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The BBC's Ian Pannell
investigates voter apathy
 real 28k

Wednesday, 23 May, 2001, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
'Ok, I'm going to vote'

Two out of three ain't bad - BBC News Online users have persuaded a second avowed non-voter to change his mind.

Your powers of persuasion have won over non-voter Simon Whiteley - he will go to the polling station on 7 June after all.

Nineteen-year-old Simon, an engineering student from north Lincolnshire, was the third candidate in BBC News Online's Persuade Me to Vote series, and having heard some of the arguments e-mailed by our users his apathy transformed into voter action.

According to some estimations, up to 13 million people will stay away from the ballot box on general election day. The figure is considered abnormally high.

Click here to read some of your arguments and Simon's responses.

These are Simon's original reasons for not-voting:
"I have voted once before, and I was unsure of what I was really voting for. This time around, I am a little older and wiser.

"This election is the important one, because the country's future and the future of 60 million people is decided for the next few years. Now this is what is frightening because from my impressions, none of the politicians standing are worth voting for. They all seem to be untrustworthy dirty dealers.

. Why can't we have a party that combines the best values and ideals from all the other parties

"I don't really know much about the way political parties work, but I don't understand why we have to choose between the 'reds' and the 'blues'. Why can't we have a party that combines the best values and ideals from all the other parties and none of the rubbish?

"I don't know who to vote for. Mr Hague has no experience and all his shadow cabinet have no idea at all. PM Blair has an experienced team but they are all in it for themselves.

"Britain's leaders should be of the highest calibre and should be voted in because they are going to do the most for the country's collective best interests. But the way I look at it there aren't any standing for this election."

Some of your arguments and Simon's responses.

  • Simon should read all the manifestos and decide who will offer the best long-term strategies - he is at an age when the next five to 10 years of government is likely to affect him possibly during married life and raising a family. Pat, Wiltshire England
    Simon: "That's a very good point. But I've no idea where I'm supposed to get hold of these manifestos."

  • People died to give you this right and it is your responsibility to vote. Think about what you want to happen, not how politicians are portrayed by the media. Richard Crossley, London
    Simon: "I tend to agree with that argument that people died for my right and it's a strong one."

    I think employees should have more rights. I lost my part-time job when I was 17

  • There is still a difference between Labour and Conservative. Conservatives are still pro-big business, anti-government intervention and public services. Labour is pro-keeping public services and pro-euro. John Thorne, Shetland, Scotland
    Simon: "I'm concerned about the manufacturing sector. I went to a factory in Letchworth recently which might have to shut if Vauxhall at Luton closes. It would be terrible to see those jobs go. I think employees should have more rights. I lost my job as a part-time barman when I was 17 for no obvious reason and it affected my A-levels at the time."

  • There must always be something about your future which will be affected by what happens in the next five years. Which party is likely to do the most for engineering firms or universities. Alex Last, Oxford, UK
    Simon: "I'm not that worked up by tuition fees. I'm from a family on a lower income so my fees were paid for by the local education authority. The problem is that lots of engineering students will go abroad for work so the taxes they pay will not come back to the country where they were educated."

    Why don't we have a party that is pro-business and pro-people

  • The bulk of Labour MPs probably joined the party at the height of Thatcherism - hardly a great-looking career move, because they believed the country should be governed a different way. They have compromised themselves, they have disappointed, but they have more complex motivations than most electors give them credit for. Michael Mather, Hull, England
    Simon: "Good point, although that's not to say they weren't intent on getting to power at some point."

  • I am a Conservative supporter and believe that the Conservative Party offers the best future for the country. I don't agree with everything the party says or does but it is the closest fit to my views. Richard Willis, Reading, UK
    Simon: "The point is why don't we have a party that is pro-business and pro-people - that's what I meant by combining the best of both parties."

  • Make your vote personal. Find out about your local candidates and vote for the one who seems most public-spirited, or the one who has most experience of life outside politics. Don't think of yourself as voting for Blair or Hague. Vicki, Winchester, UK
    Simon: "I've not heard much from my local candidates. But I think that the local argument is a good one because you're going to see the effects at local level quickest."

  • If you are convinced that none of the politicians are not worth voting for (some sympathy there!) then register your views with a "spoilt paper". Ian Thompson, Aberystwyth, Wales
    Simon: "I didn't think you were allowed to do that. I find that interesting. I hadn't thought of it."

  • You talk as though no other political parties other than Labour or Conservative exist. There are the Liberal Democrats and numerous smaller parties. Fiona James, Cambridge UK
    Simon: "I think if I voted it would be for one of the big parties. The smaller one will not get in and it will take years for them to get anywhere. Things need to be done sooner than that."

    Simon's verdict: "I will vote, although I'm not sure who for. It'll probably be for one of the main three parties. I think the point that swung me is the idea that really we take democracy for granted. Having grown up with it I don't know anything else. But I suppose democracy is what has kept stability in Britain for so long."


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