By Jack McInnes
Theresa May is so keen to say that her party, and only her party – the Tories if you had any doubt – are building “…a country fit for the future”. You need only look at the past few Prime Ministers Questions for proof, whereby any form of criticism elicits such a response. This too, argues Phillip Hammond, is what his joke-filled budget set out to achieve, a budget which received wide spread criticism for not being progressive enough!
Yet, whilst it is so easy to claim to be doing for the prime minister, it may yet prove to be a fruitless endeavour. I would argue that a country cannot progress unless the very systems it seeks to use to modify society progresses. Our political system has an issue. It is not keeping pace with the rest of society. Whilst now anyone with a television, or a Wi-Fi connection, can tune it to watch parliament live, this is where the line was drawn last century, and other than some new camera angles there has been no more technological integration.
Nevertheless, this is not about the flawed voting system we use. Anyone can tell you how first past the post is not a fair representation, let alone that the Alternative Vote would be much fairer if implemented (RIP the Liberal Democrat referendum in 2011!) No, this is about the very way in which we go to vote itself.
How many votes are lost simply because it was raining on the day of the election? Turnout in the UK is shockingly poor, with only 67% turning out to vote in this years’ General Election. This means that due to lack of voting, the government elected won with less than 50% of the total vote.
Why then, in a society in which anyone can shop online in an instant, book a flight, pay their taxes and apply for benefits, is it not possible to vote? Sure, instantly this would causes issues for those without access to technological devices such as laptops and mobiles, but polling stations could very easily be adapted to cope. It is not about abolishing traditional methods, more a question of bringing them up to date with the pace of technology.
Look to our friends in the west. America have been using electronic voting booths in polling stations for years, leading to quicker results and far more environmentally friendly elections. India, being a country with a dense population, has used electronic voting to the greatest extent. In 2009, it took the country only a few hours to tally their votes – compare this to the UK which, with a much smaller population, took at least 12 hours to fully complete the process.
For those worried about fraud too, it would not be difficult for the government to create a committee or a watchdog in a time where one can be created almost instantly following a press conference. Granted, America had its issues with their machines; however Britain already has a robust electoral commission. Jobs too would be created, not only with system maintenance but with monitoring and supervision.
Ultimately, with politicians and ministers who aren’t competent in areas which they are asked to oversee – look for example at recent legislation targeting online pornography access – we see an astounding lack of understanding. By admitting this and hiring those who do to advise, Britain has the chance to take the first step in leading the next global step of elections. Turnout would rise instantly, those who truly did not want to vote still have the option not to.
With the rest of society progressing almost alarmingly quickly, if the Conservatives truly wanted to build a Britain “fit for the future” they would consider trying to make our politics fit for the present.