Your chance to do something Arsenal can’t!

We are in that period where politicians are once again promising the earth and we are faced with choices again. It’s absolutely not my job to tell anybody how to vote (although I’m always happy to dispense advice on that matter!) but I would urge everybody who has the right to vote to do so.

Churchill once famously said “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others!” And when you look at it closely there are real questions about democracy in Britain. Many people` who live in safe Labour or Conservative seats don’t feel that their vote counts. The first-past- the-post system in the UK means the party with the most votes doesn't necessarily win. It also means that parties can rack up millions of votes but have next to no seats in Parliament. UKIP had nearly 4 million votes at the last election for their one seat in parliament, whilst the Scottish Nationalist Party scored 1.4 million votes, but these were very efficiently concentrated and as a result they won 56 seats.

While I have those statistics in front of me, we all know that the Conservatives won the most votes in the last election (11.3m). But – pub trivia fact for the week - few people know that the party with the LEAST votes at the last election was a party called “The Realists’ Party” who doubtless disappointed their leaders with only 18 votes. Maybe we don’t want realistic politics….!

But for all its faults we are privileged indeed to live in a country where we get a say in who runs the country and we can throw out the government if we don’t like them. Whatever the problems with our voting system here, our right to vote is indeed a wonderful thing

And with a well developed democracy you need a certain amount of freedom of the press. We can once again count ourselves fortunate indeed that we live in a country where you can say pretty much what you like without being arrested for speaking out against the government. It’s a right we rather take for granted. But I came across a lady recently who runs a charity devoted to promoting free speech and helping those who speak out against repressive regimes and was thoroughly taken aback when she stated as a fact that there are many more countries where you can’t say what you want than countries where you can. Free speech might be the norm in Europe or North America, but over large swathes of the globe it simply isn’t so. Think about the Middle East or Central Asia or  large parts of Africa. Whether “Have I Got News for You” is your bag or not, when you think about it, satire could be regarded as a precious element of our democracy. The same could be said for the sometimes trenchant and near-the-knuckle cartoons in our newspapers.

These rights and privileges have been forged over centuries and we have to guard against erosion of these freedoms. I know it’s something of a cliché to say it, but people threw themselves in front of horses to get a say in the running of our country. The least we can do is turn up at the village hall or community centre and vote.

So, even if you’re a little unsure as to who to vote for, even if you don’t like the parties or candidates on offer, and even if you think your votes doesn’t really count, I see it as a personal responsibility to vote.

Statistics tell us that young people are much less inclined to vote than older people. There has been talk of reducing the voting age to 16. Of course, there are people age 16 (and, of course, younger) who are very interested in politics, but in my experience that isn’t the norm and I’m in favour of keeping the voting age at 18. But if you’re 18 or older I urge you to get out there and do what Arsenal have failed to do this season; put a decent cross in the box!

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