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Radio review: The Unheard and Thinking Allowed

13 December 2019

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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.

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