People in the UK are mostly incredibly disengaged from politics or in other words the management of the country and local areas. It’s obvious why this happens:
- Lack of engagement in people around them whilst growing up.
- An obvious and illogical gap in formal education on the subject starting at school.
- It’s a subject especially rich in informal, unnecessary, obfuscating jargon.
- The public image of governance is that it’s a circus of privately educated ‘elites’; ‘them’ and ‘us’.
- Psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists traditionally get most of the power and publicity.
- ‘First past the post’ voting system makes people feel unrepresented, especially due to ‘tribal’ politics where people vote for parties rather than scrutinising local MP candidates. As a result, many opportunistic candidates who just join the ‘winning side’ get elected.
- Most people have never experienced an election going ‘their way’ and we keep ending up with progressively authoritarian and dysfunctional governments, so people feel powerless.
- …Resulting in lack of engagement in the process and apathy.
All of this has been true for me for my whole life, and my engagement so far has only been the minimum of voting in general elections and general philosophical thought. I have only ever had one or two friends interested enough to discuss these things with, and that on very rare occasions since I didn’t live nearby. Those friends were equally cynical and apathetic. But this has been the best case as all other people I’ve known don’t even discuss it. Some don’t vote in general elections.
If engagement in general elections is one thing, local elections are a whole other mysterious thing which I hear even less about. When I do hear about them it’s usually after the fact, too late to be involved in them, or I had no idea what they were. Not helping that was the fact I’ve moved around so much and had quickly varying circumstances, and spent a lot of time in crisis modes. I won’t have been the only person in that situation and that’s part of why subject barriers are so pernicious and in the case of politics, dangerous. This year, I now know.
When I started to research my local candidates, before forming a plan of how to make the decision I began with reading the public profiles of each candidate. I immediately came across this one:
Compared with another candidate’s profile:
Given that finding this information is not the simplest thing to start with (and that’s with modern day technology), I felt like this most basic possible level of scrutiny really summed up everything I was thinking about the importance of engagement, yet the hopelessness and despair (and barriers to entry) which easily result from lack of it. But it is a cycle that feeds into itself.