The 2010 election is likely to be the most closely contested in recent memory. 'X Marks the Box' is a book to try to get other people excited about politics again.
I went through a period of being cynical about politics, of being disenchanted and not voting. I know that was wrong and that it was because I didn’t really understand what politics was actually about.
So I wrote a book, ‘X Marks the Box: How to Make Politics Work For You’ to try to get other people excited about politics again. It’s a humorous, irreverent, light but informative whistle-stop tour through politics. 2010 will see a general election that is likely to be the most closely contested in recent memory, and not just by the party leaders but by the hard-working candidates, party members and activists battling in their constituencies.
It might seem a strange thing for an author to do but I’ve decided to make the ebook edition of my book available as a free download on my blog www.xmarksthebox.co.uk until the print edition is published in March.
Why? Because I want as many people as possible to read it and, with any luck, feel as inspired as I was to get interested in the world around me once again. I find it frustrating hearing people moaning about ‘politics’. Often they have never visited the Houses of Parliament to watch a debate, interrogated their MP at a community meeting, attended a local council meeting, chatted to a councillor, joined a village community forum, gone on a demonstration to save a Post Office or attended a consultation about a school merger – all interesting, enjoyable, frustrating and baffling in equal measure, but all things I’ve done in the past five years, and all ‘politics’.
It is incredible how many people don’t know who their MP is, what they are allowed to do or how they have voted, could not tell you what happened at the last few General Elections, which pressure groups they could get involved with, and so on. But my feeling is that if you’re worried about the issues that affect you – schools or crime, traffic or planning permission, MP’s expenses or your own bank balance – then you *are* interested in politics.
Voters do have a point when they talk about the sense of distance and dislocation they feel from their politicians. It can be annoying that you never see your would-be MP on the doorstep debating the issues, and only get one cheap-looking leaflet through the door. But the reality is that MPs’ and candidates’ offices don’t have limitless resources and it’s surprising how few people realise they are mostly dependent on volunteers.
I would like to see MPs spending more time in their constituencies and being answerable to the people who elected them. It would make people less inclined to moan about ‘politics’ and less likely to dismiss them as being a bunch of sweaty men in ties exchanging verbal barbs in the House of Commons.
X Marks the Box is not an expert’s book or an insider’s book. It’s a book by and for the informed citizen, which aims to cut through the waffle, the disillusionment and the disappointment. By the end of it, the disenfranchised voter should feel that there is some point to it all. They may even be excited about politics again. And they may find themselves actually looking forward to the 2010 General Election.
Our guest writer is Daniel Blythe. ‘X Marks the Box’ is published on 4 March 2010
• Download it for free at www.xmarksthebox.co.uk until 3 March 2010Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.