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It's time to tear apathy apart

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VOL: 97, ISSUE: 22, PAGE NO: 35

Alex Mathieson RGN RNMH

I've never subscribed to the view that general elections are dull, boring and best ignored. I like them. Call it idealism or naivety, but I feel there is something cleansing about subjecting our politicians to such intense critical scrutiny.

I've never subscribed to the view that general elections are dull, boring and best ignored. I like them. Call it idealism or naivety, but I feel there is something cleansing about subjecting our politicians to such intense critical scrutiny.

So it saddened me to hear two young students, interviewed on a BBC news programme recently, 'explaining' why they would not be voting on June 7. The first said the election had nothing to do with his life. The other was simply 'too busy'.

I wondered whether they were too young to remember the 1994 democratic election in South Africa, when millions of black people queued for hours for the privilege of exercising - for the first time - the right that these students so casually spurn.

They were not too young to have missed Tony Berm's farewell speech to the House of Commons a few weeks ago, when he reminded us that people in this country had given their lives for the cause of universal suffrage.

All these students are being asked to sacrifice is some time to get to a polling station and put a cross in a box.

I would put it down to the arrogance of youth but I've discovered that some nursing colleagues also feel apathetic.

They say it doesn't matter who gets in things won't get any better in the NHS. At best, they consider apathy an act of political protest. At worst, they just can't see the point of voting. This doesn't sadden me it infuriates me.

Our democratic system is not perfect, nor are politicians, but unless we engage with it we can never change it.

The popular view that politicians shouldn't be trusted betrays a fundamental contradiction - we see them as a subspecies to be avoided at all costs, but who do we turn to (and on) when things go wrong?

Ignoring politicians and the election won't make either go away or reduce the influence they have on our lives.

My sceptical colleagues could moan for Britain about the NHS. I can't deny they have good reason to complain, but they rarely suggest any ideas for change. Passing up the chance to vote is not exactly a positive action.

I wonder if they have read NT's election manifesto (April 26, p24). I wonder if they would consider a pay rise, action to prevent violence against health workers, salaries for nursing students and support for ward leaders as positive developments?

Of course they would. But who do they think are the people with the power and authority to deliver on these demands? The answer, unpalatable as they may find it, is politicians.

How you cast your vote is entirely up to you. You pays your taxes, you makes your choice. But don't be seduced by apathy. Don't believe this election has nothing to do with your life, or that you are too busy to engage with it. It's time for positive action.

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