Thursday, June 04, 2009

Voters Should be Treated Like Adults

Polling days are normally politics free zones on the broadcast media due to OfCom regulations. Today will stretch the boundaries of those regulations. Already the Today programme has broadcast features on Gordon Brown's leadership woes and Sky News has also reported regularly on the Labour Party's leadership crisis. This illustrates the fatuousness of the regulations that in theory prevent any kind of political discussion on an election day because it might influence the voters. Newspapers, of course, can still print what they like, and the internet remains thankfully free of these ridiculous regulations, which tend to treat the voters as idiots. It's the same rules which allow political parties to run adverts in cinemas but not on TV or radio. It's time that these regulations are swept away and we treat voters like adults.


Jim said...

What do we think about the practice of certain European countries, where all political discussion on radio & TV are forbidden on the day before elections, and during election day itself? Would that change anything in the British environment, for good or ill?

Oliver Drew said...

Yes. We treat voters like adults. We expect them to be able to unfold and read the ballot paper without complaining that UKIP or A.N.Other party are not on it. [rant over]

Yes Iain, it is ridiculous. What is more amusing though is this rumour that, according to Guido, went round the City this morning!

Anonymous said...

Is the Daily Politics supposed to go off air? The news report things are all well, 'there are no issues'.

I see no reason the rules should differ on election days. The media are duty-bound to report fact, not fiction. It's not as though we have 'opinion' shows*, like the U.S. and most of the free world. No

I agree entirely, Iain.

*Although, the BBC pays little attention.

Triffid said...


Just because the reality isn't a effective as the idealism would like it isn't a reason to abandon all principals.

The fear is that the media will start electioneering on behalf of parties - a thin edge of a very bad wedge against a free press.

Perhaps we should be strengthening the ban not removing it.

Bill Quango MP said...

I don't want to be treated like an adult.
I want to be told what to to do. I want regulations that will prevent me jumping down the stairs if I get stoned. Some sort of adult gate?
I don't want to know what politicians get up to..I just want Jeremy Kyle and X factor.
I don't want to unblock the sink myself..I want someone to come and do it for me. I don't want to pay much rent either..or work really.

That's why I voted Labour today. Several times.

Plato said...

Hear, hear.

I just posted exactly the same sentiment on PB.

Toenails pretending that he couldn't reveal who was behind Gordon's email attack was pathetic on Today.

DespairingLiberal said...

Agree 100%. We should also dispense with all the nonsense around when polling can be done - in the age of online polling, the old rules are all tripe.

Once e-voting is in though we will effectively lose any external ability to monitor the veracity of elections. Note that the government is very much in favour of e-voting.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone else having problems with Politics Home? It was working fine this morning, but now it won't load. Just white space .........

James Higham said...

Which they're clearly not with the state of party politics today. Clearly we haven't brains to see through the three card trick at the top.

Anonymous said...

Ha, been 'telling' (the process of guessing who the electorate are voting for) with the Lancaster CF and apparently, my sitting outside of the room - ney outside of the building no less - attempting to 'tell' with members of other parties is such an influence on the voters that we were thrust from the church yard.

Im sure voters are adult enough to realise that one person asking what their electoral roll number is is not going to change who someone votes for!

Self-righteous sodding invigilators.

Whiffler said...


What happened to the story from Llandudno ?

Means Test ACA said...

Anyone who doesn't treat us like adults is a poo bum willy head.

Anonymous said...

Yourself, Guido and UKIP have tried to make much of the problems UKIP voters claim to have had in unfolding pieces of paper. Guido indeed, and UKIP too seem to think it's some sort of Labour conspiracy.

So, either you think voters are idiots in that they might buy such shit or you really do believe they're having problems unfolding pieces of paper.

Either way, such contributions are hardly an advertsiement for more political coverage on election day.

The expansion in coverage of politics to 24/7 hasn't improved the quality of the discussion. The reverse is true indeed, as broadcasters have more space to fill.

It doesn't help too that the vast majority of the commentariat are incapable of discussing anything more than personalities. Fundamentally that's all we get.

It's no wonder that policy and implementation are so poor when there is no scrutiny whatsoever, neither from MPs nor media. And this in the most secretive political culture in the western world.

I haven't yet heard Cameron explain how he's going to sort these problems out.

Anonymous said...


Surely 'fatuity' ?

Mike H said...

Treat voters like adults?

Blimey, that's a novel concept.... nah, it'll never catch on.

Inspector Morse said...

Fair point Iain, so long as GB does not lower the voting age to 16, which he will (if still in place) before the next General Election. (Harold Wilson did the same when lowering the voting age to 18 in order to attract the younger votes. He went on to lose to Ted Heath anyway). Whatever the legal definition of adulthood is or might be, the vast majority of 16 yr olds are not adults intellectually. Let the flames begin!

Anonymous said...

The BBC Election Guidelines say:

There will be no coverage of any of the election campaigns on polling day, June 4th, from 6am until polls close at 10pm on TV, radio or…..

Coverage will be restricted to factual accounts with nothing which could be construed as influencing the ballot.

The guidelines also say, that in covering "other political issues":

Programme-makers need to comply with the general requirement of due accuracy and due impartiality and be aware of the possible influence of other political coverage on the election campaigns. However, normal coverage of politics should continue, albeit with increased sensitivity, ensuring that levels of coverage for each party are fair and appropriate.

Drawing a distinction between the politics of what is happening in Westminster and issues relating to the elections is clearly a fine judgement which, on polling day, requires particular sensitivity.

Therefore the Guidance from Ric Bailey, Chief Political Adviser, for output between 6am and 10pm on Thursday 4th June, is as follows:

We can reflect back, on early morning output (up to 9am), the ramifications and/or implications of today's developments in terms of the broader context of the government and Westminster; but we should avoid any discussion of their impact on voting or the election results.

As usual, there will be no coverage of any of the election campaigns on polling day. Mention of the elections should be confined, in the traditional way, to factual accounts (weather, turnout etc).

If there are genuinely new developments in the on-going political story (ie Government's difficulties, reshuffle etc), overnight, or during the day (Thursday), we should report them fully, factually and fairly.

JBW said...

Politics Home working OK here 14.22hrs

Philipa said...

I've had emails from politicians I like and admire and my friends are blogging to encourage me to vote, but not which way. I've decided to abstain, following Peter Hitchens, who can't stand me. As someone who values having a vote this feels very strange and I'm wondering about the value of abstaining yet don't feel persuaded to vote for any mainstream party. I don't feel I know enough about the green party for example or any of the smaller parties (which is my fault) so I'm persuaded by Hitchens argument for not voting rather than a best guess and anyone but 'them' will do.

Not voting still does feel wrong somehow. People died to get me my vote. If only they had a 'None of the above' option.

Anonymous said...

How can we treat them like adults when they can't even figure out how to unfold a ballot paper? ;-p

Fausty said...

Daft regulations, considering that:

1) a large number of people go to the polling station straight from work and probably won't have followed radio / TV stations on polling day.

2) postal votes have to be sent a week before polling day.

Duncan said...

Good point, well made. About time we had half-day holidays for elections too....funny comment from Bill Quango MP...

Summer said...

Disagree. It's a well known fact that some people are key 'influencers' and can sway voters. Whilst you have less than honourable people in the media, and so called impartial state broadcaster who is nothing of the sort - then I think peace for a day is good for personal reflection.

Of course what this does not get round is the conditions under which people make postal votes. The quicker that system is only allowed for those with a very, very good reason, the better.

The way to get more people involved with democracy, is to have a democracy.

JuliaM said...

"Anyone who doesn't treat us like adults is a poo bum willy head."

Thread winner!!

DespairingLiberal said...

Mike, my parents (86 and 92) cannot unfold things. Like many elderly people they have severe and painful arthritis. There are hundreds of thousands of people who vote who need help to put the paper into the box for example.

Lola said...

Phew. That's a dangerous idea. Treat voters like adults? What do you mean? Give them a refernedum on the Lisbon treaty for example? They might not vote as they should do. Very dangerous territory, treating voters as if they knew what they were doing. You just couldn;t say where sucha radical notion might take us? Democracy even.

Cleethorpes Rock said...

We could have "real-time" reporting of results, with digital totalisers and dynamic bar graphs updated over the course of the day.

It could be exciting, seeing parties overtake one another during the course of the day.

Steve H said...

Come off it, Iain. It's nothing to do with treating the voters like adults and everything to do with you and your media mates needing to fill the air with ceaseless waffle for fear that, if there were ever a pause, the rest of us might think for ourselves.

The ban of political reporting on election day seems to me to be justified not because the voters can't be trusted to act like adults but because the media can't.

Headlines like "if Kinnock gets in will the last person to leave Britain turn the lights off" are bad enough in The Sun without the TV swaying the vote any more than it does on the other 364 days of the year.

It's almost a miracle that the law restricting party politicals to an equal amount for each major party is still in force. I for one don't see that our society would become any more civilised if, in the spurious name of treating us like adults, you and your politico mates were allowed free rein on TV to buy votes by buying airtime.

Pete Wass said...

SteveH, you could have summarised your entire argument by saying no, voters should be treated like mindless infants.

Edward said...

politicalphilosopher 2.04 pm said...
"... Im sure voters are adult enough to realise that one person asking what their electoral roll number is is not going to change who someone votes for! Self-righteous sodding invigilators."

In the days when I was actively involved in local politics a number of people (of various ages) told me that they did not go to the polling station to vote because they found the presence of 'tellers' irritating or even intimidating. So, although tellers do not influence anyone's choice of party, they can deter them from voting.

Kate said...

How can voters be treated like adults when they cannot even unfold a ballot paper?

DespairingLiberal said...

Kate, for your info, from the newsires today:

"One man from York told the BBC he had been "absolutely shocked" that he could not find the party he wanted to vote for on the ballot paper and had to ask officials where it was.

"They explained you have to unfold it again, right at the very bottom there was another very neat fold that you could not see, folded backwards," he said. "

Alex said...

Philipa said
"Not voting still does feel wrong somehow. People died to get me my vote."

Don't worry. They also died so that you could choose to abstain. You don't have to vote if you think none of the candidates are good enough.

Weygand said...

@ Whiffler.

I am sure you must be mistaken about Llandudno.

I am sure the story never existed. Even if it did, please will the authorities take note that I did not read it, and anyway I've forgotten what it said and it certainly did not affect my vote.