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Electoral Turnout

Volume 592: debated on Tuesday 10 February 2015

The low levels of electoral turnout are an important and long-standing issue. Turnout was 78% in 1992, it declined steadily to 61% in 2005, and it rose to 65% in 2010. The Government’s responsibility is to ensure that everybody eligible to vote is on the register—because if someone is not on the register, they cannot vote—which is why we are committed to maximising the register. However, it is the responsibility of politicians to set out an attractive offer that makes people want to vote, so the job of increasing turnout is a job not for the Government but for all of us in the House.

I have seen several proposals—some argue that moving elections to weekends would somehow increase turnout, others argue for compulsory voting—but the answer is not to introduce new processes and systems, but for us politicians to engage and excite the electorate. The huge turnout for the Scottish referendum had nothing to do with the day on which it was held—in fact, I think it was held on a Thursday.

I am pleased to hear my hon. Friend restate that it is the job of politicians and those who stand for election to enthuse voters and persuade them to vote. Does he agree that we should never blame voters if they choose to exercise their right to stay at home and abstain?

We want everyone in the country to have a say in who governs them, and we would encourage all people to vote, but it is the job of politicians to do so, not the Government.

On electoral turnout, does the Minister think he can learn from the Scottish referendum and that the non-delivery of the vow will increase turnout, as Scots vote for a strong SNP voice to counter the failure of the three parties, the three amigos, at Westminster?

I know that the hon. Gentleman would like to rewrite history, but there was a decisive result in the Scottish referendum, and the vow has been delivered completely and faithfully.