It's an interesting proposition, but not one I agree with for the reasons Sminkey and Timeless have outlined. Most people who vote do so because they
have an idea about what the candidate they're voting for stands for - they make an informed decision based on a number of factors. A lot of people
who don't vote simply aren't interested in politics, so how could they make an informed choice? I suppose the 'None of the above' box comes into
play at this point, but it's a bit extreme to have compulsory democracy... is that even democratic?
You have a right to vote, but not an
Also, with regards to the Australian model, whilst there usually is a very good turnout (around the 95% mark for the past couple of elections with
regards to the House of Representatives - the lower house, equivalent to the House of Commons) I think the only punishment is a relatively small fine.
We may need something stronger than that in this country (since compulsory voting has been around in Australia since 1922... apathy has had a much
better chance to set in in the UK).
So how would I solve the problem of declining turn outs? Education. I remember just after my 18th birthday the local council sent an information
leaflet through highlighting reasons to vote. There were two cards which, using two different issues (one was about food, the other about something
else which I don't remember) showed how your vote affected the food you buy at the supermarket. It is the government who decides on the guidelines
for use-by dates, what is meant by 'organic', what chemicals and fertilisers can be used on food and so forth... basically a range of issues that
you wouldn't really think about. If this sort of literature were made more widely available and the importance of your vote emphasised (which is part
of the problem - I hear people say "Well, I'm not going to vote for Party X because they won't win"... they're not going to win if people think
like that, are they?
) then I think turnouts would boost quite a lot.
In schools also it should be shown - in a neutral way - how the British government and electoral system works. This is something that I know was
sorely lacking when I was at school, so most kids left not really knowing much about politics. I basically ended up teaching it to myself, reading
books, websites and so on because there was no formal classes about it at school. Which is madness, surely... if you want the next generation to
appreciate the right to vote, you've got to show them why it was so important. Politicians, too, should get more involved. Local MPs, Cabinet
ministers, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition... all of these people should go into schools far more often without the press being
(we don't want this to become a party political) to tell kids not about their own party but about politics. Other things could be done
too - trips to London to tour Parliament, perhaps a visit to one of the government departments to see how it all works. Honestly, there are plenty of
ways (both hands-on and theory-wise) to get young people more interested. Parliament as a whole has a duty to see that these methods are taken up.