Why don’t more people vote – and why it matters so much?

Three things caught my eye over the weekend that set the stage for a crucial month of activity for the CWU and CWUYouth.

First, there was a great illustration of why the “market” doesn’t and cannot provide a solution for everything and why businesses that operate to a make a profit are, in my view, in many ways inherently weaker than those that exist to provide a public service.

Amelia GentlemanThis was apieceby well-known social commentatorAmelia Gentlemenwho wrote in Saturday’s “Guardian”. In it she recounts the story of Gloria Foster, described as “a frail 81 year old widow”. The local authority had outsourced her social care to a firm called CareFirst24.

Gentleman writes: “Some time on 15 January, Carefirst24 was raided by officers from the UK Border Agency, in response to allegations that it was employing illegal immigrants. Nine people were arrested, the business was shut down and the UKBA sent out apress notice expressing satisfaction at a”successful operation” and determination to “do whatever is necessary to investigate alleged abuses of our immigration system”.

Although emergency care was provided for the other clients on Carefirst24’s lists, somehow Mrs Foster was forgotten. She lay abandoned for nine days in her flat, without food, water or medication, until a district nurse made a chance visit and raised the alarm. When she was found, she was starving, dehydrated, covered with bedsores and with a barely discernible pulse.”

Investigations and internal enquiries on this are expected to report in the near future.

Mark SewotkaSecond,there was PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka’s powerful call-to-armsatGlastonbury, in the festival’s traditional and progressive “Left Field”.He said:

“I would like to see a massive house building programme that addressed the chronic lack of housing – and particularly social housing – in Britain. That would simultaneously put hundreds of thousands of construction workers back to work and help the economy. It would also undercut the disgraceful political argument at the moment that says that because the housing benefit bill has got so high in a time of austerity, you target the recipients rather than the landlords or the lack of affordable housing. We should be capping rents, not capping benefits.”

Both of these contributions illustrate what is wrong with current Government policy – in a practical as well as moral sense. They illustrate, especially on housing, what a credible alternative policy looks like. And they say loud and clear that a willingness and ability to deal with these issues is something that any alternative government has to be able to do in order to get popular support.

However, both of these contributions were also made to audiences who almost certainly were already persuaded. There is a real challenge to persuade others too.

Because the way things stand at present and for the foreseeable future is that if we want different people in charge, we will have to vote for them. Taking power away from those who are abusing it requires more people to vote for an alternative than the status quo. (I know, it’s not rocket science)

So the third thing to catch my eye was a survey launched by an outfit called Lodestone Communications. Wetweeted an articleon the problem – big problem – of non-voting by their Fran O’Leary last week. We know fromour own recent meetingthatnon-voting is a big issue for CWU’s young members too.

LodestoneThesurveyis at http://t.co/MJhJRIpSWz – please do participate. It takes less than 5 minutes (I know – I’ve tried it out).

For all the reasons summed up by Amelia Gentlemen and Mark Serwotka, we need to know the answers to the key question – Why don’t people vote?

I know some people say “if voting changed anything, they would abolish it.” Let us – voters, activists, politicians themselves – not do the job for them by allowing this mass-non-voting to continue.