Toynbee is wrong: votes can be ripped away
So today Polly Toynbee saw fit to tell us that, absent decent rioting, young people “better declare an intention to vote with a vengeance”. The rest of the article, containing some non-horrifying policy points that Labour should take up, aside, there are two major issues here that need unpacking: Voter deregistration or elimination and the perceived democratic deficit.
The democratic deficit is a simple one: we’re being asked to vote for a government that can little impact, seeing as it has a diminishing share in what it can do. International Finance Institutions like the World Trade Organisation, mega-banks with the financial klout of (ever bigger) nation states, and every other reason why Parliament is becoming irrelevant to creating a better world can be rehearsed elsewhere. When they do vote, young people don’t simply vote because they should, they vote because they think it will have an impact. And the case for the impact of the vote in Britain is, very sadly, declining. The reinvention and re-emergence of the British ruling establishment continues apace.
The more important point is that, when those in the establishment fear voting will have a negative outcome, they tend to change the goalposts. Take America, for example, where thousands of people are being disenfranchised through a series of measures designed to ‘enhance’ democracy. The battle to end voter fraud (which is nearly non-existent, but this doesn’t quell concerns) means people must carry ID with them to vote – student cards (Democrat) don’t count, military ID (Republican) does, driving licenses (can afford car, Republican) count, but social security ID (Democrat, obviously) doesn’t. The list is cherry-picked based on voting demographics – to claim otherwise would be absurd.
We have yet to see the real crack down on young people voting, but we know its coming. Students can no longer be registered in University Halls, but many parents won’t register their children at home because they’ve clearly already ‘left home’ and gone to University. Many won’t realise until voting day, and then it will be too late. With people being shunted from pillar to post because of benefit caps and bedroom taxes, there is a strong likelihood that many of those on the economic margins won’t be registered come election day. And the Tories are trying to shut down voter registration drives through the Gagging Bill (seeing as asking your supporters to register to vote could swing the election, obviously).
In the name of democracy, any political party that sees restricted voting and low turnouts in minority sectors as key to winning will do anything to ‘tighten up the rules’ and ‘eliminate fraud’.
Polly Toynbee – your subheadline reads “One thing Cameron can’t rip from the young is the vote”. To that I would simply respond: don’t be so sure!