THE NEWSDESK: Bad turnout is nothing for political parties to crow about
Updated 1:49pm Monday 26th May 2014 in News
THE sight of party leaders tussling over who did best in last week's election would be laughable if it were not so tragic.
Here's the reality - with a turnout of less than 30 per cent in a number of areas of Gwent, the best turnout in Monmouthshire still being just 34 per cent, how can any of you now argue that you have a mandate?
The Welsh turnout figure was 32 per cent - up from the 30 per cent in 2009.
But last week 68 per cent of the electorate simply couldn't be bothered. Hardly figures of which to be proud.
Steve Brooks, director of the Electoral Reform Society Cymru, had said last Friday: "Whilst this low turn-out is far from surprising it should provide a wake-up call that business as usual cannot carry on.
“Interest in European affairs has rarely been higher in the minds of voters, yet the scene of empty polling stations this week highlights the lack of enthusiasm voters have in European democracy.
"Whoever is elected this weekend must commit to being a loud voice in Brussels for democratic reform. We need to give the Assembly and Westminster a greater role in scrutinising UK ministers attending high-level European meetings. We need to slim down the super sized European Commission, and end the arrangement where the European Parliament sits in Strasbourg for some of the time".
I don't think the figures are merely indicative of cynicism about Europe. I think the turnout also says something about British politics as a whole.
Is that low turnout a surprise, given that Cameron, Clegg and Miliband are now so alike, few could tell them apart?
How many of you could name all the Welsh Euro MPs elected in 2009? How many could name all the AMs representing this area?
It's a symptom of a wider malaise. Career politicians, they say nothing to us about our lives.
They do not understand our struggles. Either their upper middle class lives will never be like ours, or they are subsumed into a political system and lose touch with their roots.
And if anyone thinks Nigel Farage is different in that, you're very misguided. Privately-educated, privileged in a way we are not. He's part of the same establishment which has turned off so many voters.
Despite the vast amount of airtime devoted to him by some broadcasters, he's a one-trick pony appealing to people's fears who hasn't got the foggiest idea how to run a modern economy. Heck, his lot couldn't even organise a carnival.
And that's the place politics in this country must always come back to: it's the economy, stupid.
I make no apologies for quoting Bill Clinton, because he is a figure which we sorely lack.
A politician who instinctively understands what motivates people, who knows how to connect with them, who people want to claim as their own, whatever his pecadillos.
Someone who knows that policy must improve the economic life of the ordinary voter.
In the Valleys heartlands which would normally be a Labour mainstay, turnout figures were very poor.
Both Caerphilly and Torfaen saw a 29 per cent turnout.
In Blaenau Gwent, it was just 27 per cent.
It didn't surprise me. Labour voters are waiting for someone with an idea, a campaign of hope to inspire them to the ballot box.
Never has Labour swept to power in Westminster without that.
And apart from his energy company policy, they've yet to see that big idea from Ed Miliband.
They've seen one goal, they'd hoped for so many more.
But if I'm critical of politicians, I'm also critical of the electorate.
It's no good simply blaming politicians when we should be demanding so much more of them.
We should be looking for those politicians who will connect with us and will inspire us.
I had a conversation with someone who didn't vote this week. The reason? They'd have to find out about each party's policies and didn't know where to start.
Never has there been so much information available to an electorate at the click of a mouse.
Yet never has an electorate been so uninformed about the issues.
If this week those who did not vote suddenly find the people saying things for them in Europe are saying things they really don't like, there really is no one else to blame.
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