Belfast Telegraph

Apathy big winner after few support their local sheriffs

By Tom Moseley

It was billed as 'Super Thursday'. The excitement of the US election had barely died down when voters across England and Wales went to the polls. At stake were 41 police and crime commissioner jobs, three seats in Parliament and the prized role of mayor of Bristol.

If you live in Northern Ireland, you won't have voted in any of these. But fear not, you weren't alone. Turnout ranged from 13%-20% in the police commissioner elections, despite a frantic marketing campaign by the government to drum up interest.

In one Welsh polling station, not a single person voted. Elsewhere, bemused voters were applauded by election staff when they walked through the doors. Whatever you think of the controversial decision to install elected "sheriffs" in police forces in England and Wales, people are supposed to care about the police and crime. The three by-elections only fared marginally better, and in Bristol, almost three quarters of the electorate did not bother to have a say in who runs the city for the next four years.

For political enthusiasts, these were depressing statistics. And it was another reality check for Westminster village-types who go into overdrive every time an ill-judged tweet is sent, or another government U-turn announced. Perhaps these mini-dramas just do not penetrate into people's everyday lives.

There was evidence of this a couple of weeks back, when a poll by the Conservative Home website found that 41% of the public could not remember a single political event from the last few weeks or months.

Only 8% were able to mention the Scottish referendum; 7% came up with child benefit cuts, while just 1% mentioned, unprompted, the Cabinet reshuffle that propelled Theresa Villiers into the Northern Ireland Office.

It was an interesting indicator of the true significance of events that generate feverish excitement in political circles.

With all this in mind, perhaps one can understand the drastic steps taken by Nadine Dorries in order to get noticed.

The Mid-Bedfordshire MP is busy eating camel toe, ostrich anus and a lamb's testicle in the jungle while her colleagues are, well, sitting in Parliament and representing their constituents.

She claims the move, for which the Tory Party suspended her, will give her a public platform to air her views, which include cutting the abortion time limit.

Given that 10m people watch I'm A Celebrity, and half that voted in the Police Commissioner elections, she might have a point. Perhaps covering all MPs in bugs is the key to ending voter apathy.

I suspect we'll never know.

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