I was invited to take part in a fascinating and lively debate organised by Unlock Democracy and CrowdShed … The Apathy Party. I gave a speech on the topic of Apathy, which I have included in full below where I argued it is wrong to say people are apathetic about politics.
The event which included a group of experienced political observers and pundits, had us debate and explore the issues that will ultimately decide the election outcome .
**** Speech – Disconnecting Apathy from Reality *****
So I don’t believe there is apathy in politics instead I would argue there is a disconnect.
A disconnect that politicians don’t live up to the expectations of what people believe politicians should be. A disconnect that decisions seem so distant from the everyday person’s grasp. A disconnect at an EU, whether pro-or-against, is a faceless body calling the shots. Yet, in comparison, people are connected more than ever in every other walk of life.
For example, people can easily vote each week on who will win a TV show like I’m a Celebrity or Big Brother. Yet they don’t feel they have a say on their own country outside of the 5 year cycle.
You could say that if I am considered Generation X, perhaps the current generation of voters are Generation X-Factor. The first generation to have had parliament televised their whole life, who can connect with billions of people around the world via Twitter instantly, yet they
I read a statistic a while ago that the average person spends 5 minutes a week thinking about politics.
Again, I think this is untrue because the definition of politics is not about Political Parties, MPs or Councillors, It is everything around us. I know from being on the doorstep that people do care about politics, but it’s not the politics of PMQ’s but those of local issues; from potholes, traffic, local GP, and job security.
The same people aren’t likely be standing on street corners wearing rosettes, but they will be discussing it in the shops, on text, over a coffee or in a pub.
So I don’t believe there is apathy in politics, because people care as much about the world today, as they ever had. Possibly even more.
It’s just in a world that moves faster than ever, surrounded by a news cycle that never pauses for breath, connected to each other closer than ever. Isn’t it is understandable that people may not feel they can make a difference with just one vote every 5 years.
I should be clear, I am not arguing for referendum’s every other week. The cost of those would be completely prohibitive and potentially very wasteful (as we are seeing in Luton North right now) but in the next Parliament, all parties should look at how we get closer to the electorate. Whether this is through greater localism, use of technology or promoting different working hours of MPs to promote greater time in constituencies (which was highlighted in a recent report I was involved in ‘Improving Parliament’ by the All Party Parliamentary Group – Women In Parliament) . Whatever the outcome, there is a definite need to investigate a new way that fits closer to modern society.
Should I be elected, I would gladly lead the way.
So let’s return to the debate. I say investigate why there is a disconnect, let’s look at new options that may shape democracy over the next century, but let’s not call this apathy. To do so doesn’t do justice to the reality of public opinion and assumes people don’t care – which I wholeheartedly believe they do.”