Russell Brand is wrong. We’ve got a terrible crisis of democratic legitimacy in Britain at the moment, but the solution isn’t to disengage with electoral politics altogether. Instead we need to re-engage and take back democracy from the elites who have subverted and captured it.
What we desperately need is a forward-looking, self-confident and strongly non-sectarian left in Britain. I don’t believe we need another new party; all that would achieve would be to split the vote and benefit the right. But we do need noisy and influential factions in both the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties to drag them away from being part of the beige dictatorship. Yes, both parties are badly compromised by past and present alliances, Labour with Tony Blair’s complicity in George W Bush’s war crimes, and the Liberals for enabling the worst of the Tories war on the poor, the disabled, the young and the old. But both parties need to be taken back from the faceless technocrats who have sold their parties to the Devil, and some of the present leadership needs to be put to the sword.
One thing we need to ask all candidates from all parties is this. “Would you ever vote against your own party on a point of principle, and if so, what principle do you hold that are inviolable”. If they answer “No” to that question, they do not deserve anybody’s vote, especially yours. We do not want or need machine politicians who make obedient lobby-fodder; backbench revolts are the stuff from which democracy is made. Vote for someone who will be the party whip’s worst nightmare.
Not voting isn’t the answer. If you are one of the 25% who live in a marginal constituency where you vote actually has a chance of affecting the makeup of Parliament, then regardless of whether it’s Labour/Tory, Tory/LibDem or LibDem/Labour, one of the two is always going to be the lesser of two evils.
If you live in a “safe seat”, any vote is a wasted vote as far as deciding who you sent to Westminster goes. But that’s not the only value of voting; local and national shares of votes have a longer term impact beyond the current election. And this is where voting for an “unelectable” smaller party isn’t any more wasted than voting for one of the three main parties. If you get significant percentages of the vote going to smaller fringe parties, it sends a strong message to any machine-politics technocrats in the other parties that the electorate wants “None of the above”.