That’s the moral dilemma – should the uninformed be allowed to vote?
My opinion on the outcome of this recent (Dec 2019) UK general election isn’t about Jeremy Corbyn particularly, even though his lacklustre performance over Brexit was partly to blame, nor was it even really about the Labour manifesto. Labour say that they will ‘listen to the people’ and after a ‘period of reflection’ will elect a new leader.
This devastating labour defeat, crucially, asks one stark question: Should a party (in this case Labour) change its policies to attract voters, or should it continue to pursue the correct moral course of action, because the members feel collectively that it is in the best interest of society? In short, should politicians pander to populism?
My late mother was a dyed-in-the-wool socialist and a Labour party cardholder for 50+ years. I fell out with her over her support for Tony Blair, when he took us into the Iraq war as America’s puppet. She stuck with Labour, thick and thin, whatever they did, because she felt that it was better that Labour be in government, at any cost, rather than being a “rage in opposition” as she used to say. So some people will stick with a party ‘because they always have’ and some will be floating voters. That’s normal democracy.
To return to the thrust of this specific question; why did so many working class voters turn to the Tories in December 2019? The conventional wisdom appears to be that they felt left behind and their voices unheeded. Which begs the question ‘how and why’ did this happen.
The short answer probably involves years of Thatcherism and monetarist policies, unregulated casino banking strategies and bailouts, in turn causing austerity. Unregulated markets, gig economy policies, zero hours contracts, all Conservative-centric issues incepted by successive right wing governments of varying degrees over recent years.
Unsurprisingly, the workers carrying out the means of production have been exploited and abused by the owners of the capital. That’s why food banks are on the rise and poverty continues to grow within the 5th richest country in the world.
So, when life eventually became intolerable for the left behind, the 2019 General Election lent them a collective voice.
The neo-liberal elite didn’t seem to offer a solution. Instead, the right wing took advantage of the working class, and indeed the ever-burgeoning underclass, by telling them that immigrants had caused all their misfortunes. Those EU migrants coming over to Great Britain and lowering wages, taking jobs, claiming free benefits and housing. The evidence was on the streets for all to see. Eastern Europeans were begging outside cash machines along with the unfortunate home-grown victims of rampant capitalism.
No one mentioned the fact that for every poor unfortunate begging Romanian, many more were working in care homes, warehouses and hospital kitchens across the UK.
But the immigrants were singled out by the right wing media, the press barons so cosily in bed with politicians that the barbeque parties in Chipping Norton were like Sun newspaper senior management junkets.
The fact remains that successive governments were able to restrict immigration more carefully had they wanted to, and still retain freedom of movement, but it was too difficult and expensive. As a result of home office incompetence, immigrants (many of them non-European too) simply disappeared into bedsits working illegally across Britain.
But the neck-tatooed Tommy Robinson followers and their ilk were assisted to follow their prejudices by the Sun and The Daily Mail, which allowed them to believe that each and every one of these immigrants were housed at the state’s expense and given free television sets. Even the worst racist knows, or at least must suspect, really deep down, that these things simply aren’t true, but such media outlets allow their readers to take the path of least intellectual resistance and believe the lies. These aren’t news organisation, they’re simply opinion matrices. But that’s another issue.
So the question we must ask is this: Do we blame the Labour party for not appeasing racism and the uneducated sufficiently, or do we accept that a large swathe of the population is simply stupid, unpleasant and deeply selfish, who have largely allowed their misfortune to have been created for them by their own collective inaction over the years?
I take the latter view. Labour shouldn’t change its policies to pander to the death throes of the dispossessed. But if they don’t, they’ll never regain governmental control again.
It’s the conundrum of democracy, we’re all *equally* (usually negatively) affected by the opinions of the uneducated, unpleasant and often downright stupid. It’s the only system in society where unqualified and unsuitable people are allowed to affect others in such a way.
Would you allow someone who knew nothing about medicine to work as a surgeon? Would you allow a blind person to drive a bus? Of course not. What do you suppose would happen…?
It goes to show that our antiquated electoral system doesn’t work. But I think I have a solution.
To retain a civilised society, we need to ensure that the only people whose vote actually counts are those who clearly have an understanding of facts, and crucially how a candidate’s party’s policies will affect those issues. I’m not suggesting an IQ bar to voting, but with modern technology we could now be able to create an electronic polling booth using Artificial Intelligence, where random questions would be asked of a voter before they press a button to effectively ‘place their electronic cross’. This wouldn’t measure intelligence, rather a basic understanding of societal concepts.
So, when the voter turns up in the booth, they are presented on a screen, like a video game, with, say, five random multiple-choice questions, each needing to be answered within, perhaps, 30 seconds or a no-response is counted as a wrong answer. The questions need to be factual, VERY simple, non-partisan, and need to assess whether the person actually understands the basics of say, economics, social cohesion, basic current affairs etc.
I suggest that of the many thousands of ‘neutral’ questions the AI could generate might be thus:
“If you have a savings account in the bank and its interest rate goes up, would you expect to get”:
A) More money in your account
b) Less money in your account
c) It won’t make any difference
“Is Nigeria a member of the European Union”?
c) It left the EU in 1985
If a person scores fewer than three correct answers out of five, when they press the vote button, their vote isn’t counted, but they don’t know that fact. Like the firing squad member with the blank in the rifle, it might not have been down to you.
That’s an interesting concept, and our democratic society might well be much better served by it. Over to the rabid populists to comment below. If they’d managed to read down as far to the end…