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How can it be improved and does it matter?. Democracy in Crisis? Source: MORI 2003, way before the MPs expenses scandal! Politics in the UK is in crisis.

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Presentation on theme: "How can it be improved and does it matter?. Democracy in Crisis? Source: MORI 2003, way before the MPs expenses scandal! Politics in the UK is in crisis."— Presentation transcript:

1 How can it be improved and does it matter?

2 Democracy in Crisis? Source: MORI 2003, way before the MPs expenses scandal! Politics in the UK is in crisis. The row over MPs’ expenses scandal is just the latest example of how disillusioned many voters are with our political representatives. Many voters feel that MPs enter politics for the money, the status, the holidays and the variety of freebies and perks of the job. Reform is required, not just of expenses, but of the whole political system in order to build some kind of trust in democratic institutions. MPs expenses scandal

3 Voter turn outs in UK General Elections: FPTP Under FPTP there are many safe seats, where it is highly improbable that the incumbent candidate will lose. If you wish to vote for an alternative candidate, why bother? It is also said that the political parties concentrate their main efforts on only 800,000 voters - those in the marginal seats they think they can win. That means that many millions of other voters are largely irrelevant to the outcome of the election. So, it is hardly surprising if they don't feel terribly excited by the chance to exercise their democratic mandate.

4 Does PR increase turnout? UK General Election 2010 FPTP Scottish local councils 2007 STV Scottish Parliament 2007 AMS European Parliament 2009 d’Hondt Party List Voter Turnout 65.1%52.1%51.7%34% The type of voting system, on its own, would not appear to be the decisive factor in encouraging voters to turn out and vote. Its perhaps unfair to deliver judgement on STV local council elections until STV elections are “de-coupled from the Scottish Parliament elections in 2011. UK voters do, though, appear to see the General Election as the most important, despite its much criticised First Past the Post (FPTP) voting system.

5 Demographics Younger people, men, ethnic minorities disabled and poorer people all being less likely to vote than their older, female, white, non-disabled and well off counterparts. In the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections the gap between rich and poor in participation rates widened; turnout on the constituency vote reached 62% in the Western Isles (up more than three points on 2003) and 63.4% in Eastwood (up 5.4% on 2003). In Glasgow Shettleston, the Scottish Parliament’s safest seat (coincidence?), turnout was just 33.4% Glasgow Shettleston.

6 Is Modern life too busy? People are living increasingly busy lives with growing work and family commitments. Having to go to an old school or a church hall to vote may be difficult to fit into the day. The younger generations live their life through the digital world of mobiles and internet. It is claimed that they would vote more if voting could be done in this way, than the time consuming and “boring” method of using a grubby old pencil in a local primary school.. True?

7 Voters know who will win? “Just provide the voters with a closely fought election at which a great deal is at stake and, make no mistake, they will again turn out in their droves.” Professor Anthony King An important driver of turnout is the extent of competition between the leading parties. Some argue that the reason turn out went up to 65% in the 2010 General Election was due to the fact that the campaign was so closely fought. Voting mattered, therefore voters turned out. This may have some truth, up to a point. But, the Scottish elections in 2007 were high profile and very close, with the result was very much in doubt as well. The turn out was just 52%.

8 Voters are now too well off? Some claim that because after many years of uninterrupted economic growth, many voters are too well off and are not bothered about politics any more. So long as the money keeps coming in we don't much care who governs us. But, it is those who have money who vote the most! Those who need political change the most, the poorest, are the ones least likely to vote.

9 Parties all the same? It is argued that people are not interested in voting because they don't like any of the options on offer, that are all the same. Both parties that could win a UK General Election have moved into the centre ground. There are no big ideological differences between the parties despite what both Labour and Conservatives claim. Both agree on the fundamentals of running an economy and foreign policy. In Scotland though there is a variety of electable parties on offer. Blair/Cameron

10 In Scotland, the parties are very different In Scotland, there are major constitutional differences between SNP and Labour. And, if voters voted for small parties, such as the Greens or Scottish Solidarity, they could have been elected. But, turn out for the 2007 Scottish election was much smaller than that in the FPTP 2010 UK General Election, where, allegedly, parties are “just the same”.

11 Does improving voter turn out matter? Tony Blair was elected three times as Prime Minister as head of the Labour Party in elections where turn outs reached historic lows. Did he really care that much? Would he rather have did what Gordon brown did and lost to the Conservatives on a higher turn out? In a 2000 Scottish Parliament by election in Glasgow Anniesland, Labour retained the seat with a 38.42% turn out. This was the lowest turn out in Scotland since universal suffrage. Did Labour care? Labour’s primary task was to win the seat, not improve the turn out. Politics, ultimately is about winning.

12 Reform the political culture Perhaps focusing on turn out is missing the point. Maybe its nothing to do with being too busy, or being too well off. Perhaps the solution lies in a more intelligent political culture. Less spin? Less sleaze? Less jargon? MPs telling the truth? Representatives doing the job out of public service than for their own financial gain? Greater attempts by political parties to involve themselves in communities outside of election time?

13 Make Politics Exciting! 9 million viewers tuned in for the first ever UK Leaders’ debates. For a short time, politics seemed to be interesting. Can we “X Factor” politics? Leaders Debate 2010

14 Low turn-outs have consequences At the European Elections of June 2009, the racist British National Party (BNP) managed to have two MEPs elected. Many who voted BNP may not have been aware of the party’s history of racial violence and intolerance. The BNP benefitted from a low turn-out and widespread public displeasure of the major parties in the aftermath of the MPs expenses scandals. Recession, unemployment and insecurity are the classic breeding grounds for the Far Right. Not in My Name

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