Thursday, 5 July 2007

Voter apathy in the UK

Returning to the new UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s ill conceived idea of emulating our continental cousins by holding elections at the weekend , mooted at the despatch box yesterday.

After all he has only been in the job a week ;-) and as he intimated (before he realised quite what he was saying) can’t be expected to know much about what has been going on in Government. Give him a chance…

As I observed elsewhere we do all have ‘better’ things to do with our weekends ;-)

Why has he come up with the idea? Certainly it is ‘fresh’ (for the UK) and ‘newsworthy’, probably that is enough in it’s self for a politician who desires to associate himself with these concepts -

It may be related to the apparent loss of voter interest in politics.

Lets examine that. Party politics. In my experience few supporters of any party actually like all their parties policies. For most of us who take an actual interest, rather than vote for a cardboard cut out with the right coloured rosette, it is a case of finding the party with the least objectionable set of policies and promises.

Then we cast our vote knowing that a random selection of those policies and promises will in all likelihood never actually be honoured as they were probably designed to hook votes and nothing more anyway.

Now if your constituency is subject to swings, then it is worth voting for the package you have the least objection to, but don’t be surprised if it turns out not to be as advertised. ”The manufacturer reserves the right to vary the product specification without notice” as they say - As an example in the headlines, Nu-Lab’s empty manifesto promise of a referendum on the EU Constitution springs immediately to mind.

Too much of that sort of thing and you start to loose faith in the whole system, let alone interest in voting.

Then if you live in a ‘safe’ seat and you don’t happen to support that particular party, then you are effectively disenfranchised anyway, so the best you can do is move, or make a protest vote.

What do voters do under those circumstances? They either loose interest, or if they are sufficiently motivated, drift towards single issue politics - and work to pressureall parties on their particular issue/s.

Then again there is the gradually increasing awareness that much legislation is actually now driven more and more from Brussels - and the UK Parliament is becoming increasingly irrelevant as a consequence. When you think about it, by failing to call for a referendum, Gordon Brown will significantly increase that irrelevance.

Still unelected Commissionerhood could eventually wait in the wings for our Gordon…

What might get voters interested again? Well a 'none of the above' box on the ballot paper springs immediately to mind, but I can’t see Politicians going for that as it damns the lot of them.

Maybe a negative vote. So instead of voting for someone you could vote against someone if you wanted. That would be a more honest form of tactical voting and at least probably engage the electorate. Again I can’t see politicians being too keen on it though.

Maybe binding referenda on some single issues might engage the public? A civil service dept, or independent commission, might come up with a spread of proposals for each issue, on various issues, based on opinion polls. The Referendum should be framed and worded so it didn’t prejudice the result.

A referendum on the EU Constitutional Treaty would almost certainly galvanise voters.

The prospect of Parliament regaining some of it’s powers, or at least not loosing more power, might well make voting for it’s members more relevant to the UK electorate again.

1 comment:

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