19 May 2009

"Most Voters Don't Read Manifestos And Have Only A Hazy Idea Of Party Policies"

Polly Toynbee has been attacked for saying this by some commenters who say she insults our intelligence.

But this is not about voters intelligence, this quote is just a statement of fact from Polly - people do not read manifestos, they have little interest in the detail of politics whatever their intelligence. So is the following;

"Most voters can't name their MPs or their councillors: they vote the national ticket".

There have been surveys showing how little voters know of their MPs and nothing demonstrates this 'vote for national ticket' more than the latest opinion polls, which still show Labour and Tory garnering 62% of those intending to vote - only about 10% of voters (mostly Labour supporters) have deserted them for minor parties despite the supposed universal disgust at their exorbitant expenses. Most voters cannot abandon their party loyalty no matter what the provocation.

There is now a large pool of 40% of the electorate who do not vote and this will only increase as more than 60% of 18-24 year olds do not vote. Politicians in safe seats are safer still when voters fail to punish them at the ballot box. The poor and the young can be safely ignored when they do not vote. If only these voters were motivated enough to cast their vote en masse for minor parties would the fatcats in parliament sit up and listen.

Polly once again hits on the three main things that need to be done to make our democracy better - proportional elections to Westminster both for the lower house and the unelected upper house and state funding of parties and limits on organisations and individual donations who buy influence over the head of voters.

As Polly points out Gordon has to go and Alan Johnson might just be able to finally honour Labour's pledge for a referendum on electing MPs. Too late to be implemented but a binding referendum would at least present the incoming Tories with a dilemma - ignore the public or honour their wishes. It would be sweet to see them try and wriggle out of that one.

The Tories had their spin ready for the expenses scandal - it seems no coincidence that the details were leaked to the Tory house magazine - the Telegraph, who have carefully picked over the details to hit Labour harder than the Tories. The tactic has clearly been to present Cameron as Mr Clean despite his MPs extravagance and his 20k mortgage interest at taxpayers expense. In truth the Tory claims have been far more outrageous (and costly to the taxpayer - quarter million pound fiddles to Labour MPs thousands and Libs hundreds) than Labours. If Tory voters really did care about taxpayers money being wasted they wouldn't vote Tory again.

Also has anyone noticed how Yougov polls in the Mail and Telegraph are keeping secret the rising Green vote - they don't mind bigging up the UKIP vote (who are just a bunch of ex-Tories) but not the Greens. This is ironic as the Greens are probably the one party who are free of expense scandals - UKIP have had MEPs sent to jail over it.

I'll finish with this quote from a commenter to Polly's article which sums up our dim future.

"There are some good ideas in this, but when I look at them my heart just sinks. The problem is that we have a prime minister who is an arrogant cretin. We need PR now, or our thoroughly rancid electoral system is going to hand a landslide to a conservative party few people really want to see in government. Now's Gordon's chance to lead the way to real reform. But he won't. He's too stupid. How on earth did this utter cretin ever get into office?"

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