Don't get angry, get registered to vote

Not voting isn't clever or brave. It is, in effect, saying to everyone else 'you decide'

Share

Young people are supposed to be angry. They tend to feel injustices more keenly than their elders and to be more impatient to put them right. But they do not have to be stupid.

Some people of all ages are so exercised about the unfairnesses of liberal capitalism that they decide that voting is part of the problem. Easy slogans such as "Don't vote, it only encourages them" or "If voting changed anything, they'd abolish it" seem clever and knowing. In the latter case, so much so that it was once adopted by a career politician, Ken Livingstone, as the title of a book.

Today, this kind of smart-alecry is personified by Russell Brand, the fiery revolutionary who urges people not to vote. But the attractions of rebellious abstention are being countered by the "Bite the Ballot" campaign. This "party-neutral" movement is trying to persuade young people to sign up on National Voter Registration day this Wednesday. It is working in schools and colleges to try to raise the proportion of young people aged between 18 and 24 who are registered to vote from the current level of 56 per cent.

As we report today, at one session with 18 unregistered teenagers at a London school last week, the campaign persuaded 16 of them to put their names on the electoral roll. The young people took part in debates about subjects such as capital punishment, and a budgeting game in which they had to decide how to spend public money. "It helped us to see that the government do go through hard decisions on a much larger scale," said Sharon, 16.

This pragmatism lacks the swearing-in-church thrill of Mr Brand's anti-everything posturing. How easy it is for Mr Brand to rail against "the lies, treachery, deceit of the political class, that has been going on for generations now". What fun to condemn voting as "tacit complicity with that system". But Sharon's understanding of the need to balance priorities has a better chance of helping to make the country a better and fairer place.

Fortunately for the Bite the Ballot campaign, Mr Brand's credibility has been undermined by the sheer incoherence of his programme, as well as by the inauthenticity of a rich and successful 38-year-old comedian posing as the voice of dispossessed, alienated youth.

Indeed, it was notable that, when an actual alienated youth won his 15 minutes of fame last month for interrupting Tony Blair's dinner with his views on Iraq, he took a different view from Mr Brand. Interviewed later, Twiggy Garcia said that he was "annoyed" with Mr Brand for telling people not to vote. "Create a party yourself," he said.

In this newspaper's view, abstention is not a principled position; it is an abdication of responsibility. It is not a clever or brave defiance of "the system", as Mr Brand would like us to think it is. It is saying to everyone else in the country, in effect, "I don't know; you decide." Our view is that it is always worth trying to choose between the candidates and parties on offer, and, if you do not like any of them, take Twiggy's advice and put yourself forward; start your own party or pressure group.

The Independent on Sunday ran a campaign before the 2010 election called "One of the Above" to encourage people to vote. In about a year's time, we will revive it for the next election. However, you cannot vote unless you are on the electoral register. So if you are not on the register, now is the time to bite the ballot.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an I...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Larry Fink, the boss of fund manager BlackRock , is among those sounding the alarm  

Not all discounts are welcome: Beware the myopia of company bosses

Ben Chu
Cilla Black lived her life in front of the lens, whether on television or her earlier pop career  

Cilla Black dead: A sad farewell to the singer who gave us a 'lorra, lorra laughs'

Gerard Gilbert
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen