‘Cast Your Whole Vote, Not A Strip of Paper Merely’.

The title above is taken from Henry David Thoreau’s seminal 1849 essay , Civil Disobedience. One of the most influential ever written. Read by Gandhi and Martin Luther King who both declared its influence upon them, it’s as relevant today as it ever was. Particularly on this day! Election day 2024. Thoreau beseeches us to make voting a symbol of our commitment to justice, not merely a duty we feel we have fulfilled as soon as we drop the ballot paper into the box.

This election, in particular, I would contend, is a chance to do just that. Never before in my memory has a single issue of justice had such a potentially seismic influence on constituency voting. That issue is Gaza, and the fight for justice for the Palestinians. Voting for a candidate who has this declared commitment is only a part of the tidal wave of actions that have accompanied the outrage. Every person at a polling station today who thinks this issue is important will have been campaigning, marching, talking, arguing, writing, using everything they have to do ‘the right’, as Thoreau puts it. This is casting your ‘whole vote’.

‘This is for Gaza’, declared George Galloway upon winning his seat in Rochdale for the Worker’s Party in March this year. So terrified of this result was the establishment that Rishi Sunak stood behind a podium outside Number 10 that very night spouting the most egregious, scare-mongering propaganda against supporters of Palestine he could muster. The tired old trope conflating anti-Israel feeling with antisemitism was rolled out in the most cynical display imaginable. And this, while bombs and military equipment supplied by his government were raining down hell on the children of Gaza.

But as we know, Starmer’s Labour Party is as much in the pocket of Israel as is Sunak’s. Who can forget Starmer refusing to condemn the cutting off of food and water to Gaza. I hope every potential Labour voter keeps this image in their minds today:

What kind of democratic choice is this?? We are unable to vote against genocide! It’s unconscionable. However, this election we have the glimmer of hope of candidates who have emerged on a wave of outrage and empathy for the Palestinians. Heroes like Jody Macintyre in Birmingham, and I don’t use the word hero lightly. Suffering from cerebral palsy Jody has been a committed activist for human rights all his life. He first gained national attention in 2011 when he was dragged from his wheelchair by the Metropolitan police during a student demo. I will never forget his disgraceful treatment in a notorious BBC interview afterwards during which the odious Ben Brown asked him if he hadn’t been ‘rolling towards the police’.

Jody has also lived in Palestine and been on the front lines in the West Bank. See jaw-dropping footage of that in the video below, as well as rapper, journalist and activist Lowkey’s moving introduction:

‘Let me tell you something about Jody Macintyre. Jody was someone who when he was born doctors said to his family, ‘he won’t speak and he won’t walk’. What you see in front of you today is someone who speaks three languages fluently.’ Please watch the rest of Lowkey’s speech and an interview with Jody by Declassified below.

Let’s hope Jody kicks out Labour’s Jess Philips, a member of Labour Friends of Israel, so that justice and humanity can prevail in Yardley. Let’s hope, too, that Jeremy Corbyn wins his Islington seat which he has served with relentless integrity for forty years.

You have a vote today. And if you choose to use it, then use it to effect real change by voting for those who have the principle of justice, of protecting the weak and vulnerable in their DNA. If you think people like Jody are single issue candidates then you are very wrong. Nothing could be more of a litmus test for humanity than support for the suffering of the Palestinians. With all of these independent candidates who declare outrage at the genocide in Gaza, we see a track record of standing up for the oppressed everywhere, whether it’s their own neighbours or those far away. They simply care. Unlike the career politicians who spout the rhetoric of decency whilst swimming in the sewer of moral corruption.

I’ll leave you with the words of Thoreau as I don’t believe there have ever been more profound words spoken on this subject:

‘I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that that right should
prevail. I am willing to leave it to the majority. Its obligation, therefore, never exceeds that of expediency. Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men. When the majority shall at length vote for the abolition of slavery, it will be because they are indifferent to slavery, or because there is but little slavery left to be abolished by their vote. They will then be the only slaves. Only his vote can hasten the abolition of slavery who asserts his own freedom by his vote…Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence.’

Alison Banville is co-editor of BSNews, an independent journalist, singer/songwriter, performance poet, and activist.

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