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Blunkett's voter participation plea

Celebrities who encourage people not to vote are helping to allow the rich and privileged retain their grip on power, David Blunkett is claiming.

The former home secretary criticises the "rantings" of comedian Russell Brand but suggests that the outpourings of figures like Will Self, who described party activists as donkeys, are more serious.

He accuses the author of inciting groups " to give up whatever small influence they might have in favour of those who already have a voice, influence and, therefore, a say".

" Take those in the media. Will Self, for instance, a writer and self-styled philosopher, suggested on Radio 4's A Point of View that anyone taking part in the formal political process as members of a party and the like should be considered to be donkeys.

"He and those like him (forget even the rantings of Russell Brand, I'm talking about something far more serious and insidious), are encouraging others to give up whatever small influence they might have in favour of those who already have a voice, influence and, therefore, a say.

" In the end, the two groups of people in positions of leadership have to be prepared to come together not in some sort of cosy cabal but in an endeavour to raise understanding, to provide information and encouragement to participation. Those two groups are politicians, and in their various guises, those working through old and new media."

In a feature on party conferences three years ago, Self described the activists that filled the halls as "donkeys" blindly following politicians like " biddable Dobbins".

Brand, meanwhile, was widely criticised when he admitted he had never voted and described politicians as "frauds and liars" during his guest editorship of the New Statesman magazine.

Mr Blunkett raises concerns about research that has found just 12% of under-25s intend to use their vote.

"Take the issue of voting. Who is it and at what time of life who vote? Quite simply older people, wealthier people, better educated people, engaged people.

" And who vote the least? Young people, poor people, badly educated people.

"And who do politicians of all parties fear alienating the most? Who do they ignore the most? Who, when it comes down to further austerity, are in the firing line?

"A nd paradoxically the more those who are not engaged are ignored, targeted under the austerity programme and dismissed, the more alienated and disillusioned they become. Politicians, they say, 'don't give a damn about us'."


From Belfast Telegraph