Voters are unreal

THE recent local elections are making Gayle wonder what people think they are voting for.

THE recent local elections have once again made me wonder what people think they are voting FOR.

There have been suggestions that voting should be made compulsory here, as it already is in Australia and some other countries. Instead of having to ask themselves whether they can be bothered to trundle down to the polling booth and register a vote, people would be obliged to do it as a civic duty.

If their reason for not voting is a principled decision that none of the candidates is worth a light, they will be allowed to register a 'none of the above' vote, or spoil their ballot paper. It hasn't been made clear what compulsion will be used to force people to take part (sending a couple of bruisers round to knock on the door and make them an offer they can't refuse, perhaps) but, anyway, that is the suggestion.

On the contrary, I think people should be deprived of the right to vote unless they can show that they have a mature understanding of what the poll is about.

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We could have something like the theory part of the driving test - a multiple choice online test in which voters would have to show that they know the difference between, say, a county council and a national parliament, and answer questions like: Is Tony Blair the leader of my local council? Does John Prescott's extra-marital fling have any bearing on the frequency with which my bins are emptied? Are the manifest shortcomings in the way the Home Office deals with dangerous foreign criminals a reflection on my local councillors' planning policy?

Anyone who answered 'yes' to any of the above would be disenfranchised immediately.

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And, from looking at the local election results across the country, that would amount to a pretty high number of voters. The recent turmoil in national government has been reflected in the loss to Labour of 306 local seats and control of 18 councils.

But how do people make a connection between the shenanigans in Westminster and decisions at County Hall? It is beyond me to figure it out.

Although local candidates support the broad policies represented by their parties (a bit of a problem for Conservative councillors at this time, when David Cameron is still trying to define what they are) surely it is their effectiveness in pursuing and safeguarding the interests of local residents which should sway voters.

What on earth does the fact that John Prescott is allegedly 'a randy old sod' or that Charles Clarke failed to let the Prime Minister know at once about the hundreds of potentially dangerous foreign criminals released in this country, have to do with it?

On the subject of Charles Clarke, I had to laugh when I read that, after presiding over a shambolic display of incompetence at the Home Office, Mr Clarke was offered the job of Defence Secretary in the recent reshuffle! Mercifully, he turned it down.

If nothing else, I suppose that goes to show that the government's decisions are as divorced from reality as the average voter's!

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