My election notes. E-Day – 23
by Pseud O'Nym
Last night confirmed something I’ve long suspected about the electorate. Democracy is wasted upon them. They just can’t be bothered to actively take part in the process. Sure, if there’s a televised debate they’ll watch that or they register their feelings on Twatter. Or else they’ll do something, pretty much anything, just as long as it’s passive.
And it was their passivity that struck me forcefully again last night. I’d gone to the Greenwich Theatre to hear Ed Balls give a talk, ostensibly to publicize his new book, but more importantly to reflect upon politics and the state of it now, if it needs improving and how, if it does, that might be effected. That sort of thing. Important things, well to me anyway.
But here’s the thing. The Greenwich Theatre has a capacity of almost 500. It was just under half empty and the vast majority of those who were there over 40, some considerably so. It reminded me of the hustings at the last election in 2015, which I wrote about.
Thursday night was one of the most unedifying experiences I’ve had in a long time. Unedifying because it highlighted the sheer apathy of vast swathes of the electorate. The occasion was a hustings in which all the candidates from my constituency were present and were available to be questioned by members of the public. This was a free to attend meeting, was widely advertised and therefore it was a self-selecting audience – only people who wanted to be there, were there.
I went there with a friend who observed that the hall was full and that there were nearly two hundred people in it and that the doors had been closed. A similar amount of people who’d been unable to gain entry to the hall were outside and hadn’t dispersed, so the candidates had an impromptu discussion with them before returning to the main event. This was my friend said a good thing. To me however it was anything but. A paltry figure of almost four hundred people attending a public meeting to grill candidates for an election is not a good thing. Not when you consider that population registered to vote in my constituency was 78,605 (in December 2010). Or that the demographic inside the hall was not the same as the demographic outside it.
Again, it’s a self-selecting audience. It’s one thing people saying that the reason for their lack of engagement in politics is because politics doesn’t mean anything to them, but by the same token it follows that if people are not bothered enough to take an interest in politics, why should politicians be interested in them? As I touched upon in my last blog, it’s a cycle of apathy that politicians publicly decry, but privately delight in.
Is it any wonder then that I commented the previous week that.
The stark facts are these. At the 2010 election 45.6 million people were registered to vote of whom 29.7 million actually bothered to so. Meaning that 65.1% did and 34.9% didn’t. The Conservatives got 36% of votes cast. So when Brand exhorts non-participation, David, Ed and Nick must be secretly grateful. Because politicians know that the older you are, the more likely to vote you are. Hence their reluctance to cut any benefits to a group likely to kick them in the ballots. Conversely, the younger a voter is the less likely they are to vote, and so cuts to their benefits have little electoral risk.
The older you are not only are you more likely to vote, the less time you’ll have to live with the consequences of that vote; Young people voted overwhelmingly to the stay in the EU, older votes didn’t, and there are more of them. It seems that by not getting what they voted for, they think that participatory democracy isn’t for them
After the talk was over, there was the obligatory book signing by Ed. I was seated quite near him and thus could overhear the conversational exchanges. Worryingly, as soon as most people had finished asking about politics, they all said how much they’d liked him on Strictly Come Dancing.