The turnout for the recent UK local elections was abysmal. In the mayoral ballots, fewer than a third of eligible voters turned out. In the council elections: well, I can’t find the figures. Not even my usually reliable political sources (RG and CASA) can tell me. I assume the turnout was awful.
So, trying to be positive, why is this and how can it be changed? (Assuming, as I always do, that voting is a Good Thing.)
Apparently people think that voting doesn’t change anything, to which you only have to whisper “Brexit” in their ear. (Or, if you are one of our cousins from across the Atlantic, “Trump”.) Admittedly, Brexit was an unusual event. Most ballots don’t have such a clear effect. However, looking at recent history in the U.K., Thatcherism and Blairism are two clear consequences of ballots. If voters hadn’t voted the way they did, neither would have happened.
You are probably going to say that these are isolated examples, and that once you have made your choice you have no further say. Additionally, it may be that those idiots who voted for the other candidate were in the majority, and you have been ignored. This is only true if you let it be true. Believe it or not, your elected representatives (and those who want to be your elected representatives) will listen. Sure, if you are campaigning for, say, the Flat Earth theory to be taught in schools, they may well ignore you. However, if you have a clear, well-argued and sensible case; if you are polite and persistent; and especially if you have some others involved in your cause, you will get attention. I believe that most MPs, councillors and the likeactually do care about what their constituents think. You might not get any policy change, but they are acutely conscious of anything that might start to swing the electorate against them. Write, e-mail, go to surgeries. Join a political party, if you care enough for a particular point of view.
Come to think of it, Brexit is a very special case, and the above does not necessarily apply. No further comment.
As I have mentioned in a previous Election Note, some of the electorate will tell you that they are not sufficiently informed about the policies of parties and candidates. I increasingly feel this is a cop-out. You have the right to vote; you have the responsibility to inform yourself about the issues. Newspapers, radio, TV; there’s also this new-fangled thing called the internet. Fake news? Bias? Of course. It’s your job to use your critical faculties to sort it out and make your choice. Talk to canvassers, other people. To be honest, if you want to make your choice based on how much you like the various candidates’ eyes, at least it’s a reason. At least you voted.
In the longer run, it’s clear the public needs to be better informed about politics: the issues, the policies and the system. No doubt someone will say that this is yet another job for schools, blah blah blah. I have a sneaking feeling that we need more respect for politics and politicians.
Footnote: Having seen the newspapers this morning, I am not sure about their validity as a source for information about issues. I say this without a party bias! More later, if I get round to it.