Worse news for the Lib Dems following their disappointing 2010 General Election display. It turns out that their paltry vote would have been even lower had it not been for a particularly radical exercise in globalised democracy. Give Your Vote was a flawed campaign addressing the lack of accountability in international politics, aiming to deliver the simple message (in their words): “In our globalised world, politics doesn't stop at the border. But democracy does. To challenge this, voters in the UK pledged their votes to people in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Ghana who are directly affected by UK policies.” To that they managed to add the usual rent-a-voice of Desmond Tutu and a random UK c-list celebrity who looks moderately old, dishevelled, and like he would have been friends with Jonathon Peel (this is essential in order to give the campaign its “alternative” status, and show that it is supported by people who have “lived” life. Unfortunately in this case it is only Keith Allen, famous for being the owner of the sperm that created UK pop-star/Chanel model/cricket fan model Lilly Allen). Top that off with a well designed website and you have a global campaign ready to go.
Instead, by providing no follow-up the campaign only reinforces the shallow experience of democracy for those very cross-border voters (at least in Bangladesh), which extends only to Election Day when the voter is able to select a party for government. Any accountability to the population or between parties beyond that (the mainstay of a functioning democracy), is non-existent as the government and political system then settles down to serve its own needs and ends for the remainder of the term. Specifically on the issue of climate change, for which this campaign was apparently all about, the Bangladeshi government not only fails to respond to the issue even when money is thrown at them by the international community, but exacerbates the grotesque environmental degradation of the country through supporting illegal logging, illegal dredging, illegal construction, ship breaking, the recent decision to pursue coal as the key energy source for energy production, and the failure to re-build flood defences following cyclone Aila. Instead the government and opposition currently spend most of their time arguing over the renaming of the international airport, deciding who the founding father of the country is, and accusing, trying and executing each other over 'war crimes' committed 30 years ago.
This whole campaign was merely a part of the wider disappointment of the UK 2010 elections, falling into the Bono-Bob Geldolf category of image and self-congratulation over actual substance and results. It would be much more effective, though much less sexy and radical, if they were to engage with the very large 1st and 2nd generation Bangladeshi diaspora in the UK who have the right to vote, and to whom the UK government is directly accountable to make sure that they do vote (whilst thinking also about how their vote would affect their relatives back in Bangladesh). And combine that with helping to promote grass-roots political transparency in Bangladesh.