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

Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 11:03 GMT
Persuade me to vote III

A general election is at the heart of every democracy. But as 7 June creeps closer, millions of potential voters are expected to stay away from the ballot box. Can you help change their minds?

In the run-up to the election, we are asking you to persuade avowed non-voters to try to change their minds by e-mailing us with your reasons.

Last week, you convinced Joanne Smith to go to the ballot box [see Internet links, right] although our second candidate, Albert Atkin, refused to be swayed.

Next up is 19-year-old Simon Whiteley. Check back on Wednesday to see whether your arguments convinced him.

Why I won't be voting, by Simon Whiteley:
"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 reasons:

You blindly accept the media myth that all politicians are selfish and that all parties are the same because that lets you off thinking about it. You lament our political parties and yet don't say what you believe in and can't be bothered voting for it or actively arguing or campaigning for it. You would rather that someone else did it for you so that you can go back to sleep.
Andrew, Liverpool, UK

"Our leaders should be of the highest stature". Don't lose sight of the fact that you actually vote for a person to represent your area in Parliament. You do not vote for the "leadership".
David Parkinson, Bracknell, Berkshire

I think you owe it to your grandparents or their parents to exercise one of the least appreciated basic rights that we have in this country. The right to vote. You needn't feel that you are either Red or Blue... you are British and you will be participating in an event whose origins are over two thousand years old: Democracy. The important thing for you, in deciding who to vote for, is what policies of the parties will affect you most.
Dan, UK

If you don't vote you forfeit any right to have an opinion on government policy or indeed politicians in general. Think of how the blacks in South Africa were denied the vote for so long. We should not take things so much for granted in the UK.
James Kenyon, UK

Excellent points. I think most of us probably feel like that. The problem is, your "best values and ideals" is almost certainly not another's. Democratic society is all about compromise. The parties are lined up against each other, broadly reflecting left and right wing ideology. What you are voting for is this broad behaviour, not individual policies supported by often odious people.
Geraint Preston, London. England

Simon Whitely clearly takes the election very seriously. With the benefit of an additional 20 years of experience on him, I'd suggest that no political party is ever perfect, but if he thinks about the issues that matter to him he should have no difficulty coming to a conclusion before polling day.
Tim, Crewe, England

Simon, I am sorry to say that I largely agree with you, at least as regards politicians. However, I will be voting in this election. For me, voting is not just a right that society gives me, it is a responsibility. There is a sense in which I owe it to all those who fought firstly for the working class and secondly for women to receive the vote.
Rose, Liverpool, England

You talk as though no other political parties other than Labour or Conservative exist. There are the Liberal Democrats and numerous smaller parties. If you can, try and examine as many of the manifestos as possible and make an informed choice about who you might vote for. Also, while there are admittedly some "bad apples" in politics, there are even more genuine people who are not corrupt and are just doing their best to represent the people that voted for them.
Fiona James, Cambridge UK