Tuesday 20 February 2007

Happy days are here again.

Well, it's that time again: the elections loom. Well, I say "loom". They squat, frankly. From time to time, they sprawl a bit.

Here in Northern Ireland, we have for many moons been assailed by a particularly annoying advertising campaign. "What do non-voters think about Northern Irish politics?" asks the voiceover, before a lot of non-voters, hilariously, find their mouths covered in red duck tape. See what they did there? You can always rely on politics to bring out the best in an advertising agency. The point is, they tell us, that, if you don't vote, you don't have a say in how you are governed. There are plenty of objections to this in principle — it is, frankly, just plain wrong — but forget the principle and look at the facts on the ground: let us remember, this is Northern Ireland. Here, it's even wronger.

Northern Ireland is governed by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (currently Mr Peter "Git" Hain, a man who tries to compromise between the two sides by opposing Orangemen while being, technically, bright orange). The Secretary of State is appointed by the British Government, usually by the Prime Minister. Not one voter in Northern Ireland has voted for the Secretary of State. Ever. Not one voter in Northern Ireland has voted for the Prime Minister. Ever. And, since Northern Ireland is the only place in the world whose residents are refused membership by the British Labour Party, not one voter in Northern Ireland has even voted indirectly for the current Secretary of State or Prime Minister by voting for their party or their government. Ever.

We do, admittedly, get to vote for members of the Northern Irish Assembly, a body with no power and no remit that has no discussions about anything other than whether they should have a discussion. Every few years, they have a big meeting, it quickly degenerates into a fight, and the Secretary of State steps in, smacks their wrists, and tells them that he's going to run the province himself until they agree to stop fighting. They then spend a couple of years telling journalists that it was them other bastards what started it, so it was. For this, we pay them. For some reason.

It is undoubtedly true that, if we don't vote for one of the players in this Punch and Judy show, we have no say in how we are governed. What I have trouble comprehending is the implication that we somehow have less say than those who do.

I have not registered to vote, and don't intend to. I mean, look at the choice. We've got the Terrorism Party, the Inefficient At Discouraging Terrorism Party, the Inefficient At Fighting Terrorism Party, the Staunchly Opposed To Terrorism But Frankly Some Of Us Are Bigotted Maniacs Party, and the Nobody Can Remember Why We're Called Conservative Party. Oh, and don't forget UKIP, a party opposed to being ruled by dictat from afar, who have, according to their website, set up their Northern Irish headquarters in Devon.

Spare me.

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