Tuesday, 6 May 2014
As the latest election campaigns get under way, with all the usual grinning politicians vying for our precious votes, it's worth asking if the old cliché is actually true.
Well, it isn't, is it? It's a load of 24-carat bollocks. It's the biggest urban myth ever. If you believe we live in a democracy, you've been sadly duped.
The chances of an individual like myself having any real influence on what the government* are doing are frankly, zilch. Despite the well-trodden claims, unless you have some serious clout - you're a generous party donor, a millionaire, a big employer, a celebrity, a high-profile campaigner - the government will ignore you completely.
I can go through all the familiar democratic motions. I can cast my vote, visit my MP, sign a petition, attend a rally. But the truth is I'm highly unlikely to budge the government from their chosen path.
Can I stop the government from cutting welfare benefits, making life harder for the disabled, privatising the NHS, bashing the unions, charging for education or stigmatising the unemployed? Not a hope. They go their own sweet way and tell their critics to get stuffed. They're convinced they know best and that any dissenting views are the ramblings of idiots.
I've more chance of persuading the local supermarket to stock Vegemite than I have of influencing the government.
I will of course cast my vote. Given all those people eager to flock to the polling station and vote happily for extremists, lunatics and religious nuts of assorted hues, it's my public duty to cast at least one vote for someone sensible.
But do I really imagine I'll be furthering the great democratic tradition? Don't make me laugh.
* Local councils are a little easier to influence, but they can still be pretty blind to public opinion when they choose to be.