No, this isn’t a parody piece on Eddy Grant’s smash hit ‘Electric Avenue’. Here we are, into the third week of a Conservative-led Britain and many people dissatisfied with the results of the General Election. An election process that cajoled everyone into life, with Britain recording its highest voter turnout since 1997.
On May 7th 2015, 66.1% of the electorate casted their vote, up from 65% in 2010; this represents a healthy turnout when compared to the 71.4% who made their voices heard in electing Tony Blair in 1997. This time around, however, nobody can blame the results due to public disillusionment with Cameron and co – you only have to look at the thousands of election-themed status updates on peoples’ Facebook accounts to gauge the level of interest in this political spectacle.
There are two reasons as to why this turnout evoked memories of 1997: firstly, the prospect of a hung parliament roused many to vote. Secondly, and bear with me because it’s a legitimate explanation – it was sunny outside. Experts say that for every inch of rain, turnout will drop by at least 1%. One thing that can be said for certain is that voting on that sunny day gave no indication to the storm that was about to hit these shores as the Conservatives registered a landslide victory. It’s at times like this many might’ve hoped the Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol Party put up a stronger fight. Who knows, they might 4/20 blaze it in 2020.
By and large, it was clear to see that the apathy argument was simplistic. In the year building up to the General Election, politics took the Internet by storm and there was an unprecedented level of youth engagement, best encapsulated by the #milifandom trend on Twitter. Other memorable moments included vines of a collaboration between Ed Miliband and Skepta, and David Cameron rapping about his disdain of the poor and disabled. Whilst these crazes were obvious examples of hyperbole, the underlying inference to make is that many more at least took an interest in the outcome of the election, even if that interest didn’t translate itself into votes being casted. 2015 can be seen as a turning point, particularly with regards to the youth votes because greater exposure to political developments, even if in the form of satire, will encourage future generations to make their voices heard.
Britain’s ageing population might explain the feeling of disappointment amongst the younger generation. This is caused by a widespread fall in fertility rates whilst life expectancy is on the increase. Today, Britain’s over-65 population outnumbers its under-16s. It follows that the over-65s formed the majority of the electorate. They also had the highest turnout out of all age brackets, with a massive 78% of the cohort voting. There’s not much to be done on that front, but the silver lining is that people are voting.
Despite these positive figures, there is room for improvement. Voter turnouts are significantly lower than in Australia, a place where having shrimps on the barbeque and voting is compulsory. In spite of this comparison, it is preferable that individuals have the ability to decide whether or not to vote – voting is a privilege, it is to be encouraged but it shouldn’t compromise one’s autonomy.
The political landscape of British politics has changed. The emergence of the Green Party, Scottish National Party (and UKIP, unfortunately) into the political mainstream has widened the possibilities for the voting public and there are now more parties that will strike a chord with people who may have been reluctant to vote previously. The new wave of voters won’t just vote for their favourite act on The X Factor, but for their favourite party too.
By Kamran Khan