i Editor's Letter: Why don't people vote?


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The Independent Online


How many of you plan to vote today? I know, I know, many of you can’t because the majority of the 35 councils up for grabs are non-metropolitan, but that’s still a sizeable chunk of the UK population. If we surveyed you, I’m sure you would say that what happens on your local council matters and directly affects you.

Yet actual voter numbers suggest you don’t care. According to House of Commons Library statistics, the average turnout last year for council elections was 31.3 per cent. In 2009, when these particular elections were last held, it was 39.2 per cent. Even the Boris v Ken battle for London Mayor produced a mere 37.4 per cent turnout – worth remembering when Boris bangs on about toughening up union ballot rules (his share was 51.5 per cent).

For context, the 2010 general election  turnout was 65.1 per cent; in 2005 it was 61.4 per cent. It has been a depressing decline since the 1951 high of 82.6 per cent, notable for Attlee’s Labour polling 13.9 million votes, 250,000 more than Churchill’s Conservatives and Clement Davies’ Liberals combined, and to this day Labour’s highest tally. The Tories still won, however, with a majority of 16. We could go into why, but I only have 300 words.

I’d rather use the rest of them to ask why you don’t vote. Even if you want to use it just to protest against those in power, surely that’s what democracy is for?

There’s no point whingeing about the racist UKIP, duplicitous Lib Dems, arrogant Tories or the lame Labour party the next day if you haven’t exercised your very hard-fought-for right. Who for? What do you think i is? The Sun?