Geoff Hoon today gave a speech outlining his suggestion to ensure higher turnouts at general elections: make voting compulsory.
Personally, I’m not convinced. Isn’t there something a bit twisted about forcing people to fulfill their democratic rights? And that’s the key word here – we have democratic rights, not obligations. In any case, it would be dangerous. Look at the governments that are produced by people actually having a preference. What would we get if the great unwashed suddenly turned up? And what are these recalcitrant voters supposed to do when they’re pushed into the polling booths with cattle prods? Flip a coin? I agree that political participation should be encouraged, but if people genuinely cannot be bothered to get off their fat, lazy arses and vote then, sad as it may be, we just have to accept it.
But there is a tried and tested method of getting people to vote in huge numbers, to hold strong opinons on the candidates, and even pay for the privilege of doing so. It works, without fail, every summer. Put them on Big Brother. It’s a depressing statistic, but more people under 35 vote during this show than in any general election, so there’s only one way to really engage this demographic: put the leaders of all the political parties in the house for 10 weeks. Get them doing tasks, let them speak their minds in the diary room, deprive them of contact with the outside world, withhold treats from them, then get them drunk and rubbing each other’s tits in the hot tub. Guaranteed to increase participation.
Mind you, first they’d have to carve the house out into constituencies and pervert the voting system so that 35% of the votes gives you 55% of the seats. Otherwise, it just wouldn’t be British democracy.