£20 for your vote? One third of us will not bother to vote in the General Election. Would paying people £20 to vote make a big difference for our democracy?
Vote for me? No? How about now?
Hi. I’m Leon Hawthorne. And I’ve got an offer you can’t refuse.
I propose every voter is paid £20 just for turning up to vote. They can vote for any party, but they must vote to get the money.
Sound nuts? Let me explain.
This is the way election campaigning used to be done in the Rotten Boroughs of the eighteenth century. Politicians shamelessly buying votes with cash or beer.
Now, politicians are a little bit more subtle, instead promising higher pensions for the elderly, increases in public sector wages, abolition of tuition fees… anything to appeal to their base, or special interest groups.
The problem is - in the last General Election, only 65% of the eligible electorate voted. That means the true winner was “none of the above”.
The Conservatives formed a government with votes from just 24% of the electorate. 35% of people who didn’t vote at all.
What this means is politicians focus on getting THEIR supporters out to vote. They are perfectly happy if others stay at home.
Across the world, it’s true to say political parties on the Right are more guilty of this cynicism, than those on the Left. The Republican Party in America openly conspires to disenfranchise poor, black and Hispanic voters.
But I do not come at this from a left wing perspective. I think there is something seriously wrong with our democracy when more than a third of our fellow citizens routinely don’t vote.
Whilst election strategists focus on winning power by any means necessary, I believe politicians should focus on persuading a true majority of the population of the virtues of their arguments.
In Australia, voting is obligatory and people get fined 20 dollars for not voting. I prefer the carrot to the stick.
£20 would specifically incentivise the types of people who currently don’t vote. They tend to be the lesser educated, lower income groups and young people… for whom £20 is a lot of money.
If close to 100% of people voted, politicians would have to come up with policies that appeal to all sections of society. We would need to make every vote count, by ensuring the composition of parliament better reflects the votes cast.
The first past the post voting system is not fit for purpose, but permanent coalition government is even
worse. So, we need constitutional reforms to separate a people’s parliament from an executive branch, perhaps with a directly elected Prime Minister.
£20 per voter would cost £1 billion per General Election. But that is substantially less money than taxpayers paying for the promises made to special interest groups, by the party that wins, with a minority of popular support.
OK, I hear outrage from older affluent voters. Voting is a civic duty. People died to give you the right to vote.
So, why should we pay these people if they can’t be bothered?
Why can’t they be bothered… is the better question. Because THEY feel it doesn’t matter if, or how, they vote. They believe all politicians are the same… a bunch of public schoolboys playing a debating game, while lining their own pockets.
Our political class in London is dangerously estranged from whole swathes of the population. That accounts for the growth of nationalism and Brexit. Unless something radical is done to close the gap between MPs and the people, this could be a cocktail that explodes onto the streets.
I’m Leon Hawthorne. Thanks for watching.