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Tuesday, 5 February, 2002, 20:26 GMT
Big Brother chief's voter advice
The last three in Big Brother 1
Big Borther finalists the first time round
The creator of the hit television series Big Brother says that the mainstream political parties are alienating most people under the age of 40.

Speaking on BBC TV's Westminster Live Peter Bazalgette said that most younger people were disconnected with politics which they see as middle aged white men arguing about things which have little to do with their lives.

Finalist from first series, Darren
Nearly three quarters of people age 18 to 34 did not vote at the General Election last year, and Mr Balzagette was reacting to measures being proposed to try and re-engage younger voters.

His comments came as the Conservatives appointed MP Charles Hendry as their first youth spokesman.

Mr Hendry said he would be making sure the views of young people were fully taken into account in the lead-up to the next general election.

Later, Mr Balzagette pointed out that Big Brother was essentially a popularity contest and that the final three in both series had included a black contestant and a gay contestant.

"These were predominately voted by 18-30-year-olds. They were not voted for because they were black, or because they were gay - the thing is that age group is blind to such matters," said Mr Bazalgette.

"Now if you take the Conservative Party, and I'm sure it applies as much to the Labour Party too, the average age of members is 67.

"Iain Duncan Smith... has to tune in to a completely different tolerant attitude," he added.

'More like shopping'

General lifestyles had changed over the years he said, suggesting that in the 1950s "you often had to join the young Conservatives to meet a girl. Nowadays there are one or two other ways of doing that".

Dr Stephen Coleman, chairman of the commission set up by the Electoral Reform Society to suggest ways to encourage more people to vote, agreed that change was needed.

His report suggests the greater use of online and phone voting, once security concerns have been resolved.

He explained: "The idea is to make voting less alienating - to make it more like what people do in their everyday life, more like shopping, more like banking, more like talking to your friends."

The findings of Dr Coleman's report come as Local Government and Regions Secretary Stephen Byers prepared to announce a series of schemes to pilot new voting systems.

Report recommendations

Commons Leader Robin Cook has said he wants the UK to become the first country in the world to use the internet for voting, perhaps as soon as the next general election.

The commission's full report, entitled "Elections in the 21st century: from paper ballot to e-voting", is published on Tuesday.

Its main recommendations are:

  • Establishing a technology task force before any online pilots begin to assess and challenge the system

  • Using elector cards with PIN numbers in telephone and online voting to prevent fraud

  • Requiring extra information, such as dates of birth, to be listed on electoral registration forms to limit postal voting fraud

  • Extending experiments for all-postal ballots, telephone voting and electronic voting/counting to some European regions and parliamentary by-elections before considering them for national use
Elections minister Nick Raynsford last month named the 41 local authorities that had applied - with more than half of the bids including some kind of electronic voting or counting.

The first binding political internet voting was in the Democratic primaries in Arizona in March 2000.

That experiment saw turnout jump by 676%, although only 41% of those voting did so from remote internet sites.

Opponents of online voting argue it is too easily exploited by electoral fraudsters and also discriminates against who are not computer literate or who cannot access the internet.

Pilots schemes last year of voting at supermarkets had not proved a success, but a number of areas which pushed postal votes had a higher than average turnout.

See also:

07 Jan 02 | dot life
E-voting: A load of old ballots?
28 Mar 01 | UK Politics
No votes for net elections
19 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Only the net can save politics
16 Nov 00 | Sci/Tech
The dangers of digital democracy
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