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Last Updated: Friday, 5 May 2006, 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK
London: Voter apathy?
Zia Trench
Zia Trench
Politics Show London

Postal vote
Which issues will sway the London electorate

Voter turnout in the UK is a democratic embarrassment. In 1999, the European election hit an all time low of just 24% and local elections fair little better.

In some wards, turnout can be as little as 10%.

Even general elections have been on a downward trend; the lowest ever turnout was in 2001 when turnout dipped just below 60%.

In London, turnout has been falling; this time it is 35% ... compare that to 48% in 1990.

As a result some are mooting a compulsory vote. It works well in Australia where turnout averages about 90 - 95% of the population.

Just to put some weight behind the matter, a Labour think tank report last week said people should be forced to vote; and this idea is getting some pretty heavy weight support.

Geoff Hoon, for example. The defence secretary who agreed to meet me in the park by Westminster (along with a whole army of undercover cops).

When I asked him to speak, so we could get the right sound level, he said "I am Geoff Hoon, MP for Ashford" which just shows how much he wanted to distance himself from talking as if supporting compulsory voting was official Labour policy.

After hearing from Hoon that we must address a democratic deficit, I talked to the Electoral Reform Society that says forcing people to vote should be a last resort measure; if politicians are really going to engage people in politics, they have got to ... well, engage them.

Is it a democratic right not to vote?

My day ended up in a Walkabout in Shepherds Bush, where Ozzie drinkers got very excited about politics and declared that because they had to vote, they definitely spent a bit more time working out what the candidates had to offer them.

The Politics Show London

Join the Politics Show on BBC One on Sunday 14 May 2006 at 12.00pm with Tim Donovan.

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