDuring canvassing on doorsteps I hear a significant minority saying that they are fed up with the shenanigans at Stormont and that they don’t think it is worth voting for any politician.

Firstly, a general election is not directly linked to Stormont. Everybody in NI will get their chance this time next year to reward or penalise politicians and parties for their “shenanigans” or otherwise on The Hill. The election this year does give voters an opportunity to make a protest against the parties they feel have failed most in the Assembly, but the electorate should really be voting in people this year who can maximise their influence in Westminster for the benefit of their local constituents.

So why should anybody vote at all?

Wikipedia lists about thirty different types of government:

[caption id="attachment_55863" align="alignright" width="206"]Martyn Todd, the Alliance Westminster candidate for South Down. Martyn Todd, the Alliance Westminster candidate for South Down.[/caption]

Of these, about twenty are forms of top-down government, ranging from Absolute Monarchy, through Theocracy, to Totalitarian and Dictatorship. There are examples of all these around the world today, mostly places where there is unrest and strife, where people are prepared to fight and die for the rights we have in our liberal democracy in Northern Ireland.

We should remember that our ancestors did the same here about 200 years ago. The United Irishmen fought and died to bring about equal rights to vote and to stand for Parliament for Protestants, Catholics and Dissenters. Can you just imagine meeting one of these activists (or a suffragette or Civil Rights marcher) and explaining why you are not exercising the hard-earned right to vote?

There are four types of government described in the Wikipedia list that are, really, lack of any functioning government, including Anarchy and Banana Republic. The places around the world today in this category are places where either a top-down system or a bottom-up system has failed. Again, most of the people living under such non-functioning regimes do their very best to escape, risking life and every possession to get to a safer place for their families, should it be no more than a refugee tent in a functioning state.

There are five types of government listed by Wikipedia that are variations on democracy, that is, a bottom-up system, where the people get to decide, through voting, who they want to govern them, for a set period of time. The deal is that the people can re-elect the same government if they do a good job, or elect a new government if they have done a poor job. This right to change a poor government is the most valuable part of a democracy and is something that all other forms of government do not offer.

History shows that where people who are entitled to vote stop using that entitlement, it is the less extreme voters who opt out first. This can be seen in the trade union movement in the 70’s and 80’s and in Northern Ireland during the last ten years, where the turnout at all elections is steadily declining. The end result is always that extremists get into power, claiming rightly that they have a majority mandate of those that voted. But the huge majority of eligible voters have not voted for them.

There are a growing number of the Northern Ireland electorate who are saying that they are not going to vote because “there is no-one worth voting for”. Whether this is true or not, the main reason for voting is to keep our liberal democracy alive, respected and valid, whatever the outcome of the election.

So the principle reason to vote is to maintain our very precious free and fair elections and to preserve for our children the liberal democracy that our ancestors fought and died for.

Value our world-class democratic system and protect it with your vote.