A democracy needs more than just protest votes

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As a local newspaper, The News is politically non-partisan. We get accused by all sides that we are biased against them, and to be honest we take this as an encouraging sign.

But while we may not carry a torch for a particular party or political persuasion, we certainly are encouraged by any upturn in interest in politics. Both at a local and national level, it’s vital that people take an interest in what is happening and why.

And the rise of Ukip in the last couple of years has certainly created an interest in politics, shaking as it has the established system in Britain. But indeed, across all of Europe can be seen the growing influence of the previously fringe parties, whether it is the left-leaning Podemos in Spain, the Five Star party in Italy, or more overtly right-wing groups such as the Swedish Democrats.

The reasons for this surge are too many to go into here, but certainly include a disaffection with established systems; and few would contest the fact that Ukip’s two by-election wins have been carried on protest voting.

Explicitly, the party has – and this is not to pass judgement either way – made a point that a Ukip vote is a way to bash Westminster and all that it represents. This is a valid view to hold, and our current MPs are right to recognise what Ukip’s recent wins represent.

But in general, we would urge that protest voting for the sake of protest voting can only take democracy so far.

When the general election of next year comes around, we want to see arguments made on policy, ideas, aspirations and plans for the country. We want to see what each party is for – not just what each partty is against.

Short of being opposed to the EU, Ukip has not made very clear what, as a party, it stands for: its manifesto at the 2010 election made a brief appearance and was then withdrawn. If it wants to be seen as a credible political force it must explain itself more.

Casting a protest vote is probably, overall, more healthy than not bothering to vote at all; but only if the recipient is worthy of the X on the ballot paper.

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