Monday, May 15, 2006


Big Brother Viewers quizzed on politics

It has been one of the damning indictments of the British electorate, that more people vote for Big Brother contestants than vote in general elections. Now a report produced by Professor Stephen Coleman for the Hansard Society, is based upon the attitudes of 200 such viewers and offers some clues as to why young people think voting is a waste of time. Writing in the Observer Peter Bazalgette from Endemol, who make BB, offered his analysis of Coleman's survey.

Bazalgette thought exposing the personality of George Galloway was of key importance but, the summary of findings, do not offer any revelatory discoveries. I fear we are still pretty much in the dark as to why the civic duty of voting seems to have fallen into such chronic disrepair. We discover that the participation rate of the sample was not especially low and that two thirds thought voting in general elections was more important than voting in BB. So far so not unusual,but it is very clear that a large majority are very disenchanted with parliamentary politics: 50% say they found the campaign boring; 69% that they had heard nothing to change their minds about anything; 27% that voting would make no difference to the country; 41% that the government did not listen; and 55% they felt they had no influence over how the country is run.

I find myself agreeing to some extent with all these points of view exept the one about voting making no difference. Of course voting makes a difference! It got rid of an exhausted Labour government in 1979; an exhausted, disgraced Conservative one in 1997 which had allowed the public services to atrophy to the point of collapse; and it will pass judgement on Blair's New Labour in 2008-9. If these young people want to make a difference, then why do they not do what my generation did and still does- support a party, even when it seems down and out, and work(in some mininal way at least) to get it elected? It's not that bloody difficult. O.K., one vote doesn't make that much difference but how much say does one voter want or expect? Tell practicing politicians your vote doesn't count and they'll work surprisingly hard to convince you theyreally care about the way you cast it.

If you become an activist you become a member of the 'selectorate' helping to choose candidates for local parties; you have the option also of standing as a candidate yourself. You will be listened to and will make some kind of a difference. And by voting you exercise a right people fought over for centuries- some died- to establish.[Oh dear, I'm sounding like Victor Meldrew again, but he's not always wrong] Making voting easier by putting it online or whatever is irrelevant really: it's getting up-coming generations to believe they should vote that's the problem and we seem to no nearer whatsoever to solving that really quite serious crisis in our democratic system.

This survey has clearly revealed the BB audience, or at least this sample of it, is more astute than we hitherto thought. There is political logic behind disenchantment with Westminster; campaigns are invariably boring, given the plethora of dribble (at best diatribe); one would have to be fickle for a PEB to change one's mind about serious issues; one vote clearly makes no difference whatsoever (you're right, Skipper, this is how it should be); governments, on the basis of calculated psephology, listen only to those groups that it deems matter; BB watchers clearly do not have any influence over the body politic (thank god for that).
Is it really true that more people vote for Big Brother than for general elections?

Sure there might be more votes, but in an election you are only allowed to vote once. BB has teenagers blowing their entire pocket money sending multiple texts.
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