If we vote on TV shows then why not for an AM?

RHODRI Morgan caused some controversy before last week's Assembly elections by saying that the media's obsession with turnout was like sports reporters discussing only the size of the expected crowd before the Cup Final.

Surely the important thing was to discuss who was going to win! His remarks caused a stir because they broke a taboo in politics. Whatever Party they are from, politicians are supposed to unite to call upon everyone to vote.

Nevertheless he was making a valid point. During the Assembly election campaign it seemed that some parts of the media thought that their main role was to stir up apathy, rather than talk about the issues and likely outcome of the vote.

In truth most of the explanations for falling turnout at elections only touch the surface. This is not an issue which affects only elections to the Welsh Assembly, or even the UK parliament.

Voter turn out in elections is falling in every country in the western world.

Politicians and journalists scratch their heads about it, but the truth is we don't really understand what is going on.

I suspect that changes in society and technology in the last twenty years mean that the old politics is breaking down. Many people no longer feel strong identity with social class, and tend to see voting as another consumer activity.

The attitude towards politicians is not “what are you going to do for the country, or even the city or community?” Often these days the attitude seems to be “what are you going to do for me, personally; now?”

During the election campaign I was delivering Labour leaflets to houses in my constituency. As I walked away from one house the door opened and an angry woman emerged thrusting the leaflet back at me saying she had no interest in politics and voting.

Her face was familiar because I had helped her several times at my surgeries over the years. As the penny dropped she recognized me too, and proceeded to ask me to help her with another problem.

It occurred to me that she had not made the connection at all in her mind between the act of voting, and the help she received from a politician.

People sometimes tell me that they don't vote because it isn't important and not worth the effort. Yet the same individuals will pay to vote on a premium phone line in “I'm a Celebrity Get me out of here” or “Big Brother”.

In modern society we exercise more and more choice, over more and more things, of less and less importance.

We live in the age of what I call the “Anti-Politics”.

Some people think that the answer is to introduce compulsory voting – they are wrong.
If anything the carrot is better than the stick. Why not give people an incentive to vote; a free lottery ticket for example?

Or why not follow changes to the law of rugby in recent years and adopt the principle of “use it or lose it”.

If you don't vote at one election, perhaps you should lose your right to vote at the next.

The technology makes it possible to abolish politicians, and have direct instantaneous votes like in Big Brother. Isn't this what people really want?

Direct democracy seems attractive but would it really lead to a better world?

Two thousand years ago Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem to huge popular acclaim on the back of a donkey. Four days later the same crowd voted to crucify him ahead of a convicted criminal.

Our representative democracy is obviously the worst system ever devised, except for every other one.