He took a long drag of his cigarette. Perched awkwardly on an exterior pub seat, his face hovering over the screen of his phone, he exhaled the smoke whilst stating “346 votes, can you see me? Can you find it?”
He repeated, “Yeah, I got 346 votes. It’s not bad.” Sucking on his cigarette again he quickly glanced at me.
He must have known I was watching, and listening, indeed the whole street could listen at the volume he was announcing his recent failure. Although he tried to remain upbeat, the disappointment in his voice and across his face was clear.
On the banks of the river Thames, not far from Gunnersbury station, I was sat watching, and listening to the scene unfolding before me.
A smartly dressed, middle aged man, who was admirably, but unsuccessfully, fighting the signs of balding and greying, was very loudly discussing his recent failure in the European elections. By now the entire borough must have known he had received a measly 346 votes in the latest election.
Once the message had been relayed to the person on the other end of the phone, and once they had discussed that the councillor had in fact beaten one other competitor, he finished the last of his cigarette and returned inside. Leaving me in peace once more to continue with my book.
As it so happens, from later research into the London European election results, my friend and I discovered that the loud-mouthed smoker was in fact a UKIP councillor.
Now I am not going to use this opportunity to state the obvious, that UKIP are a racist, homophobic, xenophobic, hypocritical, right-wing pack of bigots. No, there is plenty of other material available that will give more than enough evidence that this party are the result of inbreeding between the BNP and hard-liner Tories.
After the initial feeling of disdain for this candidate had passed I began to wonder whether his actions upon hearing his failing were more stereotypical than I initially thought.
Quite obviously failing to win at something is a disappointment, but failing to win an election differs from other failings I feel. In other aspects of life when you fail it is usually because you are not good enough. Failings occur from not winning competitions or tournaments for example.
But elections should not be competitions. Yes people compete, but those who take part are not, or rather should not be, competing for their own gain. If there is a situation whereby people do not compete for any personal gain can it be called a competition? What are they competing for? Can they show disappointment if they lose?
In terms of elections – which are meant to represent the will of the people – I feel that showing dissatisfaction at a decision highlights a certain attitude towards those that voted. If a councillor truly had the best interests of the people at heart, would he not simply accept the decision that those people make?
I feel that the reaction of the UKIP candidate – whose name I cannot recall – tells us more about the system, and how it is structured, than it does about the man.
I feel the disappointment etched across the councillors face, and noticeable in his voice, was not because he had failed to represent the community that he cared so much about, but because he failed to gain the financially lucrative position of MEP.
Not only is politics becoming the domain of the wealthy, it is now also becoming a path to wealth. The BBC reports that the standard monthly wage for an MEP is over £6500. As well as this they receive a monthly allowance to cover office expenses (£3500), they get their monthly travel expenses covered, they receive a separate annual travel allowance (£3200), they are entitled to be reimbursed for two-thirds of their medical costs, and they receive a daily subsistence allowance (£250).
Now when faced with an opportunity like that, it is not hard to see why the councillor was a little disappointed upon hearing he had not been elected.
With such vast personal gains to be made it begs the question of where allegiances and where priorities lie.
If politics and elections are really about doing what is best for the people then why is there such a huge financial incentive for those involved? Why is it that an elected councillor is able to drastically improve their own life, without having to improve the lives of those who voted for them?
Would not a better scenario be if the wages of those elected were directly linked to those they represent? Say, the councillors wages equalled the average wage of the constituents?
Or better still, would not an improved scenario be if not only were the wages linked, but there was also the opportunity to recall whomever you voted for, thus ensuring they maintained their promises and always did what was best for the people?
Or better again, would not a further improved scenario be if the people did not use representatives and in fact spoke and acted for themselves, making decisions communally and in the interest of the absolute majority?
The system is designed by those within it, and is maintained so that it stays that way. Politics is a playground for the wealthy and powerful, it is inaccessible to 99.9% of us, and is inhabited largely by careerists. The flaws within the system are loopholes for those we vote for, allowing them to escape their responsibilities and the accountability of those who voted.
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