John Reid and Geoff Hoon, apparently, believe that voting should be a civic duty. What? It already is. No. They believe it should be compulsory, and that nonvoters should be subject to fines to make the buggers rattle their dags and get down to the polling booth. It reminds me, a little, of the Ewan McColl song..."Make sure you come from Oxford/With a good degree/And then you may, with yer accent smooth/Persuade the shiftless workers to the polling booth". No more persuasion, these days. Get in there or else!
But this is missing the point. In my experience the biggest group of declared nonvoters are those who claim it's pointless, or that no-one represents them. And perhaps even more importantly, there is a far bigger group of..what? How do we characterise those who vote for a party simply because the others are marginally more emetic? Malvoters, perhaps. Their choice is clearly not directed at the best option, but merely at any option that is not intolerably appalling.
The problem, then, is one of supply, not demand. The same PR liars, fingerwaggers, superlawyers, and professional extremists make up the intake to politics. The old associational, trade union and industrialist routes are long gone. No wonder that politics looks like a row between several corporate lawyers and their wives/husbands about who can better express their loathing of poor people without saying anything obviously fascist, and policy (which involves facts) is marginalised.
My answer? I can't think of anything worse (in this connection) than compulsory voting. I would rather pay the fine, or better, defend my nonvoting in the courts. Just look at the fuckers.
I suggest, instead, that it must become the duty of every citizen to stand for election at least once. I can recommend it as a real reconnection with society. There! It's good for you! It can even be fun. And, most crucially, the flood of women and men doing their public duty will dilute the poison of a sick party structure down to a tolerable level. Now, if there was also electoral reform...who knows what might happen?