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I don’t give a xxxx: apathy and British elections

The declining turnout in British elections has been a problem in recent years, and although it recovered slightly in 2010 it’s still far below the levels seen in the 1950s and 1960s. While turnout in second order elections has collapsed to a level where the legitimacy of the result is questionable.

Turnout is particularly poor amongst 18-24 year olds.

This interesting piece in the Guardian discusses a social media campaign entitled ‘I give a x’ encouraging young people to vote.


SNP- Labour

With polling sites predicting an SNP ‘yellow wash’ in Scotland (Nicola Sturgeon’s Party are predicted to take somewhere in the region of 55 seats north of the border) talk has turned to the prospect of an SNP- Labour coalition or confidence and supply agreement.

This piece in the New Statesman

suggests that the prospect of Salmond influencing government south of the border may be enough to drive swing voters into the arms of the Tories.

The picture also has interesting echoes of the David Steel puppet in Spitting Image…


The problems of FPTP are well documented- the wasted votes, the safe seats, the penalties against the minor parties. However perhaps the most extreme problem is that you can loose and still win.. 1929, 1951, 1974…

This very interesting psephological piece from the LSE examines these elections and whether or not it could happen again…

Does Parliament Matter?

The uproar over it’s current state of repair suggests that in one sense it definitely does.

However this lecture by Meg Russell from UCL explores the topic more fully. Any question on the relevance or functions of Parliament in Unit 2 would be enhanced greatly by this material.

Parliament is Falling Down

Well- that might be a little bit of an overstatement but according to John Bercow, Pugin’s Neo- Gothic masterpiece is a little worse for wear at the moment, and in need of an extensive, expensive and disrupted maintenance programme.

This has prompted a series of articles looking at what we want from a modern parliament and what improvements could be made- interesting Unit 2 reading from the perspective of Parliamentary reform.

Free votes- power to the backbenchers

Most of the time backbench MPs do as they’re told- they obey the whips, even in this most rebellious of post war parliaments rebellion is still a relatively rare occurrence. However occasionally MPs are allowed to vote how they want- these free votes normally occur on matters of ‘conscience’, mostly feature moral issues. Yesterday backbench MPs flexed their muscles when the voted in favour if ‘three parent’ babies or more accurately embryos made with mitochondrial DNA from a second ‘mother’ when this aspect of parental DNA is diseased.

On free votes MPs do reassert the sovereignty of parliament and the ability of MPs to represent the wishes of their constituents and their own consciences rather than the whims of their parties

Making Parliament Representative

Whether or not Parliament needs to reflect the demographics of the population has long been debated by theorists of representative government. Do we needs women and ethnic minorities in Parliament or can white men represent everyone effectively if they listen and care has long been a point of contention.
However to most observers Parliament is becoming more representative. Numbers of women and ethnic minorities have been increasing in recent years and some would argue that the current Parliament is the most diverse to have graced Westminster’s green benches.

However, Parliament is not seen to be overly welcoming to disabled MPs. Although there have been several high profile disabled politicians in recent years including David Blunkett it is not easy for disabled candidates to gain election. In recent years they have been helped by the Access to Elected Office fund but this is due to be scrapped in March.
This piece in the NS looks at the potential impact of this, arguably, regressive step.

What If?

Counterfactualism- that well known historical ‘parlour game’ can also be projected forward. We have said repeatedly that the election is difficult to call, not only in terms of seats but in terms of the various coalition permutations that could emerge.

The BBC has given a range of scenarios to well known journalists- looking at what could happen given different outcomes of different results. While we don’t know what will happen or even if the scenarios predicted could come true, the piece provides a clear focus as to some of the variables that will be considered and some of the likely issues that will need to be discussed.

Digital Democracy

Digital democracy is a relatively new topic in the Democracy section of Unit 1. Questions asked in the past have generally been poorly answered and lacking breadth.

Today’s report by John Bercow shows that there is more to digital democracy than online voting for electors at election time.

It also highlights some other proposed ‘modernisation’ moves in Parliament- allowing remote voting for MPs with childcare concerns (this may help to make a career as an MP appeal to women) and to allow greater use of social media in the chamber which could improve voter engagement and therefore participation.

LSE General Election Blog

You should be used to reading pieces from the LSE Politics Blog on this site as I post things quite frequently.
They have however launched a separate sub ‘General Election 2015’ site which makes for really interesting reading.

I would recommend following it independently- but here are some of my favourite recent posts from the site:

This piece on voter turnout is interesting- participation (or the lack of) is a key topic area for Unit 1 Democracy questions. This piece is looking at whether or not turn out is likely to go up or not in 2015, and what factors might be at play.

We have spent quite a lot of time looking at the factors that make people vote in certain ways- we have looked at class, gender, race. But this piece suggests that age is going to be an important trend in 2015. We have mentioned before the power of the ‘Grey Vote’ because of their willingness to turn out and the importance of older people to the Conservatives and UKIP was clear when we looked at their membership data. This piece gives some good statistical examples of these trends:

Finally this piece on potential records that could be set in 2015 is interesting- predominantly focusing on record low voter shares for the major parties, these records (if they are broken) will be a reflection of the declining share of votes held by the two major parties.