Every now and again we hear a call for the need for political parties, government and candidates to “reach out” and “engage” with various groups in society who do not participate in the political process. In many cases, there are good reasons. It’s good, for example, for political parties to attempt to communicate with new immigrants, because this helps them learn about their rights as voters.
What does my head in, on the other hand, is the obsession with reaching out to groups of people who are well aware of their political rights, but just couldn’t be arsed. Take the obsession with engaging young people with politics. In my days in youth politics, we squandered vast amounts of time and money trying to get our fellow young people involved in politics. We organised piss ups, we tried to dumb down issues for them to understand, and for what? So that basically people who were interested in politics spent less time actually discussing issues but instead pandering to people whom we’d be better off with not voting at all.
It’s the same with turnout. In Britain, Labour have become obsessed with boosting turnout at all costs, including making the electoral system open to abuse through postal voting. For what? So that people who think that spending 15 minutes voting every 5 years is hard should be consulted on the direction of the country? Yes, it’s their right. But I’ve a right to think that people like that are unlikely to have given much consideration to who they’re voting for or why.
“But, politics is so complicated!” They whine. Yes, it is. Running a €150 billion economy is complicated, as is brain surgery and air traffic control. Get used to it. Not sure about an issue? Ask your TD, or look it up on the web, but up your game, because we’re fed up pandering to the drooling vegetable vote.
We’d actually be better off offering every voter a tenner not to vote when they arrive at the polling station. That way, everyone’s right to vote is protected, as it should be, but those who refuse the tenner are far more likely to be taking the damn thing seriously.