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Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Disenfranchised? I'll vote for that!

Are you fed up with hearing about 'the disenfranchised'? Quite apart from the appalling grammar, as you well know, to disenfranchise means to deprive of the right to vote.

In UK General Elections some people do not have the right to vote; these include, amongst others, anyone under the age of 18 years, members of the House of Lords, people serving a prison sentence (although this is currently under review), and anyone found guilty of breaking election law in the previous five years.

Disenfranchisement is most definitely not synonymous with: disadvantage, deprivation, ostracized, opting out... although, it is of course possible to belong to more than one 'group'. It may even be that there is preponderance (but no more) of people who are disenfranchised who are also disadvantaged but, it would be difficult to justify this in the case, for example, of a member of the House of Lords, let alone the monarch.

What is more likely to be the reason for people willingly not voting (a form of voluntary disenfranchisement) is that they too are fed up with a political class that has totally lost touch with reality. Contrast these two absolutely genuine cases:

  • A 24 year old mother of two found guilty of accepting a pair of shorts looted by her housemate during the rioting in Manchester is sentenced to five months in jail (admittedly later reduced on appeal); the harshness of the sentence no doubt at least partly as a result of the 'zero tolerance' espoused by the Prime Minister.
 
  • An MP (or to be more precise, an ex-MP) submits false invoices totalling £8,385 over a period of well over a year (in other words not an isolated incident by any stretch of the imagination), is branded a liar by his trial judge... is free after serving four months in jail.
 Both are offences, both should be punished but the relative seriousness of their crimes, in particular the pecuniary value and, even more so, the premeditation (or lack of it in one case) make it ludicrous that the punishments should be so similar.

Who can be bother to vote when those elected seem more intent on looking after themselves than improving the lot of the average citizen... well here's a radical idea: pay MPs in proportion to the turnout in their constituency.

The UK Government has set up a website/ system for receiving suggestions. This would appear to be an intelligent and welcome addition to the tools available but seems to be suffering from slight apathy.

The UK Government is intent on cutting expenditure, in order to reduce its huge debt. This is very laudable and obviously essential. The size of the problem is indeed massive. The UK has a population of 62.2 Million and a debt of £4,000 Billion. The arithmetic really is simple; this equates to £64,500 for each adult or child in the UK. To put it into more 'real' figures, a married couple with two children are effectively 'responsible' for a debt of £258,000... doesn't make your mortgage seem so bad. But, on the other hand, if things go badly wrong, you haven't got an asset to sell to pay your creditors; the family silver went a long time ago.

The coalition was committed to allowing UK voters to cast their choice on potentially changing the voting system from 'first past the post' to a system of 'alternative vote'. Both these systems fail to take into account the apathy of the general public for politics. The current parliament was elected by a mere 65% of the voting population. Put another way, people who did not vote actually showed their intention by nearly as many votes as were cast for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats combined.

So where is all this leading?

We can deal with the three points above (participative government, reduce government expenditure, enfranchise non-voters).

There is now an e-petition to link MP's pay to the turnout in their constituency. The basic pay for an MP is £65,738 so if he is elected with a turnout of 65% he would only receive £42,730

If you live in the UK, and/or are a UK Citizen, you can electronically sign the petition at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/8046

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