As we enter the third day of the election campaign, voter turnout is again shaping up to be a hot topic for commentators and politicians alike. Newsnight have made the customary ‘lets find out why voters feel so disconnected and disillusioned with politics by visiting a generic working class area and talking to real people’ report.
The solutions being floated seem largely to resolve around an influx of new, energetic, honest MPs who would surely never take advantage of their positions of power in the way the current lot have. As I’ve said before, the problem of corruption is systemic and structural, so I don’t hold out much hope for the prospects of the new lot.
It’s important to acknowledge that voter turnout will likely be low because of a mixture of the relative lacking diversity between the three main parties on many key issues (NHS, welfare and tax reform) and also because of the current electoral system and over-centralisation.
Indeed, Game Theorist Ken Binmore has pointed out that individuals, recognising the relative futility of one vote under First-Past-The-Post will rationally calculate that in many cases it is simply not ‘worth it’ to get out and vote.
Decentralisation, I believe, is crucial here. It seems clear to me that when decisions are made on a more local level and voters can see more clearly where money is spent, turnout is likely to be higher. As it stands, from the perspective of numerous voters, putting a cross on the ballot paper signifies support for a group of people who are distant, legislating in the mysterious world of Westminster and largely unaccountable for up to five years. Democracy must be more responsive and immediate if the electorate is to be truly engaged.
Conservative proposals on the issue seem attractive. But given previous governments’ records on constitutional reform, I’m not holding my breath.