miss_s_b: (Politics: Democracy)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
I've seen a huge number of theories on this, but given some politicians' disdain for actually doing research and finding things out, I suspect we'll never have a definitive answer. After all, it's much easier to pontificate from assumptions than do research... With that caveat in mind, I'd like to take a look at some of the theories.

1, Nobody votes in winter elections

Turnout in winter elections does tend to be depressed by 5 or 6 percent. This may be a factor, but it's clearly not the full explanation when in some places turnout didn't even hit 10 percent.

2, There was a lack of information about the elections

There was no freepost mailshot. The London-based national media were totally apathetic about reporting that the elections were happening (unlike the bloody London mayor, which the rest of us had to suffer ad nauseam). The government didn't push the elections either. The Choose My PCC website was abysmal, and the helpline was worse than useless. This all gave the electorate the impression that nobody could be bothered. Again, I think this was a factor, but not the full explanation.

3, There was a lack of meaningful choice

Even if you get over the hurdles of lack of information, you discover that most of the candidates were standing on identical platforms. More bobbies on the beat, less anti-social behaviour, etc. Unless you have strong ideological political convictions (which is not very many people these days) from which you could extrapolate the values of the candidate (because very few made overtly political statements) how the hell were you meant to choose between them? And if there's no meaningful choice, people won't bother to vote - I personally think this is a large part of the decline in turnouts in other elections too.

4, People object to the idea of a politician running the police

This may be true, although it shows ill-informedness about how the police were run before. Again, I think the media must take some share of the blame for this. Pretty much all of the reports I have seen have described the PCCs as replacing the Police Authority - which is something of a misconception - and have not described how the existing police authorities were comprised of local councillors anyway so were already politicised. The only thing that has really changed here is the name of the police authority - they are now police and crime panels - and the fact that the chair of the authority has been renamed commissioner and is now directly elected rather than indirectly.

5, People who object to the idea of elected police commissioners had no way to register their disdain other than to stay away

Although there have been a larger number of spoilt ballots this time, people are still unaware of the power of a spoilt ballot, and so tried to send a message by not voting. Unfortunately, we all know that politicians and the media will paint this as "voter apathy" and people "not bothering". This will increase feelings of disenfranchisement and frustration among the electorate. At some point this is going to boil over, but clearly this election wasn't it.

If you DO object to the very idea of elected police and crime commissioners, by the way, I recommend either signing Unlock Democracy's open letter to Theresa May or signing the epetition here, or both.

6, People are just generally pissed off with politicians, political media, and elections

I, personally, think this is the nub of it. And because people are just generally pissed off with politicians, political media, and elections this feeds into the perception that there is a lack of meaningful choice - if all politicians are the same and they are all venal scumsucking money-grubbing bastards, why bother to try to choose between them? It won't make any difference.

The causes of this are many and complex, but a large part of it is the electoral system which forces there two be two big broad church parties of disparate people BEFORE an election rather than coalitions forming after; a large part of it is the media who love to take politicians down and misrepresent them for sensationalist reasons; some of it is a lack of education on politics and its processes; and some of it is the dishonesty of politicians in not admitting that actually, there is very little difference between any of the main parties precisely due to the above effects.

There needs to be a sea change in politics in this country. People like Loz Kaye and even the idiot Farage are doing their best to bring that about peacefully, but powerful forces are ranged against them. The Labour and Conservative parties really don't want to see it happen because it will mean the end of their century-old strangehold on power, which is why all of the opprobrium for unpopular government decisions has been aimed by them at the Lib Dems. The dead tree media don't want to see it happen because pluralist politics is far harder to report than red/blue blue/red spats, which is why all of the opprobrium for unpopular government decisions has been aimed by THEM at the Lib Dems.

But I think it's going to happen. Whether or not it happens peacefully depends on exactly how hard the establishment resists, but we've already seen riots, record low turnout in elections, and we're seeing the demonisation and othering of everyone from the disabled to those who dare to voice dissent on twitter. It takes a lot to make British people rouse from their "mustn't grumble" natural state and revolt, but we're seeing signs of it happening. Our political class (myself included) needs to pay attention to this and do something about it, before the entire edifice gets burned.

Date: Friday, November 16th, 2012 06:01 pm (UTC)
jo: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jo
I would add another reason - the further down the power food chain is the thing/body you're voting for, the less interest there is in voting. In Canada, voter turnout is highest (but declining) for federal and provincial elections (sometimes higher for provincial elections because people feel closer to their provincial government than faraway Ottawa), but when you get around to municipal elections, you're lucky if turnout hits above 30%, because people tend to see municipal councils as largely powerless (they're funded by the province the city is located in, so really the province has the power there), and things like school board elections - gah - lucky to get turnout in the teens because, seriously, who cares? Even people with kids often can't be bothered to vote for school board trustees. I'm 49 and voted in my first ever city election a couple of years ago, only because there was a total idiot running for mayor (and he won). If all of the mayoral candidates had been mostly OK, I wouldn't have bothered.
Edited Date: Friday, November 16th, 2012 06:02 pm (UTC)

Date: Saturday, November 17th, 2012 02:05 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I think a huge part of the low turn out is lack of media, I had heard the odd comment about PCC but it was not until I got the vote date card through the mailbox and actually looked at it that I realised just exactly why this was a big deal.

So then my first thought was right local newspaper should have something on this, nope. As the days counted down nothing much was written about it, just the odd little slogan and quick 1 sentence about what they stood for. You would think that for something this important papers and local news would be giving info on candidates and what the job entails but I saw and heard hardly anything worthwhile. I was told local radio did have talks but seemed to be more a slagging off contest and about the political views of the candidate.

So after giving up on the televised media I went to web sites, most news site had little info and when you visited the candidates site it had views which a lot had similar goals, places people campaigned and blogs. Okay great so a lot of random info some candidates giving clear outlines others not so clear, and the work put in by some was amazing all the places visited over the last 6 or so months but none of this out in the media. The main question I would like answered is why, low turn outs predicted by the media but little coverage which I can only assume was done so they can say ha look at the low turn out >.<

I could go as far as to say that candidates did not have enough time to organise, the go ahead was given in Feb 2012 and votes were in Nov 2012 so that is 8 months to apply and then go out and be heard. Winter is hardly the time people want to be out voting either which is widely known the elections this time of year have lower turn out.

People say that if there had been leaflets from candidates... well okay sure leaflets could have been used for awareness but I am pretty sure 90% of people look most mail as junk. It might have helped a bit but at the end of the day I think cost of the leaflet vs increase in turn out would have been poor. That said a community leaflet telling people there is this happening in X months and given government sites would have been more useful.

I do think a lot of people want less politics and are growing increasingly sick of our current system so a lot would choose to simply ditch and I agree not many people understand spoilt ballets. I was one of those people, it was about a year ago now I got asked who I voted for government. Well I said to that no one, there was no party at this current point in time I felt best suited my views in response to this I got asked why did I not just ruin the ballet. This gave me pause, why would you ruin a ballet it is not counted and I thought illegal to do so, when I replied with that I was promptly told that a ruined ballet is not illegal. It shows you have actually gone out to vote instead of ignoring the issue at hand and have found your options lacking, you can even write on the ballet your reason for your displeasure. This blew my mind, for years now as I grew up I thought you had to pick the choices given or the best out of a poor choice set or do nothing at all. It got me to realise that while education in schools told me how the vote evolved and the breakthroughs like womens votes it told me nothing about the power to spoil it to get attention. Nor do schools actually teach children anything about politics as part of general eduction, it feels like here in the UK the general population is kept pretty ignorant and we are infact lead by the media and narrow views that we don't know what is going on.

Date: Saturday, November 17th, 2012 11:23 am (UTC)
daweaver:   (Default)
From: [personal profile] daweaver
The result from the Deep South (well, Birmingham) is that about 3.5% of papers were spoiled. Spoiled finished eighth of the seven candidates, with three-quarters of the UKIP vote.

I was looking for a candidate who would stand up to the excesses of the police, act as a critical friend, almost force them to justify their existence. No such candidate was on the paper: all were in favour of the police force as it is currently constituted. It was a personality contest between silhouettes.

Date: Saturday, November 17th, 2012 06:18 pm (UTC)
antisoppist: (Default)
From: [personal profile] antisoppist
For me it was 2 & 3 with a bit of 5. I did vote but had no information on it at all apart from a polling card. Because I do the internet, I went searching to find out who my candidates were the night before but not everybody does the internet - I sing in a choir where older members aren't very happy with getting e-mails and not everyone has broadband.

I was surprised to find I was voting for a PCC for an area (Avon and Somerset) that runs up to Gloucestershire when I am 9 miles east of Devon, and nowhere in my research did I discover that I was supposed to vote for two of them, which was a bit of a surprise when I got to the polling station.

And then I heard someone on the radio saying PCCs would be good because they would be local and people would know who they were. Down here the feeling is that all the focus will be on Bristol and the whole thing is completely irrelevant to us.

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