Turn up the volume, rock the vote

There have been two women in my life in recent days who have become particularly notable: Sue Gray and Adele.

By Calum MacDonald
Friday, 28th January 2022, 1:10 pm
CJ Cregg, the fictional press secretary on the global hit The West Wing, a serial drama about the White House, was right when she called for everyone to embrace the vote - or as she colourfully put it: "You've got to rock the vote!"
CJ Cregg, the fictional press secretary on the global hit The West Wing, a serial drama about the White House, was right when she called for everyone to embrace the vote - or as she colourfully put it: "You've got to rock the vote!"

I know neither of them personally. I don’t even know Adele’s surname, as a matter of fact. But they have been floating around the news headlines constantly. Adele is being talked about because she’s cancelled a run of gigs in Las Vegas - she was due to earn £500,000 a night. Clearly has not been an easy decision. Sue Gray? Well, you have probably become familiar with the senior civil servant who’s been working away, establishing facts about Downing Street’s lockdown parties. It seems she won’t be making a decision on whether rules were broken, though, arguably, it’s quite a clear cut and straightforward decision.

What has struck me is the strength and determination of the response from Adele’s fans who are, as you might imagine, remarkably unhappy. She said she’s cancelled her shows because Covid has caught up with people in her team and they’ve had supply chain issues and delays and it’s all just become a bit impossible. Fans are feeling scorched. Dawn Sinko, designer from L.A., spent nearly $4,000 on tickets and $1,500 on a room at Caesars for three nights, reports The Daily Mail. The fans are making themselves heard.

Have you been paying attention to the volume level from the Conservative party, and from the public at large, to the lockdown parties? Some Conservative MPs spoke out against the parties. For a few days, from all sides, it was booming: outrage reigned, pain was intensified for those who stuck so carefully to rules only to see them being flouted by those who made them. As you cover a story like this which goes on for days, as more revelations leak, as the PM makes yet another statement, winding his defence down yet another unfathomable dead end, you notice that lethargy sets in, that laissez faire becomes the default approach. What’s difficult is to offset that against the importance of the new developments. Perhaps you’ve tuned out of the coverage already.

Sign up to our daily Stornoway Gazette Today newsletter

It’s difficult to assess public engagement in things that can feel as dense, distant and downright pointless as a civil servant’s inquiry, especially one where the facts are inescapably partying in our faces. One media outlet tried, though, by studying Google Trends data, which analyses what people are searching for online. I imagine it won’t surprise you to know that Adele is dramatically “more-Googled” than Sue Gray. There are two considerations here: either everyone already knows who Sue Gray is. Or not as many people care. I suspect it’s a bit of both.

“Politics is boring,” is the tedious mantra of anyone who is dull enough to not care about politics. The last few weeks have proven that politics is anything but boring. Moreover, it is important. Another notable woman in my life is CJ Cregg. I’ve just searched all the columns I’ve written for you in this paper. Unbelievably, I haven’t mentioned The West Wing TV series once. So here’s the first reference, probably of many (I’ve watched all seven series, 10 times). CJ Cregg, the fictional US president’s press secretary is hosting an event aimed at engaging younger, student aged voters in politics. She’s speaking in an interlude of rock songs from the live band. She yells passionately: “How many of you have student loans to pay? How many have credit card debt? How many want clean air and clean water and civil liberties? How many want jobs? How many want kids? How many want their kids to go to good schools and walk on safe streets? Decisions are made by those who show up. You gotta rock the vote!”

You gotta rock the vote. Politics is important. It impacts every area of your life, as has been seen during Covid restrictions and beyond.

Politicians who do things that outrage us, are counting on us getting bored. It’s the only way they can survive. My friend Stig Abell and I were chatting about what has happened to the power of the press in these situations. The media’s credibility has been slowly undermined by those who wish to get away with things. Never forget that the news media should work for you. I don’t mean it should make you feel comfortable. I mean that it is literally acting on your behalf. The journalism that has uncovered the scandalous actions of so many in Downing Street while the rest of us cowered in our homes scared to look at another person for fear of killing them with Covid, is phenomenal. It has been correct, accurate, thorough - and it has shone a light on the darkest actions of those elected to power over us. Don’t be bored by those journalists who are acting on your behalf, to expose wrongdoing, injustice, poor behaviour and poor leadership. Channel your inner Adele fan – be outraged that the people you have invested in, either directly by voting for them or indirectly by virtue of democracy, are not representing you well. Turn up the volume, keep the receipts, and demand a refund. Decisions are made by those who show up. You gotta rock the vote.