Editor's column

Not registering is worse than not voting

Concrete is moving from strength to strength. Last issue we had fantastic levels of engagement in the paper, and this week we’re hoping for the same with articles ranging from the argument around rainbow poppies (page 17), which is “juvenile”, apparently, to the hunt for dark energy (page 18).

Have a flick through this issue – it’s our penultimate one of 2019! You can comment on our articles online, Tweet us @ConcreteUEA, or get involved in Concrete itself by clicking here. Look out for our posts next week as well as we head to the regional Student Publication Association awards, hosted at the University of Warwick, in Coventry. We’re looking forward to it!

There are two events I’ve been looking forward to even more than seeing this issue in print. The Media Collective Christmas Ball, and the upcoming election. If you’re part of the Media Collective, today is the last day to buy tickets to the Media Ball. It’s well worth it – I’ve had a peak at what’s planned and I can confirm it’s going to be fantastic!

But anyway – the election. ‘If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.’ It’s one of those standard slogans you hear in the build up to an election. Many people often stigmatise those who don’t engage in our system of democracy by voting. 

Every vote is a numbers game. In a general election, where there are millions of people voting, votes are not all equal. One vote in a marginal seat may prompt more actual political change than ten votes against the favourite in a safe seat. In a smaller vote, say of Union Council, it’s pretty much down to numbers. Every vote is equal, and as some people don’t turn up, a single vote can turn the tide, as we saw in the Union Council vote on banning beef from SU outlets.

But let’s return to the general election. Most systems of democracy have some kind of flaw. First Past the Post means smaller parties may get a large percentage of votes across the board but not win many seats in parliament. (Think back to UKIP in the 2015 election.) And then there are safe seats. There are over 100 seats in England and Wales that haven’t changed parties since 1945. If you’re voting against the favourite in those seats, it’s likely your vote will not make a measurable difference. 

Union Council should work, and on page 12 you can read why SU officer Sophie Atherton believes it is council and uea(su) really does represent students at UEA. Yet some will believe 90 students representing 17,000 doesn’t add up. There should be hundreds of representatives of course, but after the first session many representatives decide they don’t want to sit through up to four hours of union council business, or drivel, depending on your disposition.

I can completely understand the argument against the stigmatisation of people who have a vote but don’t use it. It’s your life. It’s your choice. And even if you don’t vote in an election in which your vote may not count for any real change, that doesn’t mean you can’t complain. That is unless you don’t even register to vote.

See, you don’t have to vote. You can sit at home and complain that your vote doesn’t matter anyway so you can’t be bothered. Or you can decide that although it’s not perfect, this is the best chance you have to make an impact on the political stage.

And anyway, Brexit is in the air. With so many new candidates standing in so-called safe seats, there’s sure to be some upsets. Nothing is certain. 

In Britain, voting is a choice. But you need to register to have that choice. And that is a sticking point. If you don’t even take the time to register to vote, to give yourselves the option of voting, then no, you can’t complain. At least sign up to take part. And you never know, more students registering to vote may even shake off some of the snowflake accusations thrown at us in the wake of Beefgate. (Don’t hold your breath though.)

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Chris Matthews

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May 2022
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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

If you would like to get in touch, email the Editor on L.Hargreaves@uea.ac.uk. Follow us at @ConcreteUEA.