And the Result is – Mass Disillusionment

So many things to try and understand from the European elections both across Scotland, across Britain and across Europe.

There’s some anomalies.

I love the idea, still being nurtured by journalists still lurking in the 1980s that Scotland is somehow “Labour Heartlands”. The scandal of European citizens living here and denied a vote seem to have lost in the mix, despite this being a national scandal and disgrace. And there’s a big question about why the vote didn’t turn out for the Scottish Green Party?

The European elections are being scoured for meaning. Is this a new mandate for independence? Does this mean a mandate for a hard Brexit? Does this mean a case for a second referendum? Does the green surge mean an increasing consciousness about climate change? The competing claims fight each other but the overwhelming victor has got to be mass apathy.  It’s an uncomfortable truth that, despite a small rise in voter turnout [to 39.7%, up from 33.5% five years ago], the overwhelming response to Thursdays vote was complete disinterest.

Since 1979 the turnout at European elections in the UK hasn’t managed above 40%. It’s been in the mid 30s for the last forty years.

This could be because this was for an election that wasn’t supposed to happen, to an institution we are supposed to be leaving. The idea that has crystallized in some other European countries  – that this is a fight to stop the far-right – hasn’t really landed here – after all Nigel Farage and Co are just cheeky populists, right? There’s also the idea that, despite the Brexiteer argument that everyone has been secretly obsessing about “Brussels Rule” for years and years, no-one bothered to vote in European elections before, so why should they now?

But there’s another more unpalatable possibility, and that is that the entire shit-storm of Brexit-Remainer propaganda has just soiled politics for millions of people.

From Labour’s endless triangulation and equivocation, to the Tories mismanagement and collusion to the dreary drum beat of media churnalism, lots and lots of people just treat this entire process with complete disdain. As everyone jockeys for micro-victories, the reality is most people are just deeply bored with maneuverings that seem to have nothing to do with their daily lives. I know, this is meat and drink to Brexitland and teeters on the brink of a sort of anti-politics nihilism. So we have the pitiless spectacle of Farage’s motley crew on the road to Strasbourg and Brussels to take part in an institution they despise, and for which they will pick up a pretty Euro.

But maybe we are now in the face of two competing ideologies that are not what we think?

One is a rampant and resurgent right-wing populism – fueled by a host of imaginary beasts – and another a whole section of people who are just so disengaged they don’t and won’t take part at all.

Do I see some possibility in the divergence between Scotland and England for my goal of independence, and the darkly comic prospect of [insert almost any candidate here] arriving anointed in No 10? I do. But this is almost completely irrelevant if 60% of people find politics as we understand it a meaningless exercise.

Today a gravestone was placed in a Debenhams doorway in Bristol in tribute to homeless man who died there. Pick any UK city and the story will be the same.

“He was homeless. Remember him” – reads the second makeshift gravestone in less than two weeks to be erected in Bristol City Centre in tribute to a person who died while sleeping rough.

This time, the message was for Adam Zaiac who died on February 5, 2018 outside Debenhams store in St James Barton. He was just 41-years-old.

It says: “He died in this doorway, as shoppers walked by.”

This is not intended as a maudlin puff-piece but as a reminder that not everyone’s a political obsessive and that whilst the constitutional war rages, the reality of social crisis goes on largely ignored.

“Brexit” – whatever this actually is – is masking an ongoing disaster for millions of people. And the self-satisfied, self-referential merry-go-round of media and politics and social media silos just seem a little bit sick and little bit broken.

 

 

Comments (13)

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  1. Mark Bevis says:

    Yes, when the electoral system disenfranchises the majority by it’s irrelevance (or apparent irrelevance – would for example, we have suffered 9 years of austerity if we had 100% voter turnout??) it’s an invitation for fascism to walk just right in and remove those irrelevant rights to voting. The media (bought and owned by neo-liberal elites) have the peasantry right where the elites want them – divided, rudderless, leaderless and still trying to shop.

    When the irrelevancy of it all comes crashing down, the 55 million will be bitten hard, joining the already 14 million impoverished (both politically and economically) by austerity. Knowing how to forage and how to grow your own food, and keeping an eye out on land you can sequester at a later date, all seems more relevant at the moment.

    Maybe Scots (or anybody else) shouldn’t be seeking independence from a disunited kingdom. Maybe, we should all be seeking independence from neo-liberalism, regardless of borders, cultures or birthplace.

    1. Wul says:

      “Independence from neo-liberalism” was what I voted for in September 2014.

      It seemed a stark and obvious choice to me then, and it still does: Vote to become more like America, or vote to become more like Northern Europe. There is no “keep things as they were” option. The sooner more people realise this the better.

      Westminster is on a dark path and it is not going to change for a long, long time. The UK parliament has been captured and our Southern cousins keep voting for more of the same remedy that is making them sick. I want away from it.

  2. JGS says:

    For one of the first times in my life, as a woman, (who despite having minimal confidence in the political system always votes), I didn’t vote in the EU elections. It was not because of disillusionment, apathy, or to send a message. It was sheer overload. I had gone to a meeting of Infected Blood Victims at 2pm, and heard some of the most awful, heartbreaking, soul crushing experiences from the victims, referred to as ‘the infected,’ and ‘affected. People’s with ruined health, and therefore lives, babies injected with life threatening diseases before they had even been properly formed. Medical records shredded preventing people from being compensated. I felt disgusted to be Scottish, British or even European. Our own health service knowingly used contaminated products and our people as research subjects without their consent. The state then abandoned them and their family after behaving so heinously as has happened time and time again. The tragedy though is that while we are all exhausted from the evils released into the world, with this dysfunctional political system things could get worse. If we don’t vote or stand for something different nothing will change. The system allowed this to happen to people.Other people did this, while others in the health service stayed quiet. We allow our country to commit so many crimes against civility and justice. The most obvious: illegally invading other countries, that the government of our country wrongly created in the first place.

    I’m sorry for being the 65%. Unless more of us work together to affect change – the change we inevitably experience, could be worse than the horrors we all ready see all around us. Whether its apathy, cruelty or injustice,

  3. Papko says:

    Interesting article , and I find your frankness quite refreshing

    “Do I see some possibility in the divergence between Scotland and England for my goal of independence, and the darkly comic prospect of [insert almost any candidate here] arriving anointed in No 10? I do. But this is almost completely irrelevant if 60% of people find politics as we understand it a meaningless exercise.”

    Based on
    voter turnout the Euro elections were still sub 40% of the electorate, and this is an actual increase , as its the last one presumably .
    For the record Holyrood elections are circa 50% and General Elections region 65%.

    There seems a good third of voters who don’t really care much for voting , at any time.

    .

  4. Lee Kindness says:

    What about voter enticement? Some for of monetary award for voting. £10 in hand. Pull in the least likely currently to vote?

    1. I’m not sure about that. It would seem ripe for abuse.

      1. Millsy says:

        …but it works for Nigel Farage , n’est pas ? He is paid a pretty penny by ( insert his current benefactor ) to front ( another ) Party , so why not pay voters to turn out . Why should the ‘elite ‘ get all the perks !

      2. Frank Casey says:

        Quite so. My current location is St .Albans in Hertfordshire. The city once boasted two M.P’s . It was common practice then to turn up in sovereign lane to pick up your Sovereign and meat pie. The last of the rotten boroughs St. Albans. was denied representation from 1857 until 1887. That bribery scandal still features large in the local consciousness. Is there a lesson there for more general than local? Should failing to vote be a criminal offence? While the straight vote con trick still remains south of the border there can be little change.

  5. Cesira says:

    Agree but don’t. Agree Brexit is a side show BUT every nation seems to have its own peculiar circus with its own ready-made side show. And that is a struggle to explain or discuss.

    H Arendt (paraphrasing) said under capitalism, to defeat democracy, all you need is money and a mob. So Banks provided the money and the detritus of the empire provides the mob. In the US Mercer provided the money, and the detritus of WASPA provides the mob. Not just anyone can stand in front of an audience and make weird statements of course so we have Farage, Trump; variations on the theme may be found elsewhere. Here, George Osborn’s budget cuts and priorities ruled supreme during the entire sideshow ensuring things got worse, the mob got bigger and ordinary people faced more debt.

    Unless there is organizing, door to door, bit by bit, not only to set up independence in the heart of Scots but to get those in the mob on the side of something that would make sense of their lives, well then, in 10 years, the place will be an unholy mess and you know who will be in charge.

  6. Dougie Blackwood says:

    The poor are the ones that routinely do not vote. In this last election many more were scunnered and let it pass. The ones that voted were those that bought the xenophobia and those that really want to make significant changes.

    Unless we can get our Holyrood parliament to make a real difference and get away from its management of the sinking ship we are not going to increase involvement. We could be radical, abolish the council tax and raise the money we need to properly run local services via a land tax that includes at least something to be paid for every square yard of Scotland. At present it’s almost all handed out from our Westminster pocket money and that’s not enough.

    1. Wullie says:

      Anent the Greens, their continual threats to our government if they don’t get their way at Holyrood are a bit of a pain & obviously counter productive.

  7. Dougie Blackwood says:

    You’re right. In a real consensual parliament policies would be agreed. As it stands the unionists vote en masse against anything proposed by SNP regarless of how sensible. The only way to get anything done is with the consent of the greens and as a result the tail wags the dog.

  8. w.b. robertson says:

    Fact – The majority of punters are not “interested” in politics. Little seems to have improved since the excitement created by the first post-war Attlee government. In the 1960s a certain Scottish tabloid spent a lot of money on readership market research. We discovered to our surprise that only around 10 per cent of our readers declared being “interested” in politics. Very embarrassing for the leader writer and the team of political reporters. Hardly think things have changed very much since …although Mr Farage was the one guy in this recent EC contest who could stir them up.

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