News: Campaigners warn this could be the most unequal election in 60 years

Peter Kelly is interviewed on BBC Radio Scotland about the #VoteYourValues campaign - 11 June 2024

Poverty Alliance members coming together to support the #VoteYourValues campaign

Anti-poverty campaigners are launching a new voter registration campaign, warning that this election could see the biggest-ever gap in voter turnout based on wealth.

The Poverty Alliance - Scotland’s national anti-poverty network – says voters on low incomes are being shut out of the political process, with politicians ignoring their interests, and trust in politics - and turn out at elections - is falling among low income voters as a result.

Today (Mon 10 Jun) the Alliance has launched a Vote Your Values campaign, with posters, infographics, and online resources to help people find out about the process of registering, voting with photo ID, and applying for postal votes.

The Alliance has shared the resources with nearly 500 individuals and member organisations across Scotland, encouraging them to use them with people in their communities.

Poverty Alliance Director Peter Kelly said: “This election is predicted to be the most unequal in 60 years, with those living on low incomes among the least likely to vote. They are being locked out of our democracy because they're being locked out of society as a whole.

“As we’ve already seen, the concerns of people on low incomes often don’t feature in election debates. They are overlooked and misrepresented, and - despite the rhetoric - people see little real change in their communities. So it’s not surprising that trust in politicians and our system is falling, and lower turn-out amongst people on low incomes reflects that decline.

“We need to begin to restore that trust in politics by delivering meaningful improvements in the lives of people in poverty. Our politics must begin to better reflect the urgent problems of poverty that millions across the UK face. At the same time, we need to do more to encourage participation in elections as a key step in holding our politicians to account.”

A recent report by think-tank IPPR highlighted figures showing a turnout gap of 18% between voters in the top third of incomes, and those in the bottom third in 2020. It warned that this General Election is set to be the most unequal for more than six decades, due to the ballooning turnout gap and the growing role of money in British politics.

Report author Dr Parth Patel said: “For the first time since the birth of democracy in this country, people do not expect their children to be better off than them.

“In the face of insecurity, people naturally want control - to take back control of a political process that has allowed wages to fall after flatlining for a decade, and locked generations out of owning a home.

“There are real differences in who gets their way in our democracy. Policy is more responsive to preferences of the well-heeled than of the worse off, and people know this – but it seems to be a blind spot for most politicians.

“No matter who’s in power, our democratic machine needs rewiring. If people are once again to be authors of their own lives, and to feel secure, they must sense their influence in the collective decision-making endeavour that is democracy.”

The Poverty Alliance is an Ambassador for Citizen UK’s Voter Registration Champions programme – and says there also needs to be a fundamental rethink of how politics in the UK is carried out, and who it serves.

Peter Kelly said: “We want people to register to vote before the 18 June deadline for taking part in the General Election. But we also want politicians to think hard about the direction they are taking us in, and for all of us to come up with ways to renew and restore our democracy, so that it works for all of us.”

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