The percentage of people voting has decreased massively since 2000, with Labour holding a firm grip on the UK parliament since their landslide election in 1997. They've guided us through the dot.Com boom, 9/11, 7/7, Iraq, Afghanistan, BNP MEPs, a recent depression and many more economic and political landmarks. However, it's been the Expenses Furore of 2009 which is most likely to affect the turnout to the 2010 polls.
2010 brings with it plenty of opportunities for people to get back involved with Politics. As a wise man once said - "Bad things happen when Good People do nothing." Though there are many who would go along with the 'popular campaign' to invalidate their ballot, rather than vote - all that's going to achieve is to exaggerate the influence of the peripheral parties.
Knowledge ahead of Ignorance
A bit like Tiger Woods, we need to start to learn to live our lives with integrity. This means that the discrepancy between what we say, and what we do - is kept to a minimum. Ideally the two should be water tight, but no one is a saint - as well the politicians proved.
One of the ways we can act with integrity is to beat a party of ignorance, like the BNP, by means of knowledge. The BNP make claims and slander based upon an ignorance - both of historical fact and public opinion. However, this ignorance has crept into Parliament. When a politician can state that the whole Expenses 'scandal' was because the Newspapers used the word 'Expense' rather than 'Allowance' - then there's something wrong. On the flip side, a politician's wage is not comparable to the wages of those in the private sector. Whilst I wouldn't want to be paying millions to the guys running the country, I'd rather pay more for them than I do to a man driving up and down the M6 trailing a giant billboard. Nor would I like to see the Institutional Profligacy of some politicians continue with the need for budget cuts and a decrease in spending.
Unfortunately, the system we have in the UK means that too many people are "patting each others backs," rather than providing decent and usable solutions for the taxpayer. The British Government is being held down by out of date practises, that need to be dealt with in a manner. One such manner is budgeting in the education sector. When a teacher fails to use up their budget in year 1, then the budget in year 2 gets decreased. This practise fails to encourage thrift in our public sector - but waste. It was only 18 months ago that I was driving up to Manchester, and the 'Digita TV' Quango (or whatever their name) was lamenting the fact that they had a budget of £250 million to help the British people switch to Digital TV, and had only used £42.5 million - with most of that on leaflets and paying people to distribute them. Their claims that "people weren't aware of the (dare I say it) FREE training" they were offering had led them to look for new ways of spending their money - as it was money that needed spending. It's just the wrong attitude.
So how can we help?
MySociety have done a brilliant job of opening up Hansard and increasing the transparency of British Governance at all levels. From Fix My Street to They Work for You MySociety are developing more and more web-based tools to enable you to get involved. Want to know what issues your politicians are voting on? - you can find out, using only your postcode if you're new to the game.
There's plenty of opportunities to find out what's going on in your area, and to get together with people to make sure that your local issues are heard. If you want to know more on how to use the tools, please contact MySociety, or myself - and I'll be happy to guide you on the way to using your vote responsibly.
This is another group with whom I've just started taking an interest. I'll be following the progress of both my home constituency, Meriden - and the one where I'm currently living and working- Manchester, Central. I'd be interested to hear from other people working with the Democracy Club - and ideas and tips they might have for me to increase my productivity.