Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Fixing the Vote?

We all dislike politicians and so many would have found little sympathy for bereaved MPs who lost a seat at the recent boundary changes implemented by the government, cutting the number of MPs from 650 to 600. Such a call has long been advocated, allowing a re-allocation of resources so the fewer MPs have a much greater chance to do their jobs more effectively. Much attention has been focused on high profile MPs under threat like Tim Farron, the Lib Dem president, or Nadine Dorries, the anti-abortion activist. Moreover Labourites have attacked the proposals for cutting slightly more Labour seats than Tory ones, though this is largely insignificant. Indeed, some would say the losses in terms of actual seats are a smokescreen to the much more concerning reforms that come with it, namely the proposal to make it no longer compulsory to co-operate with electoral registration officers. Thus many less politically interested voters will simply forget to register and be unable to vote. Leaving registration to the individual is more likely to lead to less representation in working class areas, whereas Tory strongholds will do better. In marginal seats this could tip the balance for generations to come towards the Blue. 

It may seem cynical to say that poorer people are less inclined to sort out their voting registration and will never vote conservative, or that richer people will always vote Tory and are more likely to understand and act on the system, whilst you may think that if someone cannot be bothered to register individually, then why should we care? But the problem is that just because many people are disinterested in politics, does not mean that we should give up on their vote. Just because they need a nudge in the correct direction does not mean their vote is any less valuable, on the contrary, it is worth more as it represents the average citizen, whereas more politically interested voters, like myself, tend to be abnormalities in that regard. Were this to occur, than elections would be dominated by something of an unrepresentative extreme, with the views of many ordinary folk left out. How could such an election claim to represent us, and thus legitimately govern, us all, if so many of its citizens did not vote at all. In fact such a system is yet another Americanisation on behalf of the Coalition, and helped George W. Bush to his infamous Florida win in 2000.

I have long advocated compulsory voting, along with several other measures, to truly maximise our democratic output, but this is a step in completely the wrong direction. Not realising how to vote will put many more people off politics all together, and the representatives of the Southern, White, Upper Middle Classes, shall rule over us all. It is true to the Conservative plan. Offer increased 'involvement' in government whilst ensuring that such involvement is dictated by party loyalists. Perhaps an even greater irony is that this goes directly against the new Conservative fad, nudge theory, whereby little encouragements and reminders help people achieve greater levels of civic duty. For instance, when renewing driving licenses, we can now, thanks to the Coalition, apply to be organ donors, a good idea in my opinion. So that this is removing a pre-existing 'nudge' can, in my view, only serve to underline the political gamesmanship on show by the government.Many people simply do not understand the system, even as it is.

I would like to renew my call for compulsory voting, with a 'none of the above' option. It would not really harm our liberties, as it a small, yet vastly important civic duty, more important than paying tax. It doesn’t take long and would ensure that our elected leaders really are true representatives of the nation. In fact it'd make sure that politicians were telling the truth about their roles, for once.


  1. Hi, Alfie,

    I don't think compulsory voting's the way forward. I think it's more likely to lead to what might frankly be piss-take voting (see Australia after the introduction of compulsory voting)- and if people don't want to partake in the democratic process, that's their choice. The best way to increase voter turnout should be through positive measures, through giving them a reason to think voting matters. That should mean proportional representation (perhaps AMS/ AV+), and I think the Labour Party at least should open itself up to a great deal more internal democratisation, and take steps to make for more representative candidates. That's the way to engage voters- to make them feel like they have an impact on the democratic process. People forced to vote will more likely resent it, and make insincere, ill thought-through decisions.

    That's how I see it, anyway. I don't think it would have an overwhelmingly negative impact, just that it won't solve any problems...

  2. I guess i must be more cynical than you, but i just dont feel that most people care about politics as much as we do, or think they should. The media makes them politically docile, they are told that someone else is fighitng for their rights and needs so they dont have to, its called 'bewildered herd' theory.

    Anyway the main point here was that the Tories are trying to manipulate voting patterns, which is something, that I think deserves greater attentionm