Russell Brand appearing on Question Time

Russell Brand doesn't vote. Should you?


There's an old saying that goes, "if voting could really change anything, it would be illegal". In a bravado performance this week Russell Brand declared he never had voted, and never would, as to do so only props up a dilapidated, cruel and greedy political edifice. So is not voting a valid political stance?

Case for

Voting means representation? Pah. You sign the ballot paper, some jobsworth is sent to parliament, where they are Whipped to follow the party line on all issues, meaning they don't represent you who voted them in, really, or - even if they do for a while -  will most likely sacrifice principle for pragmatics as soon as the going gets tough (witness tuition fees, for one).

Then, go broader. The planet is warming at an unsustainable rate (and for the last time, it IS MAN). Just this week David Cameron promised to "roll back" green taxes. So, that means more fossil fuels being burnt, so more warming. And who will suffer the worst, the soonest from global warming? People in developing countries, or to put it another way the least responsible (take a look at this map).

And if we're talking about poverty, untrammelled capitalism has resulted in a world where Bangladeshi garment workers get paid 11 cents an hour to make obscenely cheap jumpers for the West to wear.

Voting buys into the status quo. And our status quo brought us to the financial collapse of 2008. It brought us to a situation where 350,000 people now rely on foodbanks. And it paid MPs to watch over this mess handsomely, via fraudulent expenses claims. Vote? It's just the same grind, the same disappointment every time, with one lot just as bad as the other.

Case against

Let's do this by numbers.

1. George Bush. In 2000, Bush won the vote in Florida, by 543 votes. That, you might say, had lasting consequences, for hundreds of millions of people.

2. Squeezing the young. In the 2010 UK election, 76 per cent of the over 65s voted, compared to just 44 per cent of those aged 18 to 24. The result? Pensions triple-locked, university fees tripled.

3. Progressive laws. In recent history, the UK government has introduced a national minimum wage, the right to paid leave, and a ban on discrimination in the workplace. It has legalised abortion, opened up marriage to homosexual couples, and given schools money specifically to assist the least well off pupils.

4. The fewer people who feel disenfranchised vote, the more disenfranchised they will become. Turnout was 65% for the UK election in 2010. If people believe that governments are ignoring the poor, or the climate, then they should vote for a party who supports them. At the very least, it would have a blocking effect on opposed interests.

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