Silence is consent

I was chatting with my neighbour Jane today. She was telling me that some of the women in her work loathe and detest Boris Johnson – don’t we all – but that they’re not motivated to vote because they think that all politicians are crap. Sadly that’s quite a widespread sentiment amongst working class people in places like the East End of Glasgow where Jane and I live. This area has one of the lowest turnouts for elections anywhere in Scotland. People here are cynical and disenchanted. For generations they’ve seen all sorts of politicians make all sorts of promises. The politicians come and go, but the poverty and deprivation that blight the East End of Glasgow stay with us.

So a lot of people just don’t vote. Maybe they think that voting only encourages the politicians. But that’s not true. Not voting encourages them even more, or at least it encourages some of them. Not voting isn’t the equal opportunities plague on all your houses message that some people think it is. The fact is that certain political parties benefit more from people not turning out to vote than others do, because the decision not to vote isn’t spread evenly across the population as a whole. Certain groups within the larger population are less likely to vote than others, and when members of those groups decide that they’re not going to vote because they’re unhappy with the entire political system, they’re only assisting those parties which benefit from the system as it is.

If you’re of the cynical persuasion, you believe that all political parties are rubbish, just ask yourself one question. Why do you think that the Conservatives have been introducing measures which make it harder to vote? Over recent years the Conservatives have introduced measures which mean that you can only register to vote if you supply a National Insurance number, if you provide some form of recognised ID. It’s well known that such measures have the effect of decreasing the voter registration and turn out of working class people, young people, ethnic minorities and migrant communities, and people who depend on social security. All of these groups are those which are less likely to vote Tory.

The Conservatives are quite happy when working class people don’t vote. Boris Johnson doesn’t lose any sleep over working class people who don’t bother to vote. He’s delighted when working class people don’t bother to vote. Him and his Tory pals are quite happy to encourage working class people not to vote, which is precisely why the Conservatives have been at the forefront of introducing measures which make it more difficult to vote.

The reason is because it’s the Tories who benefit when working class people don’t vote. Their own supporters with their upper middle class comfortable privileges will get out and vote to defend those privileges. Middle class older people, richer people, and the comfortable middle classes in rural constituencies are the groups within the population who are most likely to vote. They’re the groups who are most likely to vote Tory, the groups who are most likely to vote against Scottish independence, the groups who will support Brexit. They’re going to vote anyway, because they’re not as disenchanted with a political system that benefits the Conservative party. They don’t share your cynicism, because they know that the existing political system works to their advantage.

Now it has to be said right away that just because you’re an older person with a good pension it doesn’t automatically mean that you’re a right wing Daily Mail reader who hates immigrants and Scottish independence in equal measure. There are many older people who are committed to social democratic politics, social inclusion, and Scottish self-determination. However it remains a statistical fact that the older you are and the better off you are, then it becomes more likely that you will be right wing rather than left wing, and that you will oppose rather than support independence. It also becomes more likely that you will be registered to vote and that you will actually vote.

When the young, the working class, and the poor don’t register to vote, then the effect is that the influence of those right wing voters who are more likely to vote becomes greater. It means that those right wing voters, those Tory supporting smug people who do very well out of the existing system, will find it more likely that there’s enough of them to ensure that they can get a Conservative MP who represents their interests. Because the left wing, the working class, the young, and the poor haven’t bothered to vote. If there is a constituency with 10,000 voters, 4000 of them comfortable well off right wing Tories, and the other 6000 are low paid working class people, or people who rely on social security, and all of them hate the Tories, the Tories are not going to win if everyone bothers to vote. But if half of the Tory haters don’t bother to vote, then the Tories are going to win 4000 to 3000. It’s simple arithmetic. Then everyone in that constituency will have a Tory MP imposing Tory policies.

If you lose yourself in a comforting cynicism, telling yourself that you’re opting for the clever choice by not bothering to vote at all – you’re only doing the Tories’ job for them. If you don’t vote for a party that’s going to allow Scotland to decide its own future, Boris Johnson is going to take that as a sign that you’re quite happy for him to decide it for you. If you don’t vote, it’s not just that you don’t count. It’s not interpreted as a sign that you are so fed up that the political system needs to change. Your silence is taken as a sign that you’re quite happy with the way things are. The only way to change a political system that you think is rubbish is to vote for a party that’s going to allow you to change it.

In Scotland, that means voting for a party that supports another independence referendum. I’ve said this before, but it is worth repeating. The real reason why we need independence is because all politicians and all political parties need to be held to account. We need independence because we need to keep politicians close to us, so that their arses are within kicking distance of our feet. We can do that in an independent Scotland.

The problems of Scotland have come about because we are ruled by politicians and political parties in Westminster who are remote from us and who we cannot hold to account. It doesn’t matter how Scotland votes, so they treat us with contempt. The solution to this problem is not to disengage and decide not to vote, to lose yourself in a comforting cynicism, because then you’re only making it less likely that things will ever change. You’re helping Boris Johnson to screw you over.

Vote, and make a difference. Vote, and tell Westminster that Scotland demands the right to decide its own future. Vote, because if you don’t Boris Johnson will take your silence as consent.

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51 thoughts on “Silence is consent

  1. Excellent article Paul. Wasn’t this exactly what Maggie Thatcher did with the Poll Tax?
    She wanted to disenfranchise the poor and working class by enforcing a Tax on them ensuring that the right to vote depended on the necessity to pay.
    I met many right wing people at the time who thought it was quite right to make people pay to vote.

      • A lot of people refused to pay the poll tax and didn’t register occupancy of an address the result was that they couldn’t give their address for voting purposes in case the council came after them for poll tax , if they gave a false address the people registered as householders would then get billed a poll tax charge for non dependent in the household
        I’m not sure that Margaret thatcher introduced the poll tax to get this result but it was a consequence, councils chased people for decades to recover poll tax they thought should have been paid.

      • No Andy you are not seeing the bigger picture of why the poll tax was introduced. Wilma is correct in here analysis here, but only partly. She is correct to state that the poll tax disenfranchised voters for exactly the reason that Terence details. The poll tax also targetted the Scots first in a classic British state tactic of divide and rule. The poll tax also paved the way for the council tax, an unfair system in itself.

        It’s well past the time to legislate for an annual ground tax which taxes the rich (land owning) over the less rich (not land owning).

  2. Out here in rural Yoonland the Conservatives are an organised and determined machine.

    They all vote. They make damn sure that they vote. It’s actually quite scary to witness their individual determination and the energy of apparently frail and elderly people, even in the pouring rain.

    If we wanted it as much as them our numbers would outvote them every time.

  3. Johnson comes to Scotland and refuses to meet the public—again (as did May).
    This needs highlighting so people can know the contempt they hold Scots in.

    BBC Scotland wont tell us.

  4. I was chatting to a neighbour who told me that he didn’t vote because it was a pointless exercise….’nothing changes he said …they get paid for doing nothing.’

    He is a very decent person and I was really sorry that he was as down as that. I have felt like that and told him that I have struggled with those thoughts.

    I was on my way to the George Square rally and we chatted as to why I bothered to go.

    What motivated me was the fight the suffragettes and others had over centuries to get the vote. My grandma told me that she was born before women could vote . She was a janitor in a local school who strongly supported the suffragette movement. You have to vote she said ..its the only bit of power you have in the political world.

    We chatted about my grandmas thoughts. Our conversation ended with him saying that he would consider our conversation. The good thing is that he is registered to vote so there is some hope that he might use his bit of power. Anything can happen in this world!

  5. Indeed nail, head, superbly summarised.
    As Coinneach mac Raibeart commented, the Tories are organised like a well oiled machine. They didn’t reckon on SNP being similarly organised, and look where that led, mad panic in 2014 and the Vow that never was….
    I cannot recommend more highly Danny Dorling’s video of his analysis by constituency of the 2016 referendum, highlighting how a very high turnout in the “Surrey belt” swamped the apathy turnouts elsewhere. You can believe the same will happen with GE 2019 unless folks wake up.
    Yet we cannot ignore the psychological warfare which has plagued every SMSM article since 2014, visibly gone into overdrive of late, and with Scotland facing “Greek austerity” (Rachel Hamilton) under Independence, locusts, pestilence, and even threats of Swaynseon being sent back, are likely to dominate the media headlines directly

    • Greek austerity. They still get better pensions than the UK. Hamilton was talking nonsense and she knew it. She stated a £19B deficit which is just total mince. These Britnats have no shame – just lie after lie.

      • What I was recalling @aLurker was his Keele lecture earlier this year, not so media friendly but considerably more detailed around the subject of Brexit. He presented some quite shocking geographic comparatives regarding constituency numbers and turnout… Well worth watching…

  6. Day one—Rees-Mogg unleashed. Russian interference document blocked.Tory candidate “deliberately sabotaged rape trial”. Tory Cabinet Minister covered it up.

    Day two. Tory candidate—“women, keep your knickers on–if you don’t want raped”. Boris–“cast iron guarantee Scots will be ignored no matter how many seats they win 2019/2021”.

    Day three.—We await this with bated breath. Is Boris really mad, or just pretending? Is Jockney Jo a Russian sleeper? Will the REAL Dicky Leopard be revealed and wear his Y-fronts outside his trews? Is Gordon Brewer an AI robot (malfunctioning)?

    No!–It will be much, much crazier than that!

  7. This is the election where those most abused by the vicious policies of this desperate corrupt party- on its last legs,trying to sustain a system of brutal unjustified privilege, idleness and exploitation- simply must vote. This is our only chance to take Scotland out of this rotten system. If we don’t, the consequences will be very, very ghastly.

  8. Yes it does beggar belief the folk who say they just don’t do politics and I had one tonight while out canvassing. On the other hand I also met a young woman (20s?) who has never voted before but has now registered because of the state of things with Brexit etc….also believes in Indy so am hoping that’s another wee x in the box for SNP……mind last night there was the woman older ( maybe ages with pensioner me) who’ll be voting tory and no to Indy…..I kinda got the impression she thought herself better than me…..I smiled, thanked her and carried on my way…

    • Your comment is why I couldn’t go out canvassing Cathy , after calling her a brainless auld hag I would have told her Boris was going to cut her Pension to pay for the spending in Engurland .
      that’s why I am better keeping me gob shut in the presence of stupidity .

      • I had a similar experience while out canvassing. A diehard Labour supporter told me that his father and grandfather had always voted Labour and he would do the same. “Don’t you have a mind of your own?”, I asked him. He smacked me in the face. I picked myself up, smiled, and carried on to the next door.
        Some months later I met him and he apologised. He also said that I had got him thinking and he had voted SNP at that election. That was a very hard won vote.

  9. Well done Paul this needs to go out to all our friends and neighbours. Could I suggest that each person take some time out on polling day and go round your friends and help them to the polling station either walk them or arrange to pick them up if you have a car. This is so important that we win this election.

  10. The big challenge is how do we get some of these cynics to vote? They came out in 2014 but for a GE they will need to be inspired. Hard work ahead.

  11. The working people are voting SNP. The SNP keep on winning. The good governance is reflected in the turn out. They are getting percentages not reflected by the other parties. One outstanding victory in 2015 in exceptional circumstances. 50%, The only time in political history since 1928. Even the landslide Labour victory after the War was 45%.

    The Holyrood electoral system D’Hond’t was introduced to give unionists unfair advantage, without a mandate. First preference votes go in the bin to let 3rd rate losers in. They cannot be voted out, The list. Otherwise Holyrood and the Councils (STV)would be SNP dominated. Voters do not know how the system works. Neither does anyone else.

    It is no wonder people get fed up of some politicians when they cannot vote them out.

    The older people vote in higher %. They are often conservative with a small ‘c. That is changing demographically as the young ones come on board. They can vote at 16 but are usually 18/19 depending on election years. Younger people are less likely to vote percentage wise. They have a lot going on to occupy them. Study, friends. etc. Pro rata there are less of them.

    People are voting SNP/SNP and will vote for Independence increasingly. The SNP Gov standing up for Scotland in the EU. Support ever rising.

  12. Poor people suffer more than any other group under the Tories and , sadly , under Labour administrations too . We had London Labour running the country from 97′- 2010 yet poverty was still entrenched in so many areas of the UK . Too many Labour politicians were simply on the payroll to fatten their own bank accounts ( many of the Scottish contingent in particular ) while others were ”comfortable ” with ( some ) people getting ”filthy rich ”!

    You can’t blame many of them for feeling that politics and voting is pointless as far as it impacts their lives .
    We need a campaign like that of 2014 when many of our most disadvantaged groups were targeted by canvassers and persuaded that putting an X in a box for once might make a difference . They were let down by the combined might and lies of the London establishment and the media – but , fingers crossed , this time we can win .

    Every vote counts this time more than ever before . We may not be this close to Independence again for a very long time .
    So vote early and vote often ! ( just kidding , Ruth ! )

    • If only the fabled push for registration in 2014 were more successful in outcome. In “Yes City” Glasgow, for example, the turnout on the big day was actually rather poor. (Ironically, the more who register yet don’t in the event follow-through by putting their mark on a ballot paper, the worse the turnout figure looks.)

      Paul is dead right. If you don’t vote, you get ignored. If you’re not the bat, you’re the ball.

      It’s a vicious circle of disengagement, which is now being amplified by those who have an interest in maintaining a stagnant status quo but have themselves run out of solutions (or excuses) for the very real issues the rest of us have to live with.

      Give up, lie down, get trampled on, feel bad, give up. Not too great a strategy for winning.

  13. Poverty rates did actually reduce under Labour in UK Then there were the illegal wars increasing poverty worldwide. The monies illegally spent could have eradicated poverty. Instead the illegal wars and the banking fraud caused a world recession. Killing millions. Poverty has increased under the Tories. Austerity.

    Cuts to essential services. £4Billion a year NHS. Education £6Billion a year. From 2015-2020. Welfare cuts £3Billion a year for six years (£18Billion). Tax breaks for the wealthy. The Condems elected to protect NHS and Education cut both.

    Tax evasion. Illegal wars and financial fraud. Cost £Billions. Hickley Point, HS2 and Trident. A total waste of monies with far better alternatives. Renewables are much cheaper. Improved rail links in the North would be much more beneficial.

    Poverty worldwide will decrease. The world population will peak and fall, Absolute poverty eradicate. Hans Rosling died 2017.

    Child poverty will decrease in Scotland in 2020 when the £10 child payment start. Poverty could be eradicated. The Scottish Gov has mitigated poverty in Scotland. Bedroom tax. Social care. Elderly people staying in their own homes. £100million a year mitigation.

    Apprenticeships, university support. Colleges and training. Skills and employment reduce poverty. More people in employment. Higher nursery care available, Worth £4,000 to some families. More affordable houses being built.

    More monies is needed and being put into total abstinence rehab facilities. Drug/drink abuse causes poverty. MUP is reducing poverty and death. Better lifestyle changes and more support for the SNHS and extra funding, £12.5Billion spent. Young people are getting the message to drink less.

    Less crime and better health facilities. Lifestyle changes will increase the health and wealth. 2020 will bring many changes and benefits. Even increased pensions are possible and better economic benefits, with self governance.

    Brexit would be a disaster for Scotland. People did not vote for it. The economic recessions are already being felt.

  14. Told a friend who said he never voted as it never made any difference about the French Aristo who arrived at the Guilotine and told the executioner”I took no interest in poltics”and the executioner said “That’s why you are hear”!

  15. Print off a copy of this and give it to Jane to take into her work. If other readers know of any similar sentiments, do the same. VOTE VOTE VOTE.

    Voter apathy is the reason why we have 13 Tory MPs, yes there was unionist collusion but too many SNP voters stayed at home in 2017. So off your bums in 2019 please!

  16. Happy for you to share this (and the previous one in the thread before – or indeed any of my stories) in any way if it helps encourage the vote. Both have been called “Love letters to the SNP” by critics. I’m not complaining! 😉

    8. (of 60.)

    The four balloons

    Once upon a time, there were four balloons at a party. There was the big, red balloon who thought he was the most important balloon there – he had been going to parties for as long as he could remember, and he thought of himself as the partygoers’ natural choice of balloon. He floated silently over the more recently arrived partygoers, but was rather startled when one of them gave him a large smack across his big, red face with the palm of his hand. In his shock, the big, red balloon floated too close to the radiator … until … BBBAAANNNNGGG! The big, red balloon exploded. Most of the partygoers didn’t seem to notice however and they carried on dancing. Others gave a loud cheer – these little, local events adding to the general feeling of mirth at the party. It would take a long time to find a replacement big, red balloon.


    The blue balloon hardly ever got a look in at parties. This was because she was very difficult to inflate. No matter how much one huffed and puffed, more hot air seemed to come out of the wee blue balloon than ever went in. The partygoers eventually decided that it wasn’t worth the effort to try and inflate the blue balloon, so they left her in the corner to wither away and become wrinkled and unloved.


    The yellow balloon was a much smaller balloon than the red and blue balloons. However, when one inflated him, one felt sure that he promised to be just as big and as good looking as the big, red balloon. Sadly though, this was very much only for show. Further, the partygoers had forgotten to tie a knot in the yellow balloon’s neck. As a result, he escaped from their grasp and spluttered all over the room, expelling hot air as he went.

    “Ppppppppppppppuuuuuhhhhhfffffffffffff” said the yellow balloon, coming to land side by side alongside the dishevelled blue balloon.

    And now we come to the gold and black balloon. The partygoers were initially suspicious of balloons which had two colours. The gold and black balloon took some time to be inflated. But when he did – he looked magnificent! The partygoers gave him the thumbs up as the smartest balloon in the party and they started to strike him gently with their hands – batting him to and fro between their friends. The gold and black balloon was in his element – he had become the balloon of choice for partygoers everywhere. The gold and black balloon was exceedingly happy and he was making the partygoers happy too. This was a win-win situation and everyone knew it.

    It was going to be the best party ever!

    Parables for the New Politics

  17. Rubbish.

    Your arguments are straight out of the Republican vs Democrat playbook in the US.

    Every day the UK becomes the US (in a million different ways), and nonsense like your argument takes us that little step closer.

    I’ve seen more than enough “governments” (career international criminals) come and go; and not ONE of them EVER took the opportunity to represent anyone but the international criminal cabal they actually serve – irrespective of the colour of the rosette which they were wearing – and that includes the SNP.

    Don’t you dare put the blame, for the mess this world is in, solely at the feet of those who don’t vote. Voting is not democracy – it is a sick little joke.

    We are ALL to blame, in one way or another, for the world we inflict upon others.

    If the public do not vote (lets take Scotland as an example here) then that’s the fault of the SNP for not serving the interest of the people of Scotland. If they did, then the people of Scotland would happily vote for them I am sure.

    The SNP are just as guilty of not exposing the real world to the public, and the real agenda, as the Tory’s (and “Labour” party) are. They are just as happy to play the theatre of politics in Westminster as the Green Party whilst pretending that they are something different. They are the very same salesmen/women of the global criminal’s master plan as any Tory, or Labour party parasite.

    They are just as happy to support Capitalism, “Royalty”, “Democracy”, “Charity”, etc… the public theatre of pre-ordaned Brexit; and any number of US mass murder, world domination, campaigns; and they are just as happy to hide, or defend, every other disgraceful act of the global criminal empire (including their own). Why?

    Meanwhile, the Corporate Media (and now the Internet) continues to flood the gullible public with never ending lies (often by omission), and thereby move the populous ever further towards the long planned dystopia of the global criminal gang’s wet dreams.

    Voting helps to cause the mess we are in not prevent it.

    …and people like you, with articles such as this, merely maintain the charade.

    If you want people to vote, then give them something *real* to vote for as opposed to demonizing them (a tactic often used by the Tory’s – ask someone who is “unemployeed”, or claiming disability benefits).

    However, we all know that “you” can’t – even if the SNP actually wanted to. The Vatican, City of London, and Washington [“three cheeks of the same backside” to use a GG’ism] would never allow our little tinpot island to do anything which may give others any idea that an alternative world is either possible, or ever even existed.

    Silence is *not* consent.

    • You’re a conspiracy theorist – and a useful idiot for the very people that you decry. I have no time for conspiracy theorists. There you are telling everyone that it’s all a big sham, and the very people that you say benefit from it find it easier to benefit because you are stopping those who lose out and are hurt from it from taking any steps at all to raise their own voice. And for what? Some mythical workers’ revolution? Give us a break pal – and while you’re at it grow up.

      Wannabe Riks from The Young Ones like you really scunner me. You think that you’re so clever, that you’ve seen through the great trick – but you don’t provide ANY solutions as to how to make things any better. You’re quite happy to see people subjected to Tory policies that damage and destroy their lives in pursuit of your self-righteous ideological purity.

      • Wow, don’t hold back WGD!

        To be fair to Ron, I have some sympathy with him. He might well be young and coming to terms with how the powerful are able to operate and have done throughout the ages.
        I have very little truck with some conspiracy theories of the ” Buckingham Palace-killed-Princess-Diana” type but when you come down to it, human society does operate and always has done with conspiracies, if you call concerted action by groups promoting their own interests a conspiracy.

        Human beings are natural conspirators because we are natural communicators. The fact that neo-liberalism is everywhere and practiced by most governments could be called a conspiracy since it did not appear spontaneously in individual countries. Instead the ideas originated somewhere like Milton Friedman’s Chicago School ( though he was a follower of Hayek) but became part of the CIA’s project of regime change in South America. What happened thereafter was that elites in other countries saw how this system could work to their advantage and employed the same economic system, without tanks on the street.

        I could go on, but essentially I agree with you, in that belief in the Grand Conspiracy theory – while not entirely untrue – engenders helplessness and apathy. We, too, can use communication to try to combat this debilitating acceptance of our lack of agency. It is not a given that the ruthless and those in power should always win. We have to use and spread knowledge so that people can at least understand what is being done.

        I, sometimes think though, that while disengagement with the political system does play into the hands of the powerful, that dismissal of all conspiracy theories similarly aids those in power. It is a variant of the old adage that the greatest trick the devil ever played was to have people believe that he didn’t exist.

        Anyway, keep on communicating WGD. It’s part of the fight back. Keep our own demcratic conspiracy going.
        ( Now I have to back down to the mundane and deal with things i should already have done this afternoon!)

    • Curious – it’s impossible to distinguish between deluded Nirvana losers and organised agents of demotivation.

      Same losers’ charter with the same result.

  18. Not concerned about Ron or his theories. All I want is an independent Scotland and the only route there, for the moment, is via the SNP. So, VOTE SNP!

  19. It is in my opinion British Labour in Scotland who have left this legacy of despair. The legacy in so many people’s minds that voting is a waste of time. Well it was and is a waste of time voting for these Britnat Labour wasters and expecting them to change anything. Most of them were more interested in changing their bank balances and getting a seat ( snout in trough for life) in that centre of democracy the House of Lords.

  20. The Tories want to make it harder to vote because they’re just copying their American counterparts as usual. The Republicans did this years ago.

  21. This is a fantastic article and should be a party political broadcast. Just imagine it being declaimed by some actor with a lovely emotive voice.

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