Politicians - why aren't you engaging with us?

PAUL BARLOW
Last updated 11:08 12/08/2014

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OPINION: All around Hamilton at the moment are billboards and hoardings, in all the shades of the political Rainbow.

Up from my place is a dashing image of incumbent Hamilton East MP David Bennett, and when I pulled into my ex-wife's house I was greeted by two massive billboards encouraging people to do as John Key suggests and vote for Tim Macindoe in the West.

There are Labour Red, Green Party Green, a few InternetMANA boards and Maori Party around the place as well - although I haven't seen anything from ACT, NZ First United Future or Darth Vader this time round.

And it goes with out saying that these will often be improved upon by the public - of course the definition of improved is highly subjective.

I doubt David Bennett for example would appreciate the phallus drawn on his likeness near my place, or David Cunliffe would like to see his Vote Positive signs amended to include the abbreviation HIV, although Colin Craig being replaced by Futurama's Hypnotoad is a vast improvement.

But it seems we now expect these billboards to end up being vandalised, it's becoming something to watch out for when driving around Hamilton - it's at the point where there are Facebook pages and Buzzfeed articles extolling the way wannabe Banksies take their political messages to the public.

There are websites dedicated to the creative ways kiwis are vandalising these billboards - bringing attention not to the message the candidates want to get across, or to the election itself but to how helpless many disenfranchised kiwis actually feel when it comes to this election.

For many it feels like no one is listening to them - that none of the candidates want to listen to what they have to say.

The candidates are there to push an agenda on behalf of their party and what the voters are actually asking for, or needing isn't exactly the top priority.

When that happens, when the people you are trying to engage don't feel engaged - that's when they lash out to get attention and that's what these acts are.

This is the first time I can recall so many people I know looking at choosing to not vote, to abstain because they don't see a choice for them on the ballot, they don't see a party or candidate that speaks to them directly.

This worries me, because I like to encourage people to vote, to get out there and have their say.

But if people are choosing to not vote because they don't see it has having the effect they desire, then what can we do?

So I'm wondering if now is the time to instigate a new choice on the ballot papers - if now is the time to create the option of a Vote of No Confidence.

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This would give voters the option to say "you're not engaging with me - try harder" - and if there's a significant swing to the no confidence vote, then we hold another election because no matter who wins, they're not proving that New Zealand wants to go with them on what ever journey they think is best, they're proving they're the best of a bad lot - like choosing which is the best way to die between drinking the water at the University Lakes or swimming in it.

A vote of No Confidence though is a much better way to let voters have their say than by accepting the status quo and not having them vote.

It allows them to exercise a right to vote, and still say they don't like the options.

How would the last election have turned out if the vote of No Confidence was there?

Would National have got in dragging it's unpopular asset sales program in, or could that No Confidence vote have seen them change their policy to reflect the wishes of 67 per cent of voters who opposed the program during the referendum on the topic last year?

Or maybe the politicians just need to find a way to engage the voters some how that doesn't involve polluting the landscape with billboards everywhere.

- Waikato Times

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