It has been a depressing week for the British political system; not only the ongoing expenses embarrassments, but also the suspension of Parliamentarians for suggesting they would be willing to shape the law of this land in return for cash – death to the dignity of the Mother of Parliaments by a thousand pin-pricks.
The temptation is to walk away from the whole messy business of democracy, especially in the run up to local and European elections just a few weeks away. But this is philosophically, politically and halachically unacceptable. I believe we have a crystal clear obligation to vote in these upcoming elections and to do everything we can to encourage others to vote. I believe abstaining from voting or even spoiling a vote is impermissible.
It may well be that, despite the mire, we might feels a strong need to support one candidate or another, that is all well and good. I want to address these words to those who are tempted to demonstrate their disgust at the entire political system by abstaining. I heard a radio interview this morning where the participant suggested voting in the current climate was a little like being forced to choose between being killed by a bus or being killed by a car with no available choice not to be killed at all. Not voting is not a vote not to be governed by ballot box, it is the failure to exercise that small amount of political power we do possess. Not voting opens the door to the political fringe and particularly the BNP. In 2004 Nick Griffin achieved 6.4% of the vote in European elections, 7.5% could be enough to secure him a seat in the European Parliament. The BNP, for all their bigoted stupidity, are smart enough to realise the opportunity the current malaise affords them; their web-site urges supporters to punish ‘disgusting Tory, Labour and Lib-Dem pigs’ by voting for the BNP and even without extra votes they must be licking their lips at the prospect of a reduced turnout bolstering their share. Anti-fascist campaigners are bracing themselves, we should all be. So much for philosophy and politics.
The Halachic reason to vote, and to encourage all others to vote, is perfectly expressed by a passage in the Talmud, Kiddushin 40a-b
A person should always consider themselves half guilty and half meritorious: if they perform one good deed, they weigh down for themselves the scale of merit; one sin, they weigh down for themselves the scale of guilt.
Rabbi Eleazar son of Rabbi Shimon said, ‘Since the world is judged by its majority, if an individual performs one good deed, they turn the scale both for themselves and the whole world onto the side of merit; one sin, they turn the scale both for themselves and the whole world onto the side of guilt.
I know of no text that so accurately describes the importance of exercising our single, seemingly paltry, votes for indeed this election, like so many others other, will be decided more by whether, than how, we vote.
I would like to draw your attention to a Board of Deputies ‘Your Vote or Theirs’ initiative on this very issue. More information is at;