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This is a well-reasoned article and quite rightly focuses on the players on the reserves bench who need to be drawn into the selection.

I have always felt voting to be a bit of a farce and reduced my need to find a parking space by getting a postal vote, which i shall probably only use in general elections henceforth.

What is needed is a 'Long Ballot' and I tried back in 1996 to impress this upon the current government to no avail. If voters had a list of local issues on the ballot - local referendum, schools board, parish council, parking charges, library service, planning projects etc....they would vote.

People will vote for people they know which is why they need to see candidates, and why the issues have to be on the ballot not just a multiple choice test with one question.

So move to a Long Ballot to elect the Police Commissioner, the Hospital Board, the School Board, the Learning & Skills Council....give people more than one sterile option

Old Hack

There you have it: Differential Turnout 101.

GOTV - use it or lose it people.


How could you get people interested in the electoral process and bothering to vote in ultra safe seats?

The key must be the knowledge that in all circumstances, whether safe seat or marginal, your vote can make a difference.

If the parties were forced to offer a choice of three candidates on the ballot paper, then even those who always vote for the same party will have some choice and it will bring an end to the lazy seat-for-life party-loyalist, careerist donkeys who must put people off in the first place.

There would be no vote splitting, as the party with the most cumulative votes would win the seat, and the candidate with the most votes from within that party would win the seat.

It would give the public a real choice and chance to change their MP even if the seat is too safe for a party to lose, and thus could enegerise both the public and MP's to actually do something!

Creating a little competition is always a good way to improve a process.

Simon Newman

My experience in the May 2006 local election in Wandsworth Tooting's Tooting ward, a traditionally safe Labour working class inner city ward (now gentrifying) was that the sunny weather and hard campaigning led to an unusually high turnout; contrary to expectations this high turnout favoured the Conservatives and we turfed out 2 out of the 3 Labour Councillors, including the opposition leader.


Two occasions stand out in my mind: when I was living in an ultra-safe Conservative constituency and had decided not to bother to vote, being called on by very polite blue-beribboned canvassers who offered a lift to the polling station regardless of which party I intended to vote for, and some years later in an equally secure LibDem area, being called on at roughly hourly intervals by orange-bedecked activists (and finally by Sally Hamwee), urging me to use my vote. You might think that such concentrated pestering might have been annoying, but the sight of real people who were so bothered by the democratic process that they were giving up hours of their time to encourage others to take part somehow made the election seem worth the effort in a way that TV adverts did not.

Simon Newman

"If I’m right, then Cameron’s strategists would do well to focus on how to energise the conservatively-minded non-voters into becoming voters again"

Getting the core voters to actually vote certainly seems to be a successful strategy for the US Republican party; resulting in 2004 in a decisive victory after Iraq had already turned very sour. The (correct) assumption seems to be that the USA simply has more conservative-minded people than liberal-minded people; the assumption in the UK seems to be the opposite, but I'm not sure if it's really true - I don't think it's 60-40 anyway.

Peter Hatchet

"Between 1992 and 1997, the Conservatives lost four-and-a-half million votes, but Labour only gained 2 million. Even taking into account new parties such as the Referendum Party and then UKIP, at least 2 million of John Major’s 1992 votes have been lost to non-voting rather than to other parties."

"If I’m right, then Cameron’s strategists would do well to focus on how to energise the conservatively-minded non-voters into becoming voters again, just as much as they currently focus on switching those who have recently voted Labour or Lib Dem."

This example is commonly cited as evidence of Conservative "non-voters". But could equally be interpreted in a number of different ways:

(1) Turnout in 1992 was 79% - much, much higher than normal. Who's to say that the "X million" of voters who don't normally vote were aware of how close the election was, didn't have much time for the Conservatives, but were scared senseless by Kinnock and so came out to vote for Major as the best of the worst?

Then they disappear again, unlikely to vote again, unless there is a another v.close election where the choice is between someone sane and measured, and someone who directly threatens their own interests/is a bit of a nut.

(2) Similar to (1) who's to say Labour *didn't* gain 4 million voters, but that they didn't vote purely because they knew the result was a foregone conclusion? Turnout was only 70%. We all know how massive Labours poll leads were during the mid-90s. If turnout had been 79%, Labours vote would have easily exceeded the Conservatives total for 1992.

The biggest worry of mine, is that people use your hypothesis to pursue a traditional Conservative agenda in order to "win back" the "lost" Conservative non-voters without realising that, if anything, they are *Labour* non-voters. These voters may not be lefties (and have voted for us in the past) but they persist with Labour because they think that they can deliver a bit more investment and improvement in public services, keep their taxes at an "ok" level, make a reasonable "stab" at fighting crime and unlike the Conservatives haven't presided over a recession yet.

You may find these views fickle and inconsistent, but normal "non"-political people in my office tell me this stuff all the time and they're not lefties. They do think the Conservatives are, well, a bit stuck-in-the past and self-obsessed though.

Please don't fire back examples to me of how Labour have "screwed up". I know. I know all of it!! But floating voters don't/won't/can't and see only the general picture I've outlined above.

It's hard to swallow, I grant you, but it's true.

Chris Palmer

Statistics can only tell one half of the story. I am sure that others, like myself, have come across people on the doorstep time and time again who have said something along the lines of that they last voted Conservative in 1992 (or some 1997).

Their reasons vary of course, but policy, lack of morality and conviction are usually their grievances and cause of disillusionment.


A good read, which gets the thinking going.

Conservatives try to present constructive politics - ideas, creative programmes, intelligent notions - appealing to the mind, and meaning 'We will do good things for you'

NuLab go for tribal politics - blaming, accusing, portraying opponents as evil 'right-wing', or as someone who is going to harm you. The brain is by-passed almost entirely. It's all 'our enemies will do bad things'.

Policies within NuLab hardly matter so that e.g. they can promise the referendum in the manifesto, dump it and their support isn't touched.

SNP and BNP offer voters identity - by explaining the world in national terms.

A primary Conservative platform, gradually emerging is 'the broken society'. The assumption is that the economy is fixed has taken away the primary claim the Conservatives usually made - that they are better economic managers than Labour etc. (the economy could pull a few surprises yet)

The battle lines are drawing up between Conservatives trying to be intelligent and constructive about the future of our society and the wellbeing of our lives, and NuLab being destructive and accusing of each idea that emerges.

Conservatives need to move over to using other forms of communication than TV, which, as it is managed by BBC and SKY, is no longer a good medium at explaining complex or even simple issues. Newspapers too use the narrative system where they only present stories that fit with their own viewpoints.

(Reforming the BBC is surely a primary Conservative good idea - raising the standard of the debate - removing discussion from endless point-scoring and giving each side more time to explain their policies before setting attack dogs on to them)

We already have a solution which gets round these problems.

Michael Ashcroft has demonstrated that written material is effective at getting ideas and policies explained to voters. Working at local level, using written material and local effort has been shown to work at getting the vote out.

This effort should be coordinated with the launch of new policy programmes as they roll out on TV and in the media, so that people can see the yah-boo stuff on the BBC which they cannot easily get much idea from, and then they can read a leaflet landing on their doorstep which gives a proper explanation.

People are interested in political ideas. They are sick of the yah boo - 'labour accuse the conservatives of being right-wing' etc. They do want to hear what the policies and ideas actually are.

It is up to us to supply the demand in a way that satisfies it. Working through the media can never give people what they need. Ashcroft knows how to get the message out. We should use that method further and wider, and not just in marginals at election time.


Tapestry that was one of the most bizarre and biased interpretations of what Stephan Shakespeare wrote I could have imagined. You project every evil onto your opponents and every virtue onto your own - it is called black-white thinking and is one of the reasons voters are completely turned off.

I do not recognise the world you describe - it must exist inside your head

Conservatives try to present constructive politics - ideas, creative programmes, intelligent notions - appealing to the mind, and meaning 'We will do good things for you'

NuLab go for tribal politics - blaming, accusing, portraying opponents as evil 'right-wing', or as someone who is going to harm you. The brain is by-passed almost entirely. It's all 'our enemies will do bad things'.............People are interested in political ideas. They are sick of the yah boo - 'labour accuse the conservatives of being right-wing' etc.


HTML on strike again ?

"Conservatives try to present constructive politics - ideas, creative programmes, intelligent notions - appealing to the mind, and meaning 'We will do good things for you'

NuLab go for tribal politics - blaming, accusing, portraying opponents as evil 'right-wing', or as someone who is going to harm you. The brain is by-passed almost entirely. It's all 'our enemies will do bad things'.............People are interested in political ideas. They are sick of the yah boo - 'labour accuse the conservatives of being right-wing' etc. "


I would urge all Tory right-wingers to read and re-read Peter Hatchet's posting above. There is no future election victory in promising tax cuts. There ARE, however, many potential votes in promising to spend public money much more carefully, with the key tenet being value for money and fiscal responsibility.

And don't let's abandon the green message - being a good citizen fits perfectly with being a Conservative. Looking after our shared inheritance and treating it with respect is not something New Labour understands.

Ken Stevens

I gather that the recent YouGov poll had 16% "Will not vote". That seems an unduly low figure based on turnout percentages in latter years' general elections, i.e. implied turnout of 84%.

I feel that the key to enthusing voters is to offer something tangible to identify with. Tories are having trouble in this respect because of difficulty in differentiation from Lab and LibDem, arising through fighting over the same ground (- though recent Redwood proposals break this homogeneity, whether for better or worse).

We all want to identify with something, whether in politics or anything else. There is nothing wrong with love of nation, yet this is derided as nationalist, little Englander, etc. The point being missed is that it constitutes a focus for sentiments, as a banner rather than implying a detailed and uniform agenda behind it. Maybe that is why BNP got such an increase in votes in Sedgefield, as a lashing out against main parties rather than racial extremism.

It was inevitable that devolution and the upswing in support for SNP should instigate a sense of English nationhood. The undemocratic march into the EU provides the other half of the English nutcracker.

Why not turn this resentment round into positive sentiment by offering a new structure for the UK (allowing for the possibility that this might eventually include dissolution), rather than just gaze from the sidelines as your support melts away into patriotic minor parties that in themselves have little prospect of gaining power?

Peter Hatchet

Jay, thank you.

"There is no future election victory in promising tax cuts."

It seems you "get it".

This is VERY hard for Conservatives to swallow. Hell, even I find it hard to swallow. But, you're right, promising tax-cuts will not win an election.

I think we've got this right. No immediate tax cuts, no tax rises, but the burden will be reduced over time.

Spot on. It's not "sexy" but it's sensible.

The only tax with any political "bite" to it is council tax, and this is why Conservatives keep winning at a local level.

At the national level, the battleground is different. The problems most people see are mainly socio-cultural and public-service related. Particularly violent crime, lack of community cohesion, lack of neighbourless and general rudeness and incivility. Also, poor transport infrastructure, secondary education and health. We also need a "theme" to link the above - not 'social responsibility' - it doesn't mean anything to people.

We MUST focus on the pressing difficulties of today - this isn't 1987 and we can't win on a 1987 platform.

Yes, there are economic difficulties welling-up, but we won't win banging on about them because no-ones been hit hard enough in the pocket yet.

The CRUCIAL thing, is not for us to campaign on what we know to be important and what we think is the most pressing issue - even when we're absolutely right, like on the EU - but to appeal directly to what the voters are concerned with and desire at the moment.

That is the only way we will win.


My rule - no tax cuts, no vote. Only the Liberal Democrats are promising to cut income tax (funded by environmental taxes). I don't drive or fly much so I would be better off.

There has been nothing of substance from Gideon (despite the Tax Commission's Report) so far...

Chris Palmer

'Spot on. It's not "sexy" but it's sensible.' - Peter Hatchet

Sensible for whom exactly? Politicians who enjoy the trappings of office or families who can only just afford to pay the bills (and those who can't)?

Matthew Barker

I believe it was a year or so ago that the Power Commission was set up to research the very issue of low turn outs. When the head of the commission summarised the findings in an interview with Ian Dale on 18 Doughty Street, it seemed to me there were to main themes: Supply not keeping up with demand and, as Stephen points to, a lack of impact on one's vote.

Tackling these problems would therefore involve an increase in voting oppurtunity, and of voting impact.

With the gradual float of many voters to single issue groups, the former may be allowed by holding a "single issue group" election parrelel to a general election, with the votes recieved by each group being proportionate to a number of minutes they may have to introduce a bill to parliament, much like a private member's bill.

Localising democracy seems a way to achieve the later: A lower number of voters, meaning each vote would have more weight.

The cost of these policies could be part-costed by an increase in constituency size,thus meaning fewer MP salaries to pay: the effect this would have on representation on a national level would become increasingly irrelevant as politics was localised. The cash gained from the abolition of regional assemblies could also contribute.


Council Tax is controlled from Whitehall - it also includes 2.5% VAT levied by Norman Lamont to subsidise the Council Tax.

Places like Slough with officially declining population and realistically burgeoning population suffer Council Tax capping and legal obligations to fund newcomers but with capped Council Tax.

So since the census data is wrong - especially in places like Manchester....the issue of Council Tax is not going to go away.

The very issue of Education is the largest single spending block in local government, followed by Police and Fire Precepts which are largely to fund pension deficits.

So there is simply no way to avoid making the issue of Council Tax the main focus of any onservative discussions on taxation.

Did anyone hear the Westminster Hour last night ? - about Scotland wanting to abolish Council Tax but still claim the £385 million the English taxpayer pays to Scotland for Council Tax Rebates ?

Michael McGowan

Peter Hatchet, I have no confidence whatsoever that the Conservatives, if elected, would do any of the things you claim that they would do. We only have to look at the legacy of Tory Government over the last fifty years. A party whose only manifesto commitment is to manage mediocrity and decline slightly better than Labour deserves to die.....even if it is to be believed, which it isn't.


Nearly everyone I speak to moans about the cost of living, and high taxes in particular. The problem with presenting a tax-cutting platform is that Labour invariably respond with the "tax cuts means bad public services" argument (we know that's not true - the NHS is currently collapsing, in Cornwall at least). The average voter is not an economic theorist.

It would be good if the Tories explained, in simple voter-friendly terms, how low taxes boost the economy and how public money should be spent sensibly. Once the voter knows how low taxes will benefit THEM, with no compromise on public services, then they will be convinced.

Peter Hatchet

Chris, you're not LISTENING.

I don't deny that many families are struggling. What I say is that those families will not vote Conservative if we promise upfront tax-cuts.

Even if they heard and registered the policy - which they won't - they don't believe we'd deliver tax cuts. They don't believe they'd be better off. They don't trust our economic competence. They don't understand economic theory.

You have to stop being so politically bloody-minded and look at voting through the prism of the ordinary voter.

Most people don't care a damn about politics. They rarely think about it. They don't care. They will vote on polling day on "gut feeling" based on the parties vision for the country and their opinion of the leader.

Too many of us want to "change the electorate" rather than "change ourselves".

In the words of Lord Ashcroft; "We need to wake up and smell the coffee".

Tony Makara

It is certainly true that people feel disenfranchised from the political process. The representative system has taken a serious body blow during the Blair years. The last decade has seen democracy in parliament rolled back, demonstrating the dangers inherent in the system itself.

If we are to re-engage voters there must be moves towards direct democracy on single-issue subjects. Such a move would empower voters and create a feeling of democratic inclusion. Modern technology makes popular plebiscite possible. Of course this is not meant to replace parliament and traditional governance, but rather would serve to enhance the parliamentary process. Those who object to direct democracy are the enemies of democracy.

Ken Stevens

Tony Makara | August 13, 12:12 PM
"..direct democracy.."

Ah yes, I had almost forgotten about that refreshing new concept devised a while ago by forward-looking Tories but somehow not yet having made it into mainstream policy.
- unless hopefully Ken Clarke's working party is going to embrace it.

Peter Hatchet

Michael McGowan:

(1) I haven't claimed the Conservatives will do anything. I only listed what I thought Conservatives should focus on

(2) If you think the Conservative Party "deserves to die" then you shouldn't even bother to post on this forum. If you continue to do so, we'll all know exactly what your motivations are.

Michael McGowan

Peter, I know you haven't claimed the Conservatives will do anything: that's my concern. You can speculate about my motivations as much as you like. Perhaps you can also explain to me what the point of the Conservative Party is these days? It seems that plenty of non-voters would also like to ask the same question. Of course that is a question for grown-ups and abuse is just so much simpler...

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