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What will it take to get people interested in democracy?
There are a few tedious rituals journalists brace themselves for whenever local election season comes around. First off are the habitual accusations of bias from various parties allegedly towards their rivals as the electoral battle ratchets up.
Thankfully, in my career, I have been accused of being "pro" pretty much every party there is. Which I presume brings me full circle back to neutrality. In reality, journalists should treat all political parties with scepticism afforded any group aiming to exert power and control over their fellow citizens.
Second, is the inevitable editorial discussion about how hardly anyone cares about local elections. Reporters who take an interest in local politics (and I include myself in this masochistic demographic) tend to develop an inflated sense of its importance to the wider public. The routinely dire turnouts give a stark account of how unmoved voters are by these ballots.
Fair enough, bin collections and gutter maintenance are hardly stirring political themes.
So perhaps local politicians should tap into more unorthodox initiatives to try to infuse a greater share of the electorate with enough enthusiasm to amble down to the polling booth come May 22.
Having conducted a micro-poll of colleagues and friends, here are a few suggestions of potentially populist measures to dangle before apathetic voters.
Near the top of this list would be reinstalling tills in the intu Watford Apple shop.
For decades, Britons have become used to having a designated place to take and pay for items. It’s an uncomplicated procedure that lends shopping trips a comforting routine. Yet to the trailblazing innovators at Apple, this simplistic affair was an anachronism that needed overhauling and now all their sales assistants carry devices that take payment.
The problem is, that often these wide-eyed Apple aficionados are too busy sermonising to other shoppers about the messianic benefits their products will bestow on those willing to stump up the premium price. The result is the traditional shopper, who just wants to purchase something and leave, has to loiter forlornly trying to catch the eye of the itinerant human tills.
For anyone who struggled to find a partner at a school dance, this process can’t dredge up discomforting memories. Okay, this is hardly the most pressing concern in the town - but it seems to be one that gets people animated.
Another populist measure mooted was making the ring road anti-clockwise. This would mean anyone heading to intu Watford from the M1 would not have to traverse the majority of the ring road to alight at their designation.
Admittedly, it’s an unsexy initiative, but one that would pander to the indolent demographic who find the annual walk to the polling station prohibitively onerous.
One of the more radical suggestions was turning the pond into a ball pond. This would give parents a place to let fractious offspring burn off excess energy before dragging them around the town centre.
Likewise it could also be used to distract the inebriated hordes when they are kicked out of Oceana et al. More aggressive clubbers could be kettled by police in the ball pond to prevent them from starting brawls in kebab shops. Like a sin bin.
Sadly, I doubt these initiatives would survive the rigorous costing and feasibility process to which any serious party would subject them.
But anything aimed at improving our increasingly embarrassing election turnouts can’t be bad. We are looking more and more like a country that has grown bored of democracy.
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