This is based on a speech that I did last night at the first round (club level) of the International Speech Competition - the eventual winner of which competes in Las Vegas. A speech, I should add, that failed to place in the competition.
"Any person capable of getting themselves into a position of power is, by very dint of that fact, the absolute last person you should allow to be there"
Competition Chair, fellow Toastmasters, most welcome guests
Is it just me or are Politician's getting more similar all the time? Think back to the 70s and 80s: the era of Thatcher, Kinnock, Hesseltine, Foot: you may not have liked these people, but you knew who they were and you pretty much knew what they stood for.
Today we have Cameron, Clegg, Milliband: three men who look like they all stepped out of the same cloning machine. They're all so busy trying to hog the middle ground that there can't be any space left.
All over the world in developing countries people travel for miles for the right to take place in a free election: often at great risk to their lives: yet here in the UK only about 60 per cent of the population regularly vote.
How many of you voted in the last election? How many of those of you that voted really took the time to read the party manifesto and know exactly what the party you voted for represented? And how many of you really believed that the party could deliver on those promises? I suspect that by now we're talking about quite small numbers.
Take myself as an example: I'm not particularly politically aware. I don't know that much about each of the parties, I don't particularly believe that any of them can deliver on their promises. I think that all of them have some good ideas, but I don't necessarily believe in all of their ideas, so I find the process of voting quite difficult.
Also I live in an area that is considered to be a safe seat. In other words the same party gets back into power pretty much every time: so my turning out to vote is pretty much a waste of time - I might as well throw my piece of paper up in the air for all the impact it has.
But I do vote - because I feel that it is important for my voice to be heard in some way, shape or form.
So how can my voice be heard? Well - what about some form of Electorial reform? Well - that's handy, because very soon now we are going to have a referendum on precicely that.
It's called Alternative Vote. What this means is that instead of voting for a specific party you have to rank all the candidates in order of preference - say from 1-5. The Liberal Democrat party, as the 3rd biggest party, think this is a great idea that can only benefit them: because let's face it - if your first vote is for Labour then your second vote is hardly going to be for Conservative - and so they will pick up extra points.
Great for them: but is it great for us? Well, potentially it could be: because it could force some of those parties desperate for your vote to smarten up their image, to make it a bit clearer exactly where they stand.
However: it does mean that if there is an extremist party in your area, such as the British National Party, then you have to give them a vote. It may be your lowest vote, but you still have to give it. Now I have a problem with this - I find it hard enough to vote for a party I'm not entirely 100% in favour of, but I really object to having to vote for one I'm 100% against.
So what about the option to vote "None of the above"? Currently people like myself have no option to state "I don't have any faith in any party" and to have that voice heard.
Would the introduction of an option to say "None of the above" result in the collapse of the government? Well, as it happens people in Australia already have the option to say this and I have yet to see their government collapse - so why couldn't we have the same here?
I'd like to leave you now with another quote from the late, great Douglas Adams, who as well as saying that "any person capable of getting themselves into a position of power is the absolute last person you should allow to be there" said: "The purpose of a politician is not so much to wield power: as to take attention away from those that do"