JUST as the “nones” outnumber those of any particular faith in all surveys of social behaviour, so the largest block in all recent UK elections has been the non-voter. Eighteen million people failed to vote in the 2017 election, and, no doubt, as we praise or lament the outcome of the current election, we will similarly have cause to thank or vilify those millions whose votes might have made all the difference.
In The Unheard (Radio 4, Monday of last week), Adrian Chiles went in search of the habitual non-voter. You could not put it more bluntly than did Ben Page of Ipsos MORI: we don’t know much about the non-voter, because the people who pay his organisation to do polls don’t care about their opinion. “If they don’t vote, they don’t matter.” One thing we do know is that they are more likely to be young and on a low income; and it was at the foodbank that Chiles found his most insightful contributors.
There are those who have not registered. Susan is in debt, and she does not want to make it easier for the bailiffs to find her. But there are many more for whom the whole process seems a waste of effort. Ben Page, confessedly jaded about engagement with the voluntarily disenfranchised, admitted that they might have a point: in several seats, the result is entirely predictable.
Disillusionment is not an emotion restricted to the non-voter. As the polite lady from the Electoral Reform Society declared: “It’s always been a pants system.”
Whether or not you can summon up the enthusiasm to vote, you can be sure that there are people out there who have enthusiasm enough for all, but directed to causes with which you might feel distinctly uncomfortable. In Thinking Allowed (Radio 4, Wednesday), Laurie Taylor discussed with his guests the continuing power of the religious Right in the United States. Although in slow decline, white Evangelicals constitute 16 per cent of the US electorate, and their votes are consistently and loyally Republican.
The media analyst and writer Anne Nelson injected some intrigue into this otherwise familiar picture with suggestions that the Evangelical Republican right was controlled by the Council for National Policy. Established as a non-partisan, non-profit organisation, the members include politicians, and media moguls, and feature some of the country’s greatest plutocrats. Their theological ideology is Dominionism — a form of Christian theocracy — and the current White House administration is reliant on them to deliver another Trump victory.
It was surprising that Taylor was not more sceptical when Nelson was offering up this world-view. He did at least question the author’s political leanings: she had no background in party politics, came the reply. But whether or not the relationships that she identifies as a “network” are real, the template for this kind of conspiracy theory has led to prejudices that are real indeed.