Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Shame of Kemsley

The below letter appeared in the Sittingbourne News Extra - 14 March 2012

On 8 March, the people of Kemsley had their opportunity to express a view on their local politics and the actions of their Council. The local branches of all four parties worked very hard over several weeks, bringing their respective and distinctive messages to the voters as they had to decide who should represent their interests in the council chamber.

And what was the result? A 23% turnout! Despite various arrangements which make voting easier than ever, despite plenty of literature coming through the letter box, despite many of us knocking on doors to ask opinions, more than three out of four people could not even be bothered to vote – and they now have a Councillor chosen by less than 9%. These statistics shame Kemsley.

I can hear two main responses. Firstly, ‘you are all the same, so why bother?’ – well, anyone who has read the leaflets can see clear differences that the parties have put forward – and of course we want to hear from people too. How can we listen if you don’t speak? Secondly, Kemsley has been ‘ignored for many years’ – yes, this is true as local parties don’t have the resources to campaign everywhere – but now the people of Kemsley had our undivided attention – and decided they didn’t want it!

While many people around the world are risking their lives and liberties in campaigning for basic freedoms, and British armed forces have fought and are continuing to fight in order to protect our right to vote, it seems more and more people in this country would rather not bother. Kemsley is not alone in this apathy, and this strengthens the case for the introduction of compulsory voting. After all, it comes to something when you have to force democracy to people!

But I must finish by thanking the 23% of people in Kemsley who voted. Whoever you voted for, it is appreciated.


  1. Hi Keith,

    I think there's a bigger issue to deal with. I don't think ushering in a mandatory voting system is going to help or endear anyone to politics. I would say the exact opposite would be true, and you'll see unrest.

    I was recently invited to a new youth based BBC debate show, and I was very surprised at how politically engaged the 18-26s were. However, what soon became apparent is that they are fervently disengaged with the establishment - no surprise there we may cry - but we are feeling the weight and malaise of a benign democracy:

    Essentially, we have a two party system in this country, and many people base their vote on who they don't want to see get in, as opposed to voting for who they actually want. As soon as people have options, real options, then you will see an influx of votes in the ballot boxes. We simply do not have options!

    As you'll know, the only way we'll get this is if we have PR or STV. Until then, under FPTP, I fear you'll see a complete generation politically apathetic & written off due to our failed, creaking system.

  2. Contribution by Simon Pearce

    An interesting article, as always, Keith. Perhaps some light can be shed by the sentiment expressed in a letter in today’s KOS saying:

    “Never again am I going to vote for any political party, all they do is lie and stab you in the back.
    Cameron said in 2010 election manifest that there would be no estuary airport - lies again.
    When will these people stop lying to us, the public?
    Then they have secret talks, saying it’s not in the public interest for us to know. No Mr Cameron, it is in my interest.”

    When you magnify the sentiment of those words by several million you start to appreciate the effect on our political apathy. Sadly, it is not the politicians who have to face their critics; it is those at grass roots level who try to sell door-to-door because they are true believers in a proper democracy and a fair society (well - maybe not the Tories!!)

    As for the receiving of posted literature.....when was the last time any of us read the takeway menus that regularly drop onto our doormats?

    Those we vote for live in a parallel universe to those, like yourself, who actually have to face the electorate during campaigns. Sadly, that is modern politics!!

    I, for one, hope you never give up the fight!!