Saturday, December 11, 2010

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, it was the voters who let the Liberal Democrats down

Of all the spurious justifications for the Liberal Democrats' breach of faith on tuition fees, this one has to take the biscuit : a post by Mike Smithson entitled "Did the students renege on their side of the deal?". After pointing out that one of the reasons the Liberal Democrats underperformed in the general election was that 18-24 year olds turned out to vote in lower numbers than other age groups, Smithson poses this question -

"Why, to put it bluntly, should politicians be arsed for a section of the electorate that might make a lot of fuss about things but can’t be arsed themselves to go down to the polling station and put a X on a ballot."

Dear God. Where to begin? How about with the bleeding obvious - the pledge the Lib Dems signed was not in any sense conditional upon students voting in a particular way, let alone in sufficient numbers. That's why it was, indeed, a pledge, not a "deal". Secondly, if Mike is seriously suggesting that the mistake students made was not to produce more votes for the Liberal Democrats, I have a sneaking suspicion students themselves might just beg to differ - they almost certainly feel they gave the party far too many votes. After all, does Mike honestly believe that the student vote didn't deliver for his party in any way? If so, I'd suggest he may be in for a rude awakening at the next general election, with the Lib Dems facing a likely massacre in university seats.

In any case, the fact that young people are disproportionately less likely to vote is hardly a startling new revelation - it was known at the time the tuition fees commitment was made. Memo to all Lib Dems : if you want to make a cynical calculation to neglect the concerns of one section of the electorate, feel free to do so before giving a solemn pledge to those voters without any qualifications, and signing it in blood.

More broadly, it's all very well lambasting 18-24 year olds for not participating in the democratic process, but politicians have a responsibility for that problem as well. It's extremely hard to persuade young people that their votes are meaningful when the empirical evidence is that promises made to them in an election campaign are tomorrow's fish-and-chip paper.

(Note : "Can't be arsed" appears to be one of Mr Smithson's favourite phrases at the moment. A few days ago, he told us hopefully that the SNP and Plaid Cymru often "can't be arsed" to stick around at Westminster until Thursday evenings. Sadly for him, the division lists on the tuition fees vote tell a somewhat different story.)

No comments:

Post a Comment