What’s going to be the biggest decision you make in the next year? Where to go on holiday? Who to vote for in the X factor? No. With a General Election due to take place within the next year, you can have your say on who will run this country. However the worrying fact is that many will not take this chance.
The problem is that whilst many of you are perfectly happy to pick up your phones every week to vote for celebrities that can’t dance or the next Leona Lewis, the numbers of people turning up to vote in elections are steadily in decline. The House of Commons research papers show us that between the 1987 election, where 75% of the country turned up to vote, and the most recent election in 2005 the percentage of the country voting has decreased by nearly 15% to just 61.4% of voters actually using they’re vote.
MP Chris Mullen had this to say: “I acknowledge it is part of a depressing trend where millions of people choose to regard “reality” as what they see on their television screens rather than what is going on around them. Living in a democracy is great privilege, which most people in the world do not share and for which our ancestors struggled in order that we might live in a better world. The fruits of democracy are obvious to anyone with eyes to see — universal healthcare, free primary and secondary education, clean water, pensions, sick pay, redundancy payments, and free speech. It would be a pity if we were to surrender them because we couldn’t tear ourselves away from the TV set.”
So how can we encourage more people to vote? Utilising television talent shows provides one incentive, but it might not be the case, spoken word artist Matt Abbott argues. The main crux of his argument is that television shows like X Factor and Big Brother as a form as escapism from everyday life. Attempting to integrate any political influence or agenda into these shows would be a huge risk to their ratings and so it’s never going to happen. An example he cited where music and politics can combine was the ‘Rock The Vote’ concerts in America that were organised to encourage young voters. However there are examples of where music has influenced British politics, like in the 1980’s with bands like The Specials and Billy Bragg trying to combat Margaret Thatcher.
There is also a worrying lack of role models in today’s society. We have so many celebrities that we look up to and admire for aesthetic reasons, but not a lot of these are trying to push the boundaries and promote politics and causes. The closest we have are people like Lily Allen and John McClure, who attempt to make points and change our views, but are constantly shot down as they stand-alone.
In our current climate, we’re more interested in the buzz stories that dominate the press, such as the expenses scandal and swine flu, so the gap between the public and politicians widens, maybe if all artists provide a united front we can increase the turnout next year.