Tuesday, March 23, 2004
I recently had the chance to visit Brakendon Close, sheltered housing just off Bracondale, and chat to the residents. There is a fierce determination amongst these folk that they will use their votes at the next election – just as determined as the ‘A’ Level pupils I teach who claim they’ll also vote. So why is turnout so low? The government believes that lowering the voting age to 16 will help, I’m not so sure. They could equalise the age of candidature (to allow 18 year olds to stand for council), which would do a lot more. I’m pretty sure all that would do is to serve to decrease turnout (as proportionally less of the 16-18 age group would vote). We have a citizenship lesson here on Wednesday – may be worth a straw poll to find out! Anyhow, the government has to do something, only for its own electoral chances. It’s a fact that Tories and the over 55’s (i.e. the Tories’ strongest supporters) are more likely to vote than any other. Just look at the number of majorities that fell in 2001 because the Labour vote collapsed rather than the Conservative vote surging. I see where all the polls are coming from now – if, say to choose a random Labour MP, Charles Clarke were to see his vote fall by 3,000 (current estimate at decrease in turnout) then his majority is just 6,000. If I can persuade a couple of Lib Dems to support me (as the response on the doorstep says I can) then his seat would fall on a swing of just 5% - i.e. exactly what the Tories are currently getting in the polls. The Lib Dems may be contented to think Charlie Clarke’s got it in the bag, but I think it’s all to play for!