With recent global political events, it’s no surprise why the word “politics” can make anyone cringe. Britain loves to brand itself as a pioneer of ‘democracy’, but democracy is relative especially when only 64% of 18-24 year olds voted in the Brexit referendum, compared to 90% of over 65-year-olds. I can understand why some of us are detached from politics, especially recently, but if we truly want change using our votes should be the least we can do. These are 7 ideas that can increase political participation and engagement.
1] Compulsory Voting
Making it a legal requirement to vote would lead to increased voter turnout, and this method is used in 18 countries including Australia, Belgium and Brazil, with fines often used as deterrents. Although compulsory voting can’t guarantee genuine enthusiasm, so access to improved political information would also be needed.
2] Younger voting and better Civic education
As mentioned earlier, there were huge disparities in the voter turnout of young people compared to the more elderly. So would decreasing the voting age be counterintuitive? I think not, mainly because of this catchy campaign slogan I learnt whilst partaking in the UK Youth Parliament elections a good 7 years ago- ‘If a 16-year old can marry their MP, live with their MP, and work for their MP, then why can’t they vote for them?’
3] Proportional Representation
An electoral system that would have a proportional number of MPs to their share of the vote. Now I know some of you doubters are thinking, “no way, we can’t change the first past the post system the UK has been using for the last 132 years!”, but I say you’re probably right… with that attitude anyway. This article is about political participation, and for any idea to work we’ll all need to organise effectively to successfully implement it. The main argument against FPTP is that it benefits the large parties, as MPs can get elected on tiny amounts of public support as it does not matter how much they win by.
4] More diverse candidates
‘You can’t be what you can’t see’– In every sense of their role, MPs are meant to reflect the people they represent. In the 2011 census, 11.91% of the British population were from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds (this figure has probably risen), although in the 2015 general election only 41 out of 650, 6.3% of MPs were from BME backgrounds. A lot more needs to be done to increase the diversity of politicians, instead of the Etonian- Oxbridge-private school boys club that it seems to be. There could be a mandatory amount of ethnic minority, women and working class on party candidate lists.
5] Citizen Panels
To really feel engaged and a part of UK politics, citizens could come together to make decisions. They would be given access to expert information, both sides of the argument, discuss and consider the implications of different approaches. This could lead to better administration of public affairs and engage people in politics. Decisions made in this way could be considered more legitimate than those made by ivory tower politicians.
6] E-voting and e-referendums
If the UK government manages to get over the technological and security challenges, then allowing online voting will most definitely increase electoral and referendum turnout, whilst saving money and time in the process. E-referendums could be used to decided any new law and will give more power to the voter, similar to the Swiss semi-direct democratic system.