Debate: What’s the Point in Voting?
|21 February, 2015||Filled under Previous Events||
As Britain prepares to go to the Polls, the prevailing view seems to be that politicians are not only sleazy and self-serving but may not even be up to the job. A recent survey of British voters suggested that less than a quarter considered MPs capable of ‘debating issues of public concern in a sensible and considered way’; while 38% thought ‘non-political experts who know how to run large organisations’ might be better able to deal with the current economic crisis than most elected politicians. With politicians held in such low esteem, is it any wonder that Russell Brand – ‘Don’t vote it only encourages them’ – has three times as many Twitter followers as all our MPs put together?
Just as citizens challenge the authority of elected politicians to govern, so politicians seem to be questioning the electorate’s capacity to make rational choices, especially when it comes to ‘difficult’ or ‘divisive’ subjects like immigration, the environment and membership of the EU. While political leaders all claim democracy as a fundamental value, it is significant that as the Eurozone crisis intensified in 2012, elected political leaders were effectively replaced by technocratic government, dictating austerity budgets on behalf of the EU. Closer to home, serious problems in the running of Tower Hamlets and Rotherham councils did not trigger a call for elections, but the arrival of teams of unelected administrators and auditors.
How might we breathe life into democracy? Is there a civic, or even, as some Anglican Bishops have argued, a moral duty to vote? Or is there more to politics than simply putting a cross on the ballot paper? What can we learn from the rise of populist parties of the Left and Right? Or from new forms of global activism breaking out on the streets and in social media? And might last year’s record breaking turnout for the Scottish Referendum, or the sweeping to power of Syriza earlier this year herald a democratic revival at the ‘margins’?
Join The Liverpool Salon to discuss why one of the most compelling political ideas of the 19th and 20th centuries – the right to vote – seems to have lost its popular appeal in the 21st and what can be done to revive it.
Speakers (confirmed to date, more to follow)
James Heartfield is a writer and lecturer and founding Director of the development think- tank, Audacity. He lives in north London, and is currently based at the Centre for the Study of Democracy, University of Westminster where he studied for his Ph.D. in European Union (EU), International Relations. James enjoys public debate and speaks widely in support of industrial development. His latest book The European Union and the End of Politics (2013) explores the rise of the authority of the EU against the decline of political participation. James is also the author of The ‘Death of the Subject’ Explained (2002), The Creativity Gap (2005), Let’s Build! – Why we need five million new homes in the next 10 years (2006), and Green Capitalism – Manufacturing Scarcity in an Age of Abundance (2008). As well as writing on more diverse topics; The Aborigines’ Protection Society: Humanitarian Imperialism in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Canada, South Africa, and the Congo, 1837-1909 (2011), and, Unpatriotic History and the Second World War (2012).
Visit his personal website here.
Harvey Cox has degrees in History and Politics from Trinity College Dublin and the London School of Economics. He lectured in Politics at Liverpool University and helped to establish the Institute of irish Studies there. Principal academic publications have been on the Northern Irish conflict and the peace process. Since retiring in 2003, Harvey has been involved in a number of peace projects abroad and has been trustee of the Oxford (peace) Research group.
Born and brought up in Yorkshire, Simon moved to Lancashire on a civilising mission some 25 years ago. After some success there, he’s moved on to sunny Derbyshire where he’s now based. From the delightful surroundings of New Mills where he plays golf at probably the friendliest golf club in Derbyshire, Simon plans and coordinates the Manchester Salon – preparing discussions, booking venues, promoting via the website, Email notifications and management of the Salon’s Facebook Group. Always keen to take on new themes to discuss, formats to experiment with and collaborations to explore, please complete the Contact the Salon form with suggestions of your own.
Simon Belt started his career in the technology industry in the rather restrictive environment of the civil service, moving into the more flexible and innovative international outsourcing world. Looking to implement technology the way it should be deployed, rather than what suits any given contract, Simon established his own IT Consultancy in 1999 – Simply Better IT. His passion is to help improve the way small businesses use technology, by matching its use to the way they work best and delivering end-to-end IT solutions, to those best suited for engaging larger businesses and institutions as equals.