The Left

Foot in mouth

Our old favourite Paul Foot makes a return today with his column in the Guardian addressing the important issue of declining voter turnout.

When fascists can get elected to local councils because only a third of people bother to vote it is clearly time for alarm-bells to be ringing and there needs to be the widest debate possible on how to get people to the ballot boxes again.

It is hardly a surprise that Foot puts the blame for the low turn out on New Labour and he makes the commonly heard argument that a lack of radicalism is behind the declining numbers of voters:

The fall in the number of people voting has very little to do with inconvenience, apathy or laziness in the electorate. Its real cause is the continual convergence of the political parties around policies which most people know won’t improve their lives.

When Labour, for all its faults, offered something different to the Tories and Liberals – public ownership, for instance, or comprehensive education – huge numbers of people, especially young people and poor people, voted in elections.

He is right of course. The only problem is that back in the 1980’s those huge numbers of people mostly voted Tory.

Surely a member of the Foot family doesn’t need reminding about when Labour’s worst ever election result was?

The idea that the electorate don’t have much choice is nonsense. After all, the Socialist Alliance offer the kind of early eighties Old Labour policies Foot recalls with such fondness. Indeed so fond is Foot of those policies he is a leading member of the Alliance.

And how the poor and the young have flocked to the ballot boxes to support the ‘socialist alternative’ of Foot and his comrades:

Around 100 Socialist Alliance candidates were fielded in the 2001 General Election, averaging 1.72% of the vote, and around 200 stood in the 2002 local elections, averaging 3.53%.

So perhaps comrade Foot is not quite in the position to be advising Labour on how to win votes.