Duncan Barkes: Time for compulsory voting?

Those who cannot be bothered to vote need a kick up the backside.

I have zero tolerance for people who do not take part in the democratic system – they are usually the first to moan about the state of the country. The time is ripe for some new measures and a Westminster “think-tank” has come up with an interesting proposal.

The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) is concerned that with fewer youngsters voting there is a “political inequality”, as political parties will simply develop policies aimed at appealing to older people who are more likely to vote.

It is recommending an insistence that first-time voters turn out, in order to address the imbalance and to try to help kick-start voting as a lifetime habit.

The IPPR is suggesting compulsory voting, with fines levied against those who don’t comply. Harsh? Possibly, but voters would also be given a ‘none of the above’ option on the ballot paper.

Thus, nobody is forced to vote for a party. This suggestion is sound. Younger voters would play a part in the voting system, but can still register their disdain with the political parties, should they wish to.

Something has to be done about this country’s attitude towards political voting.

Overall electoral participation in the UK has dropped steadily, from around four fifths of the electorate in a typical general election in the 1960s, to around three fifths in the general elections held since 2000.

The biggest drop in turnout has been among younger and poorer voters.

At the 2010 general election, three-quarters of 60 year olds voted, but less than half of voters aged 18 to 24 cast a ballot.

This proposal should be rolled out across all voting groups. People died for democracy. The suffragette movement used violence and suffered torture to secure the female vote and there are people around the world having unspeakable tortures inflicted upon them by the authorities because they are fighting for the right to a democratic system.

The right to vote is a privilege. Too many treat it with contempt, although many are quite happy to run up their phone bills voting for a wannabe pop star on some TV talent show.

The time has come to make people cast a vote where it really matters: at the polling station.