Opinion from Lord Digby Jones

Why does all this matter?

Published Friday 2 May, 2014

Over the next year, dear reader, we are all going to be subsumed in a psephological delight; bet that's a surprise! Psephos is Classical Greek for a pebble and that is what was caste by the first users of a democratic form of Government to register their vote. I reckon that the slaves doing the bidding of those early Democrats didn't feel a particularly participative atmosphere about the whole exercise, but all great systems have to start somewhere!

So that tiny pebble in ancient Athens gave its name to the study of elections: psephology. And we are sure going to have a few of those coming our way over the next twelve months.

First up the Euro Elections in May this year; by the time this goes to print the results of this pan-European exercise will be known and mainstream political parties all over the 28 Nations of the EU (bet you can't name them without repetition, mistake or delay!) will have been given a sound thrashing. They will worry that such voting patterns will be repeated in future domestic elections. No chance. Electorates all over the EU take this opportunity to register enormous discontent at disconnected government in Brussels which is felt to be unaccountable and over which they feel they have no control; they feel their vote doesn't count for much and so can express their "umphness"! Domestic elections are seen in a totally different light.

Then we have the Scottish Referendum in September; "ah!" I hear you say, "that has nothing to do with us south of Hadrian's Wall". But it does! In so many ways and for millions of people, the very future of the integrity of our Nation is at stake. We should all take an interest and sift the lies, damn lies and statistics.

And in just under a year's time comes the Big One; our five-yearly exercise in democracy when for just a day we all have a say in how our Country is run. Then, the elected dictators take over again for another five years.....remote, elitist, metropolitan, omnipotent. That is probably why the young have switched off democracy so much. 800,000 young Brits haven't even bothered to get onto the electoral role; in 2010, only 56% of 18-24 year-olds were registered. It's 94% of the over-65's! In 1992, 63% of the 18-24 year-olds voted, in 1997 it was 51% and in 2010 it was a pathetic 44%!! Sadly the gender split shows that young females have the worst voting record of all. There is a big job to be done to reclaim engagement, for sure.

So why does all this matter? Quite apart from the certainty that "evil only flourishes when good men do nothing" there is a question of acknowledgement, tribute and peace. Men died on the beaches of Normandy, in the deserts of North Africa, in the trenches of the Somme, over the skies of Kent, in the freezing waters of the Arctic and in the hell that was Kanchanburai Prison Camp on the Burmese/Thailand border so we might be free; so we might exercise our right to put a little cross in a box every so often and shout our preferences from the rooftops if we so wish, without fear of arrest or worse. Moreover, women starved themselves to near-death, died under the hooves of racehorses and suffered hardships beyond description so 50% of the adult population could vote.

How you vote is rightly between you and the secrecy of the ballot box; whether you vote at all should be of concern to us all, regardless of gender or age. For if we don't vote (even if we go in the booth and write " none of the above" on the ballot paper, that's fine) we should be ashamed of ourselves, for turning our backs on those who gave everything so we could, just once in a while, have our say. Then we have every right to stay engaged and force through change in the Psephological mechanics of democracy in our Country.

This piece was written in May 2014 prior to the European Elections