Magazine article The Spectator

Banned Wagon

Magazine article The Spectator

Banned Wagon

Article excerpt

OUR parliamentary representatives are a sensitive lot. Upset by the low turnout in his Harrow West constituency at the last election, Labour MP Gareth Thomas has come up with a brilliant wheeze: to ban apathy. He has tabled a private member's Bill which would compel us all to visit the polling station on election day and register a mark on a ballot paper under the pain of a L50 fine.

It is true that several genuine democracies, such as Australia, have compulsory voting, but the concept is more generally associated with autocratic regimes whose leaders have an emotional need to feel wanted by their huddled masses. The only effect of compulsory voting in this country would be similarly to boost the egos of politicians and to excuse them from having to worry about why their manifestos have failed to inspire a majority of those registered to vote.

What is the problem with apathy, in any case? Perhaps those who have decided not to vote do so for good reason: they do not feel sufficiently versed in current affairs to make an informed choice and are quite happy to leave the decision of who governs them to those who do understand the issues involved. …

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