Friday, April 30, 2010

Election indifference

Surely I am not the only person who feels a cool wave of indifference flow over me when I think of the forthcoming elections?

I feel as if I’m admitting to some sort of shameful secret. I’ve always been a huge advocate of our democratic system - a keen believer in civil rights and the duty we (especially us women) owe our forebearers to make the effort and get out and vote on election day.

I have, in the past, castigated friends and family for not using their vote imploring them to at least go along and spoil the darn thing rather than let it sit unused. I have quoted the life and times of Emily Pankhurst. I have referenced our very own civil rights movements. I have proudly felt as if my wee tick on a box could make a difference.

But this time? Well I’m afraid to say I really don’t care. It’s not that I think we can’t still make a difference - just that I’m tired of the same old tribalism and infighting that so seems to characterise the modern political world.

On a regional and national scale we are mired in scandal, sleaze, ineptitude and political gesturing. Meanwhile on the ground cuts are being enforced across the board on some of our core services, people are losing their jobs left, right and centre and our indigenous industries are all but destroyed.

Services to the young and services to the old have slashed with the arrogance that only the middle to upper class middle-aged can get away with. Those cutting costs seem to have forgotten that they were once young and seem to live in blissful ignorance of the fact that they will someday get old.

God love them if they get old and sick - then they are, I’m afraid to say, in real trouble.

Perhaps as my mid 30s approach at a frightening pace I am developing a healthy dose of cynicism.

My six year old has everyone’s card well marked. He travels past the posters and asks a variety of questions about who is who and what do they do. He has nick-names for them all based on their appearance. Can you guess who he refers to as Chancellor Palpatine from Star Wars?

He has tonnes of questions about the government, who they are and how they have the power to make decisions.

It’s not the easiest thing in the world to try and explain to him that we are voting for a new government and Prime Minister but no, Chancellor Palpatine, Fancy Hair or Sue Sylvester don’t have a chance of winning the top seat.

It’s been tricky to explain to him that no, Barack Obama has no plans to run in the Foyle constituency and indeed that he can’t run himself just yet.

“Why not mammy?” he asked, “Sure, I’m smart.”

And he’s right. He is smart and he has some cracking ideas. Two day working weeks and five day weekends. Bigger spends on parks and leisure facilities. Oh, and he wants people to be nicer to each other and stop joining the army to go and fight in wars. The Afghanistan issue is simple for him - no people in the army, no one gets killed.

His plans don’t just stop at Stormont - oh no - he has plans on being the first Derry born President of the United States but when he comes home (after his two victorious terms in office) he has asked me to ask if you would kindly just call him Joseph and drop the Mr President title.

Perhaps if we put a rake of children in charge we would get better results. Sure the budgets might largely be squandered on DS games in the first instance but sure that’s not worse than squandering expenses on swimming pools, moats, designer clothes and the like.

I’d like to think a host of new blood would bring new ideas. I’d like to think that we could get back to the basics. Maybe it really is time for out with the old and in with the new.

I’ll probably still vote - there will be a wee voice in my head telling me it would wrong not to - but i’m yet to be convinced on who (if anyone) deserves a tick.

Who is going to make sure that maternity services are protected and that more money is poured into mental health services? I want someone who can stand up the banks and actually bring jobs (not just make empty promises) to our doorstep. I want someone there who pays more than lip service to reversing spending cuts in care services to the disabled and elderly.

If they can wangle in a two day working week and a five day weekend then it will be a cert.

Otherwise a spoiled vote might just be the way go to... I might scrawl “Joseph “Mr President” Allan for MP”.

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