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Democracy, Unit 1

Encouraging People to vote

Telegraph blogger Ed West discussing why the state encourages people to vote makes interesting reading for those of you doing Unit 1.

It starts with one of my favourite quotes of the week- elections are ‘like the X Factor for intelligent people’.

He begins by extending the analogy- not everyone cares about music but there is an assumption that everyone should care about politics and there are posters across London (as there are across Britain before General Elections) encouraging people to vote.

In an analysis that would please George Bernard Shaw ‘legislation is for the quality not the mob’ he suggests that those who are ignorant should not be encouraged to vote and those that can not be bothered to register are abdicating their responsibilities as citizens.

He goes on to borrow (as many Edexcel questions setters are inclined to do…) David Marquand’s concept of ‘democratic deficit’.  However he suggests that low turnout is a symptom NOT a cause of a democratic deficit.

He then highlights a range of factors that he believes are causes of low turnout and in turn the ‘democratic deficit’.

1) That people feel they can not change the system (this could be systemically (wasted votes, safe seats) or in terms of the ideological positions of the parties- see point 2)
2) The parties are too closely triangulated (consensus, coalition, stampede to the centre- the belief that it doesn’t matter who you vote for ‘because they are all the same’)
3) The system monopolises power (we vote for MP’s but they have no power- ‘elective dictatorship’)
4) Too much power has gone to Brussels (he is writing in the Torygraph…)

Finally in an evaluative point worth of AO2 creidt he suggests that low turnout might not be the ‘worst thing in the world’ for democracy- citing Northern Ireland as the region with the highest turnout in the UK he suggests rhetorically ‘is that a healthy democracy or an unstable tribal head-count?’

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