Apathy and extremism

While not at all significant in any wider political context, the election of Dave MacDonald to a community council in Aberdeen serves to demonstrate the danger of voter apathy and failure to engage with the democratic process.

MacDonald represents a form of political extremism. But the thing about extremists is that they will always vote. As extremists, they are, by definition, a tiny minority of the population as a whole and of the electorate. But, because all the extremists will always vote, if decent, moderate people do not then the extremists automatically become a larger proportion of the electorate.

This is an unfortunate but essential property of an electoral system which, being truly democratic, views the banning of political parties as anathema.

Another danger, illustrated by a disturbing proportion of the comments here, is that even the most insignificant electoral success for the likes of Dave MacDonald tends to stir the sediment at the bottom of the social pond, agitating all manner of slime-dwellers and bringing them briefly into the mainstream.

Let this regrettable episode be a timely reminder to responsible citizens that they have a duty to ensure that they are on the electoral register and to vote at every opportunity.

When you don’t vote, the extremists win!


About Peter A Bell

Thinker. Listener. Talker. Reader. Writer. None of my attitudes are immutable. None of my conclusions are final. None of my opinions are humble.
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4 Responses to Apathy and extremism

  1. My experience of Community Councils has been very negative, with nasty political cliques ruling the roost and causing mayhem, though there are those which appear to function well. But it is not merely voting that matters. Another of the problems is that, because of the nastiness and negativity that often rules, most people will not consider standing for them. The Community Council I was involved with never held an election, as insufficient people put their names forward. So those who had put their names forward were automatically elected. So people need to vote, but they also need to put themselves forward as candidates.


    • Peter A Bell says:

      It all sounds sadly familiar. I have long been of the opinion that much more could be done to make Community Councils a vibrant part of our democracy. Arguably, this should be the priority, rather than devolving powers to local authorities.


  2. Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park was keen on helping communities around the park set up community development trusts to take forward projects for improvement of their areas. Many of these were set up in the wake of wide community consultation and the formulation of an action plan. The trust, when formed, raised money to implement these plans, drawing on the National Park, Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish National Heritage, and the Council for help and advice. To my mind, these trusts were much more successful than community councils as they were proactive, not reactive like community councils complaining about potholes etc and intent on playing a blame game.

    If community councils became more like development trusts I think there might be more interest in people standing for election to them and taking an interest in their work.

    I agree with your comment on devolving powers to local authorities.


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