Today, it is all too easy to call yourself a ‘politically engaged person’ and to walk around without a care for the fact that a general election is on its way with no sense of a contradiction. The televised cross-party debates are set – not that anyone is looking forward to watching them – and the papers are publishing daily pre-electoral polls – not that anyone is at all inspired by any of the three horses in the race.
It appears evident that the coming UK election lacks the excitement or intensity of last year’s stateside whirlwind. Without even the pretence of a British Obama it is tempting to write off mainstream politics as irrelevant, and take a ‘none of the above’ position; this would achieve nothing beyond feeding a pervasive anti-political cynicism.
For those of us who believe that both politics and ideas matter there appear to be few alternative channels for our democratic energies without naively voting purely for the sake of it. But it is exactly because we have no simple outlet to voice our frustrations that finding new ways of intervening in public discussion is paramount. The fact is: this election, more than any since 1997, is a crucially important turning-point which will see the biggest influx of new MPs in living memory. 2010 will change the game and bring ‘a new breed’ to power; for this reason cynically rejecting the election as a meaningless charade will just not do.
Whilst the highest hopes of some is for a hung parliament – to keep the Tories out or to at least dethrone New Labour – in effect, this is a call in support of slow stagnation. It is time for an outlook revitalised by prospect of progress and democracy’s capacity to bring about social change; look at the coming ballot papers as an opportunity for voters to make history, rather than just observe it.
To this ends, the Institute of Ideas will be holding a Pre-Election Summit - The Battle for Politics – on 20th March in the hope that we can move the discussion away from cynicism of events on the political stage and into finding new ideas that we can support. We would love you to join us.