Positive turn of events for apathetic nation

True story. The last time our esteemed inhabitant of Number 10 Downing Street visited Warwick to deliver a speech for the National Policy Forum in 2008, he was greeted with an array of not so friendly student protest groups waiting to bid him welcome to campus.

Ever a man of the people as Gordon and his team of strategists and security passed by this small coalition of righteous indignation they tried to decipher what exactly the rabble were complaining about. Perhaps if they discovered this then the PM could put his world famous people skills to use and disarm the crowd with a few well chosen words.

Issues like ‘the environment’, ‘Palestine’ and ‘Iraq’ were bandied about but ultimately no-one had the foggiest what their detractors actually stood for and so on Mr. Brown went to deliver his keynote speech only to leave his politely gathered mob in the lurch.

To be fair to the Big G, I wouldn’t fancy my chances against a ragged selective of Amnesty devotees either but the downcast point I seek to thaw out is that now there’s just so much to complain about in the world it’s hard not to think, “Why bother?” Bear in mind that Gordo’s visit came before Copenhagen, the expenses scandal and the financial crisis were even blips on the horizon and that’s one long list of grievances that a person could hold against the British political system.

As a politics student myself I know it’s my de facto role to try and gee up the masses into participation even when doing so seems futile. To be frank though, I wouldn’t begrudge you for dodging the polling booth come the inevitable day of judgement during this year’s General Election.

Just a quick perusal over the candidates for high office will show up an incumbent who during his brief tenure has continuously lurched from one disaster to another; an outsider who has garnered the nickname Clegg-over for having once had the decency to boast to GQ magazine that he has slept with ‘no more than 30’ partners; not to forget a main contender who currently leers over those unfortunate enough to stray into south Leamington as a reminder the country is in such a mess they may well have to vote Conservative again.

There is however, one small slither of a silver lining that encompasses the unerring morass that is British politics. It turns out that our leaders are so unable to convince the public that they should be the ones to govern the country that we could end up with a hung parliament where no party has enough representatives in the House of Commons to rule effectively.

In a study of voting by Professors Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher of Plymouth University published over December in the Sunday Times, the Conservative Party were judged as having enough popular support to garner 15 seats shorts of a majority. Far from being a crisis though, such a situation presents itself as an opportunity for the Liberal Democrats to end a lifetime spent whimpering in the wings and force the issue of electoral reform by becoming the deciding party in a coalition government.

As the deal breaker in this scenario the Lib Dems can effectively name the price of their votes in the House of Commons to be a shift to Proportional Representation. Whereas the current First Past The Post system works on a majoritarian basis allocating the status of MP to whichever candidate gets the most votes, Proportional Representation spreads Parliamentary seats according to the percentage of votes each party receives. As a result smaller parties get a much greater say on governing the country and the phenomenon of ‘safe seats’, where if you don’t support the popular option in your constituency your vote doesn’t count, is terminated.

Whilst I can make no assurances that under this distinctly possible outcome tomorrow’s representatives will be any more proficient than those of today, they will at least be representing your interests and even more importantly be under far greater pressure to follow them than their rigid adherence to the party line.

Most importantly all you have to do to implement this change is nothing. As voters under 25 you are inherently the social strata least likely to vote and even if you do choose to participate the lack of a clear option for student voters plays directly into the probability of a hung parliament. My advice, if you can be bothered of course, is cross your fingers and cross your toes because with a little luck apathy may well come to rule.


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