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Friday, 18 May, 2001, 13:57 GMT

'I'm still not voting'

He won't budge. Despite the efforts of hundreds of BBC News Online users, avowed non-voter Albert Atkin is still planning to give the polling station a wide berth on 7 June.

Albert, a 26-year-old PhD philosophy student from Sheffield, was the second candidate in our Persuade Me to Vote series. Earlier this week, bank cashier Joanne Smith changed her mind and decided she would vote after hearing some of the arguments e-mailed in by user [see Related stories, right].


" The question is: 'Do you want Pepsi or Coke?' - well, I want water "
Albert Atkin

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

As with the previous Persuade Me to Vote, the response from users, who were asked to e-mail with reasons why Albert should vote, was outstanding. But having heard a selection of opinions, Albert stuck to his guns.

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


These are Albert's original reasons for staying at home on polling day.

Why I won't be voting, by Albert Atkin:
"I voted Labour in both the 1992 and 1997 elections. In 1992 because they really were Labour and I agreed with some of their policies; and in 1997 because I was frightened that some quirk of voter apathy would see the Conservatives returned again.


" I wouldn't want any of the current parties thinking that they speak for me "
"I genuinely feel that no one involved in mainstream politics represents my feelings on any key subject. The result is that I feel politically neutered and disenfranchised.

"What's worse is that I'm not a political extremist by any measure, which just goes to show how limited the range of views represented by the parties are.

"How can I exercise my democratic right to vote when there is no real choice about who to vote for? As such, I think it's best not to vote at all and instead be part of that statistic that suggests the political alienation that I know I feel.

"I wouldn't want any of the current parties thinking that they speak for me or the majority of fair-minded people I know."


Some of your arguments:

  • Typical of a philosopher to sit on his hands whinging about ideas and principles while the world goes to pot around him. Join in the debate and make hard practical choices, rather than just wimping out.
    Albert: "That assumes that there are principled choices and a debate to be had. He's right that you should enter the debate, but I don't see that there is one at the moment."

  • Q: "Do you want a Pepsi or a Coke?" A: "Neither. They're far too similar, so I'll go thirsty instead. That'll show 'em."
    Albert: "Unfortunately, this analogy is misleading. I'm not going to go 'thirsty'. The question is: 'Do you want Pepsi or Coke?'. Well, I want water."


    " If there was a 'dissatisfied' box on the ballot paper, I would cross it "

  • Under a system of proportional representation your views would be considered and your vote would matter, assuming even non-mainstream parties reflect your beliefs. So vote for the party which has the strongest commitment to the PR.
    Albert:"I agree totally. The thing that really pricks my conscience about not voting is that PR would go some way in opening up the debate. But the Lib Dems are not going to get in power and as a traditional Labour voter I have a serious block about voting Liberal."

  • If you really don't like any of the candidates, you can still exercise your democratic right by spoiling your ballot paper. Then you would be more likely to be counted as "dissatisfied" rather than "lazy".
    Albert: "I agree, but then spoiling your ballot paper is as open to misinterpretation as not voting at all. It could be seen as 'you're too stupid to even put a cross in a box'. If there was a 'dissatisfied' box on the ballot paper, I would cross it."


    " Not voting isn't a decision to be taken lightly - it should be heartfelt. "

  • Elections are about voting against who you definitely don't want to be running the country. Also known as tactical voting.
    Albert: "That's the alternative approach - to vote for damage limitation; who is least likely to ruin the country. I think that's a very, very sorry statement about democracy."

  • 'Twas ever thus. Parties evolved because it was necessary to group a bunch of ideas under one banner, otherwise chaos reigns. A vote for a particular party is not an unqualified endorsement of everything they stand for, merely a statement of preference.
    Albert: "But I don't actually agree with one party any more than the other. All it comes down to at the moment is who will manage the economy most effectively, and for that you have to say whose statistic do I believe most."

  • Get real! The party which wins power is going to speak for you whether you like it or not - so at least take part and pick the least irksome.
    Albert: "I know they're going to speak for me and I'm appalled about it. I choose to deny the validity of the process that returns them to power."

  • Pick a subject which you feel strongly about and vote for the party who gives you the closest match to what you want. You may not agree with all the policies but at least you'll be happy on one point and your vote isn't wasted.
    Albert: "It has to come down to the constitution and for that I would vote Lib Dem. But my father voted Labour, his father voted Labour, and his father too and I can't bring myself to vote Liberal."

    Albert's verdict: "I haven't been persuaded. But these arguments have brought home to me that not voting isn't a decision to be taken lightly. It should be heartfelt. My great-grandfather fought in World War I for democracy but I think he would endorse my stance now."


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