I wouldn’t usually write a blog in response to someone else’s but I really liked this one from the always readable Left of Lightwater in which he describes a very typical BBQ discussion about elections and their general lack of interest. http://leftoflightwater.wordpress.com/
Like any local politician, going along to Council meetings is only one aspect of life and in the summer, I usually spend my Saturday afternoons playing cricket for a local club side in Surrey. It’s fair to say that most of the other players would have about as much interest in politics as watching paint dry for the afternoon which is great as it means getting the real views and experiences of people rather than just hearing from those in political circles who falsely believe that they know what is going on.
So here’s my unofficial straw poll courtesy of a different all-age group to the Lightwater BBQers.
Did you vote?
– “No, it’s a load of ########”
– “No – I only bother if it’s a general election.”
– “Everyone’s the same and no-one does anything”
– “Voted for what? Don’t know what you are talking about.”
– “Don’t really understand it – just seems like a load of people arguing.”
Some others did say that they would probably have voted if they knew anyone standing or would have voted for me if they lived in the area even if they didn’t like my “colour”. One or two described experiences with their own local councillor in different areas which had generally been negative along the lines of “they like to hear the sound of their own voice” or “they never got back to me” or “they never did anything”.
Like LoL, I reckon our unofficial straw polls are actually a pretty accurate reflection of what many in society think. There are in fact only a very small minority of people who are politically engaged and the rest are either not at all or it is just of passing interest around elections or certain news stories. This is a shame as actually most politicians are very hard working for their communities.
But if you dig deeper, you will find that many people actually hold strong well formed opinions on different matters. So for example, they will avidly follow a football team, know their celebrities, have strong and often different views on moral issues and tell you about how money is spent or wasted. But mention any political party and watch eyes glaze over!
So my starting point for improving voting turnouts would be:-
– Politicians at all levels actually talking about issues and subjects that interest people but in a real way and not overly partisan (the public are very good at seeing through politicians who blag!) This is something I already try to do on Twitter in a small way but will probably now throw in the odd random blog as well particularly on topical or local subjects.
– Get as many candidates as possible involved within their community – people are more likely to vote if their pal is standing or alternatively if they know a candidate and want to vote against them. A choice of bland party hacks does not appeal to many.
– Using the community networks that are already in place. By this, I don’t particularly mean social media (although that clearly has an important role) but the numerous sporting clubs, faith groups, community radio, pub quizzes etc.etc. already doing this.
There are probably loads of other ideas knocking around – now’s the time to hear them before all the politicos get focused on the next set of elections in 12 months time.