Nearly thirty years ago, Ken Livingstone published a book entitled If voting changed anything, they’d abolish it. Of course, he was as wrong then as he is today. To say the least, It’s unfortunate that so many people have used that argument as a justification for ducking their democratic responsibilities ever since.
If nothing else, voting in, and the outcome of the EU referendum – which is heralding probably the biggest single UK policy decision since the end of the second world war – ought to tell us something quite different. Voting has always made a difference, and the collective outcomes of everyone’s votes do make a real difference to all our lives.
I was reminded of this recently, when the House of Commons’ Library published three one-page factsheets on education issues:
- Schools and class sizes
- Teachers, and
- Participation in education
Each of the factsheets contained basic data and illustrative graphs on the specific topic. So, for example, the factsheet on teachers carries information on the numbers of teachers, pupil/teacher rations, and entrants and leavers and vacancies over the last thirty years.
When you look at the data in graphic form, it is really easy to see how voting has changed things.
Under Conservative and Coalition governments, pupil/teacher ratios have consistently risen, new entrants to teaching (reflecting the numbers in teacher training) fall and the number of leavers increases, as do the teacher vacancies. Whereas under Labour governments, increased resources for education saw class sizes falling, and increases in the numbers of teachers being trained saw vacancies falling.
When you look at the data on class sizes, exactly the same patterns repeat. So, for example, the proportion of primary school pupils in large classes peaked at nearly 35% in 1998. It subsequently declined sharply to 18% in 2002 and continued to gradually decline until 2011. Since then it has increased again and that will continue as school funding per pupil is set to fall by between 5.5% and 8% over the course of this parliament.
You can find the reports at http://www.parliament.uk/commons-library. Why don’t you look at the facts for yourself? You can then assure yourself – and others – that your vote counts.