voter disengagement

Let's not be squeamish about bringing politics into the classroom

21st January 2014
21 Jan 2014
Tags: 
votes at 16
voter disengagement
fair franchise

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Responding to David Blunkett’s speech to the Centre for Social Justice on political disengagement[1], Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“David Blunkett is absolutely right to be concerned about the way young people are turning away from politics. Fewer than one in eight people under the age of 25 intend to vote[2], making our democracy increasingly illegitimate and skewed against those who don’t turn up.

“He is also right to call for political awareness to be ‘part of the natural development of young people’. Democratic politics is a crucial part of what it means to live in our society, and we shouldn’t be afraid to bring young people into contact with it. That means not being squeamish about bringing politics into the classroom, and recognising that explicitly political activism can be just as valuable as charitable volunteering.

“Schools could be places where both young people and adults start to build a new relationship with the idea of politics. If we combined an increased acceptance of politics at school with a stronger commitment to civic education and lowering the voting age to 16, then perhaps we can start to reverse some of these damaging trends. We need to change our culture so that politics is seen as a part of everyone’s lives, rather than something done by remote, alien people in faraway places.”

Russell Brand: right about the problem, wrong about the solution

8th November 2013
8 Nov 2013
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voter disengagement

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Russell Brand: right about the problem, wrong about the solution

Russell Brand is right to highlight the problem of political disengagement but wrong to suggest that not voting is the answer, the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) has claimed.
 

Responding to the ongoing debate sparked by Brand’s article in the New Statesman and interview on Newsnight, the ERS has pointed to a raft of positive measures which both politicians and people could be taking in order to close the gap between people and politics.
 
Katie Ghose, chief executive of the ERS, said:
 
“Russell Brand is absolutely right to point out that people are increasingly disillusioned with politics, and that something has to be done. But he is wrong to think that encouraging people not to vote is any kind of answer. We should not forget how precious democracy is, and calling for mass non-participation is a dangerous, irresponsible and ultimately futile way of tackling disengagement.
 
“Instead of advocating essentially negative measures like Mr Brand’s call not to vote and others’ requests for having a ‘none of the above’ option on the ballot, we believe there are positive and practical things which we could be doing.
 
“We need to update our political system to bring it in line with the 21st century. The House of Lords should be elected so that the second chamber is a reflection of voters’ and not party leaders’ choices. And we should have a fairer voting system at the local level, so that people are less likely to feel their votes are wasted.
 
“Political parties need to wake up to the fact that people no longer have faith in them. They should be finding ways to open up to more people, and they should reach a deal on party funding so we can get the big money out of politics once and for all.
 
“Finally, we need to encourage people to recognise how – despite its faults – our representative democracy has a value beyond price. We need to foster cultural change, starting young with civic education and a landmark first vote at 16. This would make voting a lifetime habit, creating a generation more willing to meet politics halfway and less likely to project unreasonable demands on a system which is theirs to shape.
 
We should be proud to participate in our democracy. Perhaps it is time to renew our faith in it by refreshing both the way we do politics and the way we think about it.”