I exercised my democratic right and voted last night in the European Election. However, judging from the electoral register in front of the official who issued my voting form, I was one of a tiny minority. She also indicated that, in my Lisburn ward at least, turnout was awful. Given the number of lines through voters on her sheet I’d estimate turnout of around 30% max at my time of voting (around 9.00pm).
The line-up of candidates is part of the explanation. The ‘headline’ DUP candidate, with her excruciating voice, was an utter voter turn-off – not just against the DUP but for local politics in general. Allister came across as a nasty little man, wittering on about the Protestant community. The Shinners obviously just regard the whole EU enterprise as a money spinner. And Jim Nicholson of UCUNF never really mastered the ability to sell the Conservative and Unionist project as anything other than a repackaging of the UUP. A real opportunity missed and a very dull candidate (regardless of his EU experience).
However young Ian Parsley came across as competent in the campaign (despite an awful Alliance PEB). And the Green candidate, Agnew, gave a respectable performance – setting himself apart from the tribal antics of the other candidates very well (just a pity the Greens’ manifesto is up the left).
However, none of this was enough to shake the electorate out of apathy for politics. No-one cares about the EU – it’s too distant to get enough people away from the opening night of Big Brother and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Throw in the expenses scandal, the terrible line-up of mainstream candidates, a Westminster government in disarray, and an Assembly that gets little if anything done, who could blame people for sitting at home?
Perhaps if we added a “None of the Above” box to the voting paper turnout might improve.