i Editor's Letter: They conspire against us


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The Independent Online


How dare those revolting Continentals defy those untouched by the recession to vote against more personal austerity? At least they voted, eh? Here are the turnout figures from the past week: London mayoral election – 38%; Britain's local elections: 32%; presidential election, France (round two) – 81% . The despairing Greeks still managed 65% – the same as at the 2010 UK general election. (Yes, locals and nationals are not the same, but...)

i's inbox this week has filled with letters on the "it is our duty to vote" debate; I was always in that "duty" camp, but of late, I am not so sure. Perhaps it's age: elections fly by at an alarming rate; main parties converge in the centre ground at an even faster pace; and a disgruntled electorate casts around for a real alternative. Candidates' election resources and the system (including TV coverage) conspire against us.

Some find solace in a UKIP or an attractive independent like George Galloway, others in extremists. But how many vote just as a protest? How can most of us know what candidates stand for when largely denied access to their arguments? What comes first, the "interest in serious politics" egg or the "belief there is no difference between the politicians and parties" chicken?

In France 17 million tuned in for last week's (three-hour-long) live TV debate between Hollande and Sarko. In fact, 10 million for the first of our three debates in 2010 wasn't that bad. But, we do need a rethink on how politics is presented to help us all re-engage – from the national embarrassment that is the weekly Prime Minister's Questions to the tired format of BBC Question Time. That said, we can fix the medium as much as we want, we can't change the politicians' messages!