New play depicts the politics of voting
By Channel 4 News 2nd April 2010
British politics has become "dull" and "dominated by a self-referential elite" says the academic behind a new play on the public's feelings about voting.
Stephen Coleman, a professor at Leeds University, has researched people's views on voting – their memories and experiences – for a new documentary-play called Counted.
Audiences will hear people's stories, word-for-word, in the play about what it means to feel counted.
It opens at the former debating chamber at London's County Hall later this month, just weeks before the general election.
Prof Coleman told Channel 4 News: "I wanted to find out what it (voting) meant to them, not how they voted, but did it matter to them? Did it feel like something that was important to them?
"I wanted to talk to as many different types of people as possible, to try and get a feel for voting as an experience."
Prof Coleman visited various places including: prisons, community centres and golf clubs – in Leeds and Bradford – to gauge their opinions.
Some prisoners serving life sentences told of how losing the right to vote brought home to them how much freedom they had lost, while one woman said she could not vote for fear of being traced by her estranged family – but longed for the day she could put herself on a voting register again.
Prof Coleman added: "Older people presented us with a very paradoxical view, a strong duty to vote but almost all felt it would not change anything.
"With younger people that sense of duty wasn't usually there. They weren't saying they did not want to vote, just that they felt under-informed, or they don't understand the whole process, and don't understand what it's all about.
"My research is an interesting sample but I wouldn't necessarily say it was a representative one.
"I think we have become very complacent about our democracy. We celebrated the winning of the vote but we have allowed it to become dull.
"We have allowed the commentary about politics to become dominated by a self-referential elite, who do most of the talking in their own language.
"I think life can be injected into anything. Who would have thought that a revamped Opportunity Knocks – that everyone thought was dull – would come back and be watched by millions on TV in the UK in the 21st century?"
Thanks to Adam Buick for the link